Nominee 2012 - Laureus World Team of the Year
Thousands of flag-waving fans flocked to Tokyo Airport to welcome Japan's women footballers home as the nation's first ever World Cup winners. It was also the first World Cup victory by an Asian team. Coach Norio Sasaki had motivated his team by showing them film of the areas devastated by March's earthquake and subsequent tsunami which reduced some of his players to tears, but it inspired them to produce extraordinary results. After finishing second in their group, Japan stunned two-time defending champions and host nation Germany 1-0 in the quarter-finals, before easily defeating Sweden 3–1 in the semi-final. The final against the United States in Frankfurt finished 2–2 after extra time, then Japan won a 3-1 penalty shoot-out. Captain Homare Sawa was awarded the Golden Boot for being the tournament's leading scorer, with five goals, and the Golden Ball for being the top player.