• Kyodo


Homare Sawa will take to the field on Sunday for the very last time in her 25-year career, and the women’s soccer icon is determined to end on a high note with the Empress’ Cup in her hand, and with a goal, too.

“It will be one special game,” said midfielder Sawa after Saturday’s training session ahead of INAC Kobe Leonessa’s final against the Vegalta Sendai Ladies.

“I hope to enjoy it, leaving with no regret while focusing on the result, too,” added the 2011 World Women’s Player of the Year. “I might let myself push forward in hunt for my goal.”

The 37-year-old, who started her career at age 12, appeared in a record six World Cups and scored 83 goals in 205 games for Japan, is without a goal this season but says she left “one for the final.”

Since announcing her retirement at the end of the regular season 10 days ago, INAC came through the quarterfinals and semifinals to extend her retirement date. And now her teammates will strive again to see her off in a last blaze of glory.

“If we think we can somehow win it because it’s the last game for Sawa-san, we’ll get tripped up,” said Sawa’s Nadeshiko Japan teammate Nahomi Kawasumi. “We have to go in with fighting spirits.”

Yukari Kinga, another INAC and Nadeshiko teammate, has given her full backing to Sawa.

“Everyone in their heart wants her to score,” Kinga said. “Sawa-san will do it.”

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