While a key element of Japan’s run to winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup was their team ethic and synchronised style of play, the star of the side was undoubtedly Homare Sawa.
The midfielder finished the tournament as the top scorer with five goals, and added the Player of the Tournament award to her Golden Boot. By scoring Japan's second goal, the No10 also became the oldest goalscorer ever in a FIFA Women's World Cup Final. As willing to work back and help her defence as she was adept in creating and finishing chances, Sawa thoroughly deserved her recognition.
FIFA.com spoke to the 32-year-old straight after the Final in Frankfurt to get her thoughts on the penalty shoot-out victory over USA, her theory on the success of the team, and what it means to win individual honours.
FIFA.com: Did you believe that you could go all the way at the beginning of the tournament?
Homare Sawa: Before the tournament we came here to go for the championship and to at least break into the final four. We came here for a medal but I could never have imagined winning it and I could never have imagined collecting the Golden Boot as well as being a world champion.
Having been a part of the national squad for nearly two decades, how do you feel personally now that you have achieved this success?
This is my fifth World Cup and I did nothing in the previous four so I’m very happy with the result today. I’ve been a national team member for 18 years so this has been a long, long wait. I’ve been through the difficult times for women’s football in Japan so I really feel relieved. It doesn’t feel like reality.
I could never have imagined collecting the Golden Boot as well as being a world champion.
What do you think makes this Japan team so special?
None of our players gave up and they worked hard until the last minute. When the score went to 2-1, I thought it might be difficult for us but nobody gave up and that’s how we made it. We were a good team throughout the tournament and remained united as one. The substitute members supported us all the way through the competition and the young players remained calm. The players like Miyama, Fukumoto and Kinga all developed and grew up a lot after the Beijing Olympics and they helped us a lot.
What is your message to all of the fans in Japan who have supported you throughout the tournament?
This is something that we gained as a team and we’ve had a lot of support from the Japanese people back home. I feel very grateful and thankful for all of those fans who supported me and the rest of the team.
What does it mean to you to win the Golden Boot and Ball?
It's absolutely great to win all these trophies. But they're not for me. The team played so much of a part in me winning these awards that I can't really take any personal pride in receiving them.
Who do you want to dedicate this victory to?
To my parents, particularly my mother. After we reached the final, she flew all the way to Germany to watch the game today. I feel really grateful to my mother and I want to dedicate it to both of my parents.