Super skipper Sawa wants to lift Japan football

Japan`s veteran captain Homare Sawa feels that the time is right to bring Japanese football to the next level by winning the Women`s World Cup title.

Bochum, Germany: Japan`s veteran captain Homare Sawa insisted on Sunday that the time is finally right to bring Japanese football to the next level by winning the Women`s World Cup title.

The 32-year-old from Tokyo is set to compete in her fifth World Cup when Japan open their campaign against New Zealand in Bochum on Monday.

But despite reaching the quarter-finals in 1995, the country`s record 166-capped player says her side have often underachieved on the world stage.

"We didn`t get good results in past World Cups (they have gone out in the first round in the past three editions)," said Sawa, after the final training session at the World Cup stadium here.
"I want to take Japanese women`s football to the next level and that means getting good results."

The fourth-ranked Japanese, the group`s top seeds, first meet 24th-ranked New Zealand before taking on Mexico in Leverkusen on July 1 and England in Augsburg on July 5.

And Sawa believes their confidence has been boosted by good performances at the Beijing Olympics and claiming their first Asian Games title last year.

"All the players are in great condition and very much looking forward to tomorrow," said the Washington Freedom midfielder.

"The first match is always complicated in a competition like the World Cup but we`re really glad that it`s finally getting started."
The weather could prove an ally for the Japanese as sunshine and temperatures of 30 degrees are forecast for the Ruhr Valley in northwestern Germany on Monday after days of cold and rainy conditions.

"It`s going from cold to hot very quickly in Germany," said Sawa.

"But it`s winter in New Zealand so it`s a bit harder for them. New Zealand have to adapt better than Japan."

Coach Norio Sasaki said that they were eager to finally get onto the pitch.

"It`s a very important match tomorrow," he said. "New Zealand are physically aggressive and play a very pressing defense and it`s a young team.

"We have a good system; the mental level of the players has been raised by the Beijing Olympics and previous Worlds Cups.

"Qualification in Asia helps too - it`s tough. The players are experienced and can master all problems and if you want to win the World Cup you have to master all problems."

Bureau Report

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