Sunday, July 17, 2011

Japan Worthy Champions, Defeats USA To Win World Cup

Japan's World Cup tournament came to a storybook ending, as they hung on to defeat the United States team in penalty kicks 3-1.

It was a shocking ending for a determined United States team that seemed to have destiny on their side until today.  They played a ball-control game for most of the first half, in a way that everyone predicted the Japanese would.

With the first half ending in a scoreless tie, the Americans sent on wonder substitute Alex Morgan for a bit of a spark.  That worked in the 69th minute when Megan Rapinoe sneaked a ball forward to Morgan, who buried a left-footed shot into the net to give the USA a 1-0 lead.

However, just 11 minutes later in the 80th minute, a defensive mis-communication resulted in a Japan goal by Aya Miyama, Japan's outstanding midfielder, and the game was tied.

In overtime, each side traded goals, with Abby Wambach scoring on a header in front of the goal yet again with an assist by Morgan in the 112th minute.  All the United States had to do was hang on for the final 18 minutes and the Championship would be theirs.

However, fate once again stepped in for Japan and they scored on a corner kick by Homare Sawa when the deflection came off of Wambach and past Solo for the goal.

Going into penalty kicks, it seemed as if Japan was playing the role that the U.S. had played against Brazil. That of plucky underdogs who had everything on their side.  Sure enough, the Americans seemed extremely tight, and the shots that went wild in the first half showed up again in the penalty kicks.  The U.S., who went five for five on their penalty kicks against Brazil, missed their first two kicks and, despite Solo's one save, Japan was able to win the Championship on a penalty kick by Saki Kumagai.

Crushing disappointment for the Americans, but who can not help but be happy for Japan's national team? They and their country have been through so much, and they have really come into their own in this 2011 World Cup.  Currently ranked 4th in the world, the Japanese look to become one of the dominant teams in the women's game.

Japan's Homare Sawa very deservedly won the Golden Boot (top scorer) and Golden Ball (top player).

USA's Abby Wambach won the Silver Boot (2nd best player), and Hope Solo the Bronze boot, as well as the Golden Glove as Best Goalkeeper in the tournament.

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