FIFA: Japan clinch maiden title against the odds
The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup saw a new name adorn the trophy as Japan completed their epic odyssey in this year’s tournament by defeating two-time champions the United States in a penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw after extra-time.
After a route to the final which saw them get the better of Mexico and New Zealand in the group phase and eliminate Germany and Sweden in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, the Japanese were expected to fall at the final hurdle against a country which had the experience of winning on the big occasion. But the determination and never-say-die spirit of the new champions ensured that they came away from Frankfurt’s Waldstadion with the trophy.
The game was tight in the first half, a fact reflected by the 0-0 score line at the break, but came to life in the second half when Alex Morgan gave the Americans the lead on 69 minutes. Japan equalized with nine minutes of regular time to go with Aya Miyama scoring the goal which took the game into extra-time. Abby Wambach, who has impressed for the Americans throughout the tournament, regained the lead for her team on the edge of half-time in extra-time and the USA needed to hold out for another fifteen minutes to reclaim the trophy for a record breaking third time.
However it was fitting that tournament top scorer Homare Sawa got the crucial second for Japan with just three minutes of extra-time to play to send the game into a penalty shootout. The Americans fluffed their lines from the spot with three of their four penalty takers missing their efforts. The Japanese, on the other hand, only missed once and when Saki Kumagai scored the crucial fourth spot kick to seal the 3-1 victory it sparked mass celebration from the touchline as this most unlikely of winners sealed their maiden FIFA Women’s World Cup triumph in front of a healthy 48,000 crowd.
It proved to be an incredibly rewarding tournament for Homare Sawa who not only won the Golden Boot award for finishing tournament top scorer with five goals but also won the Golden Ball award for player of the tournament. The Japanese team were also rewarded with the FIFA Fair Play trophy to go alongside their World Cup title which they will hope to defend in Canada in 2015 but, similarly to the Men’s version, the Women’s World Cup winners don’t get an automatic place in the next tournament and will have to qualify.