LONDON – Women’s World Player of the Year Homare Sawa hopes Japan’s silver medal-winning performance at the London Games will inspire the country’s Under-20s at the World Cup beginning in Japan later this month, but remained tightlipped over her national team future.
The 33-year-old veteran, widely expected to be playing in her last Olympics here, was looking to add gold to the title Japan won at last year’s World Cup in Germany, where she was named tournament MVP and also finished top scorer.
But a double from Carli Lloyd broke Japanese hearts in Thursday’s final as the United States avenged their World Cup final 3-1 penalty shootout defeat to Norio Sasaki’s side, winning 2-1 to take Olympic gold for the third time in a row.
“The gold medal ended up just out of reach but it was great to be playing with fantastic teammates on the biggest stage of all against great opponents,” Sawa told a news conference Friday.
“The Under-20 Women’s World Cup will be starting in Japan on Aug. 19 and myself and (Japan captain Aya) Miyama will be serving as ambassadors. Hopefully the Under-20s can take a bit inspiration, however small, from what we have done (by winning silver) and try and win world and Olympic titles in the future.”
Asked what her future plans with the national team were after missing out on a gold that would have completed a full collection for her, Sawa said she was only thinking about having a breather.
“First I want to take a rest,” said Sawa. “When I get back I have league and cup games and the national championships (with club side INAC Kobe Leonessa). I want to reset my switch and do my best to contribute to the team winning the championship.”
Meanwhile, recently appointed Japan Football Association chief Kuniya Daini said the women’s team would be upgraded to business class on their return flight to Japan.
“They won a medal so they will go back business class,” said Daini. “We have got the seats booked.”
Nadeshiko Japan flew in economy on a grueling flight to France for a warm-up ahead of the Olympics, sparking a gender debate and drawing worldwide media attention after the less celebrated men’s Under-23 team relaxed in business class.
Sawa joked at the time that “it should have been the other way around,” noting that the team had been awarded business class seats after they won the World Cup.