The FIFA Women’s World Cup final on Sunday afternoon between the United States and Japan was bound to be a match for the history books. The July 17th game marked the first appearance in the World Cup final by the Japanese Women’s Team while the The U.S. Women’s Soccer team, seeking a third World Cup win, appeared in their first World Cup final in 12 years. Both teams had something to prove.
In one of the most thrilling finals in Women’s World Cup history, the USA Women’s Team twice led the Japanese in regulation and overtime before conceding to a spirited and determined Japanese team in a penalty kick shootout to finish as runners up in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The teams ended regulation time tied at 1-1, and each scored a goal in the 30 minute overtime to send the game into penalties kicks with the score even at 2-2.
Alex Morgan put the U.S. ahead in the 69th minute, but just 10 minutes later, Japan’s Aya Miyama answered with a goal of her own, forcing overtime. Abby Wambach scored in the 104th minute (score, 2-1), and Japan once again equalized when Japan team captain Homare Sawa snuck one in the back of the net just three minutes from the end of overtime (score, 2-2).
Much like the rest of the game, the shootout to determine the World Cup winner was nothing short of exemplary. In the penalty shootout, Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori blocked attempts by USA’s Shannon Boxx and Tobin Heath and USA goalkeeper Hope Solo denied a shot by Yuki Nagasato. Abby Wambach scored her penalty shot, but Japan sealed their win with a game-winning shot from Saki Kumagai, outscoring the USA 3-1.
After the victory, the Japanese team carried a giant banner that read: “To our friends around the world – thank you for your support.”Throughout their journey to the World Cup Final, the Japanese Women’s Team have been determined and inspired by the tragic events of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country in March. Four months later, fresh off the Japanese World Cup win, the nation is beginning to heal.
The game was an excellent display of athleticism and a testament to the sport of women’s soccer. The U.S. gave Japan a run for their money but with the Japanese playing for not only themselves but for a nation, the Japanese Women’s Team took advantage of every opportunity given during the World Cup final and demonstrated outstanding perseverance.
“I truly believe that something bigger was pulling for [Japan's team],” USA goalkeeper, Hope Solo, told the USA team website. “As much as I’ve always wanted this, if there were any other team I could give this to it would have to be Japan. I’m happy for them and they do deserve it.”
Click here to learn more about the USA Women’s Team road to the final.
Tell us: What do you do after you’ve experienced a big win or big upset? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
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