- Homare Sawa’s strike in Final of Germany 2011 as sublime as it was significant
- Her volleyed heel flick took the game to penalties, where Japan prevailed
- Vote for your favourite goal from our shortlist of ten!
In our search for the greatest goal in FIFA Women’s World Cup™ history, we focus today on that of Japan’s Homare Sawa at Germany 2011.
Homare Sawa is a veritable legend of the sport, having left an indelible mark on the Women’s World Cup, and Japanese football in particular. She first kicked a ball aged six and debuted in Japan’s top flight at just 12, but her crowning achievement was in leading her country to glory at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011.
The Nadeshiko, at the time considered outsiders for the title, defeated Germany, Sweden and USA in successive games to lift the trophy. As team captain, Sawa was flawless, winning the adidas Golden Boot with five goals, as well as the Golden Ball for best player. In the Final against USA, her 117th-minute equaliser was a thing of beauty and would earn her side a penalty shoot-out, which they would go on to win.
The strongly-fancied USA opened up a 1-0 lead before being pegged back and taken to extra time. When legendary striker Abby Wambach then put the Stars and Stripes back in front, it seemed as if logic would prevail and the drama had concluded.
However, from an Aya Miyama corner, Sawa, in a moment of inspiration, volleyed a waist-high ball goal-wards with a stunning heel flick. Admittedly, the ball was deflected, which might have deceived goalkeeper Hope Solo, but this stroke of genius took the entire USA defence by surprise and brought the final to penalties. Fortune favoured the Asian side from 12 yards as they were duly crowned world champions for the first time in their history.
What they said
"There were just three minutes left in extra time. The American players are very tall and it’s very difficult to match them in the air, so we decided to attack the near post at that last corner kick. My initial idea was to volley the ball and see if any of my team-mates could get on the end of it. That goal changed my career, and I don’t really think I’d be able to repeat it. It’s the best goal I’ve ever scored."