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                   === More than just a World Cup victory ===
 By Steve Loung, Contributing Editor
 Toronto,  Ontario (Sports Network) - Japan emerged victorious at the 2011 FIFA
 Women's  World  Cup in one  of the  most entertaining international matches in
 recent history - for both the men and the women.
 Twice the United States took the lead and twice the Japanese were able to will
 their way back from the very jaws of defeat to force a penalty shootout, where
 there  was a  feeling that lady luck would  be on the side of the "land of the
 rising  sun"  given the multiple  times the U.S.  saw sure-fire goals hit iron
 instead of the back of the net in the first half of play.
 Providence  was indeed  on Japan's side as the United States failed to convert
 on three penalty shots, leaving the door wide open for the Japanese victory.
 The win marks the first time an Asian nation has won the Women's World Cup and
 it  also sets a new precedent in women's soccer as the style that Japan played
 had previously been unsuccessful at past Cups.
 Looking  at the list of previous winners of the competition, the U.S., Germany
 and  Norway, you  see nations that boast players who are physically bigger and
 stronger  than  a lot of  their opponents, giving  credence to the theory that
 brute force is the key element to success in female football.
 Japan's triumph now effectively debunks this half-baked thought as this team's
 game   was  about   superior  ball  control  and  passing  to  create  scoring
 opportunities rather than utilizing the deep ball and forcing the contest into
 a test of physicality.
 This  should be  considered  as nothing  but  good for  women's  soccer as  it
 indicates  that there is  parity in the sport - a plight that a lot of women's
 athletics  are fighting with. Japan's win should also be considered a historic
 landmark  to  grow the game,  making the success  more than just a spectacular
 World Cup conquest.
 As  important as  the World Cup title  is for the sport, however, Japan's true
 achievement will come from what this accomplishment will mean to a people that
 have suffered so much in these past four months.
 The  catastrophic Tohoku  earthquake and  subsequent tsunami  that rocked  the
 Pacific  coast of  the island nation in  March was one of the most devastating
 natural  disasters in  recent history, claiming the lives of over a reportedly
 15,500 people, leaving over 5,500 injured and over 5,300 still missing.
 The country has been forced to pick up the pieces in the quake's wake and even
 though  sport seems  like an extremely insignificant blip when compared to the
 gravity  of what had  transpired, for a brief moment it can help people forget
 their worries.
 Ultimately,  this victory  can't repair the infrastructural damage done to the
 country but it can heal the hearts of its people who have been in dire need of
 good  news  this year  and  because  Homare  Sawa,  Japan's captain,  and  the
 tournament's  Golden  Boot and  Golden  Ball  award  winner, kept  her  fellow
 countrymen back home as a source of inspiration.
 "We knew that what we were doing here could be about a little more than just a
 football  tournament," Sawa  told Yahoo!  Sports. "If  winning this  makes one
 person,  someone who  lost something or someone  or was hurt or damaged by the
 events that touched our country, feel better for even one moment, then we have
 really achieved a most special thing.
 "If  it makes everyone happy and joyful and gives them a reason to cheer after
 such difficult times, then we have been successful.
 "Japan  has been  hurt and so many  lives have been affected. We cannot change
 that  but Japan is coming back and this was our chance to represent our nation
 and  show that  we never stop working. This  is like a dream to us and we hope
 our country shares it with us."
 Given  all  the Japan's been  through, there really  couldn't have been a more
 deserving victor and because of this, the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup will end
 up  being as one of the most memorable as it wasn't just a moment of glory for
 the  soccer team,  it was  a great  triumph for  a country's  spirit that  had
 previously been beaten down.
 07/18 10:08:27 ET