Sawa scored the dramatic equaliser in the closing stages of extra time in the 2011 final against the United States but her chances of making a record sixth finals looked over after being left on the sidelines for a year by Sasaki.
Injuries and a loss of form following a brief retirement in 2012 looked to have taken their toll before some domestic goals for her club side led to a recall.
Sasaki said their was no sentiment in bringing back Japan’s most capped international and record goal scorer.
“Let me stress that experience is not all she brings. I’m selecting her on her present form and fitness,” he said upon naming the squad last month.
Sawa, player of the tournament and top scorer in 2011, is one of 17 players in the 23-woman squad that were victorious in Germany.
Sasaki said the Algarve Cup performances, where they lost to Denmark and France, led to him opting against bringing too many new names to Canada.
“Ideally, we would’ve liked more fresh, young faces in the squad but when you look at what we’re trying to achieve — to win another title — we need players with consistency and experience.”
Despite Sawa’s return, twice Asian Player of the Year Aya Miyama will continue to skipper the side who will again employ a short sharp passing style to navigate their taller opponents.
They open their Group C campaign on June 8 against Switzerland before taking on Cameroon and Ecuador.
Topping the pool would ensure a last 16 clash against a third ranked side and then a probable quarter-final against Brazil. If results go to rankings, they would avoid the United States and top-ranked Germany until the final.
The ingredients are all there for another Japanese triumph and the favourable draw also helps.
“Because of the experience, we will be able to gel quickly and it shouldn’t take time to get everyone on the same wavelength,” said Sasaki.
“And every player on the squad is a fighter.”
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by Frank Pingue)