Look out, Lothar and Gigi: Sawa set to snap record for World Cup appearances with six

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Homare Sawa is slated to do what no one has ever done.

The 36-year-old Japanese star was named to her sixth World Cup roster on Friday, becoming the first person to need another hand to count their appearances.

[ MORE: All the 2015 World Cup news ]

Three men — Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal, Germany’s Lothar Matthaeus and Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon — and four other women have made five tournaments.

Sawa currently sits with Kristine Lilly (U.S.), Bente Nordby (Norway), Miraildes Maciel Mota ‘Formiga’ (Brazil), and Birgit Prinz (Germany) as women to appear in five World Cups.

From EqualizerSoccer.com:

Sawa’s appearances with Japan have been limited of late, creating some doubt that she would be a part of Japan coach Norio Sasaki’s plans this year. She did not travel with the team to the all-important Algarve Cup, an annual tournament that in World Cup years serves as a miniature tune-up to the main event.

Sasaki says Sawa earned her place back into the team.

“I haven’t picked her for experience alone,” Sasaki told reporters. “She’s been selected to make the team stronger and to bring more tactical awareness. I’ve seen her play for (club side) Kobe and she puts her body on the line, and is focused for the full 90 minutes. With Sawa’s essence added, the team becomes more powerful.”

Sawa has 196 caps, and has scored 82 goals for Japan. She netted the 117th minute equalizer against the United States in 2011 World Cup, a goal that sent the match to penalty kicks and Japan to the winner’s circle. Sawa was the top scorer in the tournament, and named its best player.

Japan is in Group C with Switzerland, Ecuador and Cameroon.

Our 2012 stories of the year: Redemption at Wembley for U.S. Women

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We should have known it was going to be Carli Lloyd. Were we given a notepad and a full bottle, locked in a room, and asked to come up with the most likely hero for the gold medal match, we’d eventually stumble from a prison of crumpled paper and dehydration with the Jersey girl’s name in hand. Of course, Lloyd would be the person to step up in London.

Four years earlier, her extra time goal against Brazil won gold in Beijing. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, Lloyd temporarily lost her spot in Pia Sundhage’s starting XI only to return in time to be stepped on by Canada’s Melissa Tancredi in the semifinals. On a team looking to redeem itself after a loss in the previous year’s World Cup final, Lloyd’s own mini-comeback made her the U.S. Women’s National Team’s quintessential player ahead of a major final at one of the most famous venues on Earth.

On Aug. 9, 2012, Wembley Stadium presented Lloyd and the U.S. with their chance for revenge. Japan, the team that upset them at the World Cup, had also navigated the field, giving the Nadeshiko a chance to become the first team to pull off a World Cup-Olympic double. If the U.S. were going to be redeemed, they’d have to win a grudge match for the right to be called the best team in the world.

source: Getty ImagesBut in a game that would feature World Cup Golden Ball-winning Homare Sawa, the skill of Aya Miyama, the imposing play of Abby Wambach and the juggernaut that is Alex Morgan, Lloyd set in a stone her reputation for transcending expectations when results matter most. In the game’s ninth minute, Lloyd surged from midfield, though the Japanese area and onto a Morgan cross, bending at the waist as she ran onto another goal medal match goal. Just after halftime, the 30-year-old took matters onto her own feet, carrying a ball from near the center line to the edge of Japan’s area before burying an unstoppable shot into the left side netting. The U.S. would go onto win 2-1 in front of the largest crowd to ever witness a women’s Olympic event (80,203).

MORE: Steve Davis’s favorite story of 2012

Come Aug. 10, there was little doubt who’d claimed the title of world’s best. The U.S. had finished 6-0-0 in a tournament where each of their main rivals had stumbled at least twice, their +10 goal difference six better than the competition’s next-best total. Along the way, they’d continued to show their flair for the dramatic (an improbable and lucky semifinal comeback against Canada) as well as their ability to meet the challenges of a changing international landscape (with wins over France and Japan).

And the team was also redeemed. Harshly judged by many as having blown their chance at a world title in Germany, the U.S. women claimed their third-straight Olympic gold. Perhaps as important, the team maintained their unique place as a crossover success, one of the few points on the U.S. soccer map that not only transcends into mainstream sport but also into mainstream culture.

And thanks to their success, a few more people will have jobs, a few more kids will have heroes, and anybody who followed U.S. soccer will have reason to remember 2012.