Japan Takes Women’s World Cup

Filed under: Sport,World Soccer |

The Japanese women’s soccer team won the World Cup after defeating the United States on penalty kicks this afternoon. The Japanese twice came from being a goal down and took their first-ever world title. Naturally, they had come into the tournament as sentimental favorites, helping to rally a nation that had been devastated by the devastating March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster.

For the United States, it felt like an opportunity lost. Despite dominating the play and creating the most chances during the game the US really only had themselves to blame for the game going into extra time and then penalties. They outgunned Japan 31 to 14 on shots on goal and put over 21 crosses to Japan’s 8.

The first half started well for the USA as they dominated play and created several chances. They hit a post, hit the cross bar and recorded eight of their 31 total shots in the first 20 minutes, but just couldn’t find the net. It seemed fate was against them.

It was more of the same in the second half, with the lively Alex Morgan (pictured above) ringing a ball off the post from several feet away just three minutes in. Then, Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori tapped an Abby Wambach header just over the crossbar 15 minutes later. Finally a goal came and a terrific strike from Morgan gave the U.S. the lead in the 68th minute as she broke away down the left and hammered home a powerful shot just inside the right hand post with her left foot.

The USA then looked composed and comfortable until a dreadful defensive mix up handed Aya Miyama (above) and Japan their first goal in the 80th minute. It was a hammer blow and the game went to extra time.

One thing you can say about this US team is that they never give up and in the first period of extra time, 31-year-old Wambach (above) headed home from a Morgan cross in the 104th minute. The US then looked to shut up shop but Japan were not to be thwarted and three minutes from the end of extra time, Homare Sawa (below) headed home an equalizer that was to prove crucial.

The game went to penalty kicks. It was the second FIFA Women’s World Cup Final to ever reach penalty kicks and previously the Americans, who had never missed a penalty kick in two previous shootouts at the Women’s World Cup, missed their first three. The Japanese took full advantage and Saki Kumagai (below) scored Japans fourth kick to secure the World Cup 3-1 on penalties.

“We lost to a great team, we really did,” remarked U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo. “I truly believe that something bigger was pulling for this team.”

It was hard to argue with that. It seemed fate had indeed intervened and Japan were destined to win this World Cup all along.

In all, it was a fabulous match and so refreshing to see. The men’s game is all about money, power and prestige and because of that the seedy side of the game can often creep in. Football was the overall winner here as both teams played with a passion and flair and it shouldn’t go unnoticed that the game was 22 minutes in before the referee blew for the first foul. Men take note, the women’s game is just about to flower. Congratulations Japan. Better luck next time USA.


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