Nadeshiko Japan's World Cup hero and Germany killer, Karina Maruyama, is back on the pitch and more determined than ever after being out for nine months with a serious knee injury.
The 29-year-old forward, who plays for Speranza FC Osaka Takatsuki, returned to the team on June 15, when Nadeshiko Japan was training in Halmstad, Sweden.
Maruyama was returning to the national team during international friendlies in Europe after recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. She appeared as a substitute in a 4-1 loss to the United States on June 18.
"This is where my battle really begins,” she said of her comeback. “I’m more determined than ever to make up for what I missed due to injury.”
Back on the pitch for Nadeshiko Japan, Maruyama took on a lighter training menu than her teammates, mainly exchanging passes with her peers. She showed no signs of concern over her right knee, which was wrapped tightly with tape.
Maruyama came on as a substitute and scored Japan’s winning goal at the 2011 Women’s World Cup quarterfinal against Germany in the 108th minute on July 9, knocking out the reigning champion and host nation in a huge 1-0 upset.
Maruyama injured her knee during a warmup right before a match against China in the final round of Asian qualifiers for the London Olympics in September, when Japan was still overheated from the excitement of Nadeshiko Japan’s first World Cup championship two months before.
Despite feeling pain in her knee, Maruyama insisted on playing and entered the game from the 77th minute. But when the game ended, she collapsed on the spot and was rushed to the hospital. She ended up having surgery and undergoing a long rehabilitation period.
“It was hard. I was in pain and my knee wouldn’t bend,” Maruyama said. She also remembers feeling a sense of panic when she saw Nadeshiko Japan playing on TV without her after that.
Her fans helped her through these tough times. “Some fans told me that they were able to remain positive because they saw me working hard to achieve my goals,” Maruyama said.
Nadeshiko Japan Head Coach Norio Sasaki also praised Maruyama for her patience in undergoing a grueling rehab period.
“Maruyama came from a difficult situation and conditioned herself in order to contribute to us again,” Sasaki said. This kind of support helped Maruyama decide to try out for the team again.
Ironically, Maruyama’s opportunity for a comeback came at the price of another Nadeshiko Japan member’s injury. NTV Beleza forward Mana Iwabuchi recently had to drop out of the national team due to an injury.
“So I want to do my best on her behalf as well,” Maruyama said, fully aware of the responsibility she is shouldering.
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