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The Guardian: Japan Edge Out USA On Penalties To Lift Women's World Cup
Lee (Kidderminster Harriers) 5 years ago

Japan players celebrate winning the women's World Cup after beating USA on penalties in the final. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Fifa via Getty Images

Japan became the first Asian nation to win the Women's World Cup, beating USA in a penalty shoot-out. The USA missed their first three penalties, and Japan were crowned world champions when Saki Kumagai slotted her spot-kick high past the USA goalkeeper, Hope Solo.

It was a sad end for the USA, who were just three minutes away from becoming the first country to lift the cup three times, only for Japan to equalise for the second time in a thrilling final. The 32-year-old Japan captain, Homare Sawa, flicked a corner through a jumble of players and past Solo in the 117th minute to take the contest to penalties. Japan had scored late in normal time to force extra time.

"We ran and ran – we were exhausted but we kept running," said Sawa, the top scorer in the tournament with five goals.

"Not one of the players gave up," the coach, Norio Sasaki, said. "The penalty kicks are always a 50-50% chance."

Japan's goalkeeper, Ayumi Kaihori, did more than her part, saving the first penalty from Shannon Boxx with a foot and swatting away the third kick from the substitute Tobin Heath. In between, Carli Lloyd skied her shot over the bar.

The USA coach, Pia Sundhage, was perplexed and could not find an explanation for the penalty misses. "Sometimes in, sometimes out," she said.

Sawa received the trophy and immediately went into a huddle with her players, a multitude of hands cradling the trophy, a symbol of the nation's teamwork.

Japan were always driven by a greater purpose, hoping their success at the World Cup could provide some emotional relief for a nation still reeling from the effect of 11 March earthquake and tsunami.

The team displayed a banner reading "To our Friends Around the World – Thank You for Your Support" before the final, and Sasaki inspired his players before the quarter-final by showing them pictures of the devastation.

After dominating play from the start, the USA went ahead in the 69th minute when Megan Rapinoe's long ball over the top sent Alex Morgan clear, and the substitute hustled past Saki Kumagai to slot home with angled shot from 15 yards.

Against the run of play, Japan scored a goal out of nothing in the 81st minute when the American defenders Rachel Buehler and Alex Krieger failed to clear, allowing Japan's Aya Miyama to sneak in and slot home from close range.

The USA regained the lead in the 104th minute when Morgan sent a pinpoint cross to the towering Wambach. The forward did not even have to get off the ground to head past the goalkeeper, Ayumi Kaihori, from six yards.

The goal gave Wambach four for the tournament, and it looked good enough for the title, until Japan and their brilliant captain provided a late twist that was hard for the USA players to take and they then faltered in the penalty shoot-out.

"It's obviously heartbreaking," Wambach said. "Japan played well, they never gave up."

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Prejsu (KKS Lech Poznan) 5 years ago
I'm sooo happy for them. Before the tournament nobody would point at them when asked about the favorites for the title. Great result
Lee (Kidderminster Harriers) 5 years ago
Yeah, what an amazing match
Jawn (Liverpool) 5 years ago
It was a scorcher but I can't pretend that I'm not very happy I opted NOT to go to Times Square and watch the match in public. Woulda been a really upsetting ride home consisting of people who likely think Hope Solo is a character from a star wars porno...
Reidscott (Fiorentina) 5 years ago
Thanks Lee! Nice post. And what a great final match too! The Japanese are getting very good at this little game we call footy.... And fast too.... I guarantee you this Cup win will propel them to get even better in 2014.... If I was a betting man I would put some $ on Japan from here on out.... Right now a whole bunch of Japanese kids of both sexes are outside practicing and scheming ways to do it again and again. If there is one thing we have learned about Japanese society is they are disciplined and always hunger for the top in whatever competition they chose.

On a side note: you gotta' make those kicks. And always put your best PK up first to put pressure on them...
FootballForever (Manchester United) 5 years ago
Feel bad for the US, but they did certainly get out played in those shoot-out. The US does have a great goalie, actually met her once when I was younger. Back onto the topic of Japan winning, I hope that this will help encourage the people back in Japan who are just recovering

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