Memorable moment: Sawa comes to Japan’s rescue

As the world of football counts down to the reveal of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ official emblem and slogan – in Paris on 19 September – we are counting down the 10 Most Memorable Moments in FIFA Women’s World Cup history.

The background In qualifying for Germany 2011, Japan maintained their record of having appeared at every FIFA Women’s World Cup. Only once had they gone past the group phase, however, at Sweden 1995, where they went out in the quarter-finals.

The Nadeshiko arrived in Germany only three months after the earthquake and tsunami that had devastated a large part of their homeland. As their captain Homare Sawa acknowledged, they had other things on their minds aside from football: "We weren’t exactly in the right frame of mind to play."

The Japanese pulled together, however, and played some delightful football that took them into the final against USA, held in Frankfurt on 17 July. Two-time champions, the powerful Americans were tipped to win. Japan took them to extra time, however.

Why so special? With three minutes of extra time remaining and the USA leading 2-1, the Japanese forced a corner. Aya Miyama took it, sending a low ball in towards the near post. Making a darting run across the American defence, Sawa got to it first, flicking the ball first-time with the outside of her right boot to send it fizzing into the back of the net. That late strike buoyed the Japanese and deflated the USA, who missed three spot-kicks in the resulting shootout – two of them saved by Ayumi Kaihori – as the Nadeshiko prevailed 3-1 to join the select band of world champions.

What she said “The American players are very tall and it’s very difficult to counter that, so we decided to attack the near post at that last corner kick. My initial idea was to volley the ball and see if any of my team-mates could get on the end of it. That goal changed my career, and I don’t really think I’d be able to repeat it. It’s the best goal I’ve ever scored.”

Relive Japan’s triumph on video, and click here for more on this historic moment.