• Kyodo


Former Women’s World Player of the Year Homare Sawa was left off Nadeshiko Japan’s 22-member squad for next month’s annual Algarve Cup invitational in Portugal, the Japan Football Association said Friday.

The 36-year-old Sawa is in a fitness race toward this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Canada, where Japan will be looking to defend the title it won in Germany four years ago.

Sawa injured her right knee in December, and coach Norio Sasaki has said that he is giving the 2011 World Cup MVP and top scorer time to heal and that she is still a part of his plans.

But the omission leaves a dark cloud hanging over Sawa’s head as the Algarve Cup is a crucial warm-up for the June 6-July 5 World Cup.

Sawa, who has played a part in Japan’s last five World Cup campaigns, barely spoke Friday, saying after training with her club INAC Kobe, “I’ll just keep at it.”

Sasaki will add one more player in time for the Algarve Cup after Bayern Munich forward Mana Iwabuchi pulled out with a last-minute injury.

Regulars such as captain Aya Miyama and strikers Yuki Ogimi and Nahomi Kawasumi were part of the selection.

“It’s an important tournament where we have the opportunity to play the best teams,” Kawasumi said. “I hope we can produce some good performances.”

The Nadeshiko play Denmark, Portugal and France in Group C action on March 4, 6 and 9, respectively, before the placement matches on March 11.

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