On 6 December 1993, Homare Sawa earned her first cap for Japan.
She was only 15 years old at the time but had been playing professionally for three years with L. League team Yomiura Beleza, where her performances led to her being named to the league’s Best XI for 1993 and a national team call-up the same year.
That first match was against the Philippines in the 1993 AFC Women’s Championship. After missing Japan’s opener, a 6-1 win over Chinese Taipei, Sawa delivered against the Philippines, scoring four goals in the 15-0 victory. They then went on to win their next match over Hong Kong but were eliminated by China in the semifinals.
In 2011, she captained the team to the World Cup title, then followed that by winning that year’s Ballon d’Or. By the time she retired in 2015, she set the team records for appearances (205) and goals (83).