Japan captain Homare Sawa says her side are targeting at least a third place finish at the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011, to improve on the fourth they managed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"I feel the time has come," the 32-year-old, Japan's most-capped female player, said today before the squad left for Germany after a training camp. "We want to produce a result that will be at least better than the last-four we reached in Beijing. A medal may be hard to come by. But we have no choice but to go for it. We will work hard and aim high."
Japan, nicknamed the Nadeshiko, a pink flower symbolising grace and beauty, have played in all five previous Women's World Cups, with their best result being a run to the quarter-finals in 1995.
We want to produce a result that will be at least better than the last-four we reached in Beijing.
Sawa, the side's leading scorer with 75 goals in 167 internationals, said she was determined to make her fifth World Cup her best. "I will be obsessed with our results. I want to continue running until I feel I have given it all," said Sawa, the 2004 and 2008 Asian player of the year, who has also played at three Olympics since 1996.
Sawa now plays for INAC Kobe after representing several Japanese and US clubs including Washington Freedom. Japan have high hopes of claiming Asia's first Women's World Cup. China lost to the hosts United States in the 1999 final as the only medallists from the region so far. China are not competing in Germany.
Japan narrowly missed out on a medal at the Beijing Olympics but claimed their first Asian Games title last year. They reached fourth place in the latest FIFA rankings, the best ever by an Asian team, with only the United States and Germany - both two-time world champions - and the Samba Girls of Brazil rated higher.
In Germany, Nadeshiko Japan face New Zealand on 27 June, Mexico on 1 July and England on 5 July in Group B.