Monday, July 18, 2011
Japan made history as the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ champion for the first time after a 3-1 penalty shootout victory over USA, following a drama-charged 2-2 draw in Frankfurt Germany on Sunday 17th July 2011.
Chants of "Nippon!" or "Japan" echoed throughout Tokyo in the early morning hours of Monday 18th July 2011, as the Japanese women's national team twice came from behind to force a shootout that they won to capture the country's first World Cup title.
The victory, in which they outscored the United States 3-1 in the penalty shootout after twice tying the game after falling behind by a goal, capped an emotional run for a team that upset local favorite Germany and Sweden to reach their first ever appearance in the World Cup finals.
Move over Marta and Birgit Prinz or Abby Wambach. Japan playmaker, no. 10 Homare Sawa has ended the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ in Germany as the tournament's towering figure.
The midfield schemer, the driving force behind her country’s ultimate triumph, claimed the adidas Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament, and the Adidas Golden Boot as top scorer with 5 goals, Marta the 5 times FIFA world female player of the year was 2nd with 4 goals.
Japan's first-ever moment of glory on the global footballing stage will forever be associated with the 32-year-old’s consistently outstanding displays and priceless goals.
"We fought until the very end, I didn't stop running," Homare Sawa said, in an interview with Japanese media. "I've been fighting to be number one for so long -- this just seems unreal to me."
This historic win happened barely 4 months after the March 11th, 2011, 9.0 scale earthquake that shooked Japan, creating a giant Tsunami that killed 25,000 people.
More than four months after the disasters, thousands of evacuees remain in shelters, while nearly 100,000 people have been displaced because of radiation concerns.
The team dedicated the tournament to victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, their unlikely run lifted a wounded nation, their success temporarily knocking news about radiation scares and aftershocks, off the front pages.
Japan had not beaten the Americans in 25 previous meetings, but the team nicknamed "Nadeshiko," the Japanese word for beautiful flower, played for a purpose greater than soccer this time around.
The win also shattered the myth that Asians are unable to reach the pinnacle of world football.
Japan is no doubt the new football super power of the world, achieving what even the great Brazilian female superstar player, Marta has failed.
The tone was set for a strong USA performance with the two-time world champions showing their intent from the opening whistle. Lauren Cheney forced a save from Ayumi Kaihori with a shot from a highly acute angle, after the forward had outmuscled Azusa Iwashimizu just 25 second into the contest.
On eight minutes, Megan Rapinoe found some space on the left and her excellent near post ball was turned just wide by Cheney. Barely a minute later, Wambach fired a shot over as USA maintained their bright start.
Finally USA secured reward for their dominance with the opening goal on 69 minutes as Morgan broke the deadlock with her second of the tournament.
A quick counter attack saw Rapinoe play an excellent ball through for Morgan to use her strength to hold off a defender, before hitting a perfect finish past Kaihori.
The 22-year-old Morgan again proved herself as a player for the big occasion, having hit the winner for USA against Korea DPR in the final of the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Here, Japan most outstanding player, no.10 Homare Sawa is seen clearing the ball in front of the Japanese goal, as USA players close-in. Sawa not only lead the Japanese attack but also the defence. Infact she was seen running at every nook and corner of the field as if she has a superhuman stamina.
For her super-human efforts throughout the tournament, Sawa was voted the best player of the entire 2011 FIFA Women World Cup and also the top scorer as well with 5 goals.
Earlier in the match, USA created numerous goalscoring opportunities throughout the match but Aya Miyama’s goal nine minutes from the end of the 90 minutes forced extra time, after Alex Morgan had given the Stars and Stripes the lead on 69 minutes.
Abby Wambach seemed set to have scored the winner on 104 minutes until Sawa’s late intervention.
Japan equalised somewhat against the run of play 12 minutes later as a cross from the right caused chaos in the USA defence, with Miyama taking full advantage to push the ball past Hope Solo from close range.
The match was end-to-end in the remaining minutes with Kinga and O’Reilly both firing good efforts in on goal without being able to break the deadlock. So for the fourth time in six FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals, 90 minutes proved not enough to find a winner.
The match continued in an open fashion and at a high tempo following the recommencement. Morgan carved out the first opening of extra time only to shoot askew after getting the better of two defenders.
USA again took the lead one minute prior to the end of the opening period of extra time. Wambach powered home a bullet header from close range following Morgan’s precise cross. It was Wambach’s fourth of the tournament, all from headers.
With five minutes remaining, Kinga pushed the ball past the onrushing Solo with only a clearance from retreating captain Christie Rampone denying an equaliser.
However, from the ensuing corner, Sawa equalised by diverting Miyama’s corner with just three minutes remaining. The goal not only ensured the match would be decided by penalties but lifted Sawa into the outright lead as top goalscorer, with five goals. Iwashimizu was then sent off for a professional foul as time ran out.
Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath failed to convert USA's opening three penalties, and while Yuki Nagasato had her effort saved, Japan were not to be denied as Asia claimed the title for the first time.
Congrats Japan.. you are the best in the planet right now... Banzai the USA!!!