Japan celebrates Women's World Cup win
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Posted 7/18/11 , edited 7/18/11
Japan celebrates Women's World Cup win
'Nadeshiko' lift nation with surprise victory over Americans
AP, Kyodo

FRANKFURT — Japan took a welcome break from months of tragedy on Monday, basking in its unlikely victory over the United States in the Women's World Cup soccer final.

They beat the Americans for the title in a riveting final Sunday night, 3-1 on penalty kicks, after coming from behind twice in a 2-2 tie. The star of the shootout was feisty goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori, who made two brilliant saves in the shootout.

Joyous fans decked out in the national team's dark blue uniforms hugged and sang in Tokyo as they watched their team lift the winner's trophy on live broadcasts from Germany.

"This is a chance to forget the nuclear disaster and everything else, to just unite and celebrate," said 22-year-old Toru Komatsu.

All tournament long the teammates reminded the world they were playing for their battered country, still reeling from the devastation of the March 11 quake and tsunami. Did they ever. They held the gleaming trophy high above their smiling faces as confetti swirled around the podium, flecking their hair with gold.

"Before we went to the match tonight we had some commentary on television and we heard comments on the situation in Japan," coach Norio Sasaki said. "We wanted to use this opportunity to thank the people back home for the support that has been given."

This was Japan's first appearance in the final of a major tournament, and it had not beaten the Americans in its first 25 meetings, including a pair of 2-0 losses in warmup games a month before the World Cup. But the "Nadeshiko" pushed ahead, playing inspired soccer and hoping their success could provide even a small emotional lift to their nation, where nearly 23,000 people died or were reported missing.

After each game, the team unfurled a banner saying, "To our Friends Around the World — Thank You for Your Support." On Sunday, they did it before the match and afterward they had a new sign to display: Champion — the first Asian country to win this title. Saki Kumagai completed a fairy tale finish with the decisive spot kick.

Tournament MVP Homare Sawa forced penalties with an equalizer in the second extra period as Japan twice came from behind, and Kaihori saved two penalties in the shootout before Kumagai buried the winner. "I'm both delighted and surprised," said Kumagai. "I just hit the ball as hard as I could."

The Americans had taken the lead in the second half of normal time through a superb strike from Alex Morgan, but Aya Miyama capitalized on poor defending to equalize in the 81st minute.

The U.S. went in front for the second time in the match in the 104th minute through Abby Wambach's header but Sawa flicked in a corner to secure the Golden Boot with her fifth goal of the tournament. "I can't believe it," said Sawa. "We have got this result because we never stopped fighting until the end. This has been my goal and now I can take home the gold medal."

The team, whose Nadeshiko nickname comes from a pink frilled carnation symbolizing grace and beauty, is sure to be given a heroes' welcome when it returns after capturing the imagination of the Japanese public.

"There is no happier president than a World Cup winner," said Japan Football Association president Junji Ogura. "The players have showed the brilliance of Japanese women. I want Sawa to be on the organizing committee if Japan hosts the Women's World Cup."

The victory came against a backdrop of concern about the crippled nuclear power plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Co., which has leaked radiation into the sea and surrounding areas.

Several members of the national squad played for the former professional team sponsored by the electric company, with at least one working at the plant before it was damaged. But Nadeshiko provided at least a brief respite from the bad news on Monday morning.

"It has been so scary with the earthquake and everything," said 22-year-old Miaki Tomiyama. "The team has given us happiness."

Posted 7/18/11 , edited 7/18/11
Haha you beat me. I was gonna create this but yeah I was cheering for Japan the whole way. Japan's goalie is good. Also I want to meet sameshima and Homaresawa Theyre cute
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F / On a boat
Posted 7/18/11 , edited 7/19/11
This game was amazing. I can't believe how they pulled it out like that in the end. Grats Japan on the much earned victory!
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25 / F / Califonia
Posted 7/20/11 , edited 7/21/11
I saw this game it was awesome!!! They looked so happy too!!
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