=== 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
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