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This blog reflects on soccer qua football all over the world. The blog has a specific investment in attractive, attacking football and, as such, focuses on Brazil, the most emphatic historical exponent of the beautiful game.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Women's World Cup: Japan Beats USA to Earn World Cup Title

Japan 2-USA 2 (Japan wins 3-1 on penalties)

USA: Alex Morgan (69)
JAPAN: Aya Miyama (82)
USA: Abby Wambach (105)
JAPAN: Homare Sawa (117)

Japan beat the USA on penalties in a thrilling match that witnessed the Nadeshiko come from behind twice and win the World Cup on penalties. The match highlighted the failure of the USA to capitalize on a multitude of scoring opportunities as well as the strength of Japan’s passing game and its grace under pressure. Although U.S. coach Pia Sundhage's replacement of Alex Rodriguez with Megan Rapinoe in the starting line-up sparked the U.S. offense, Japan soaked up the pressure and surged forward using their short passing game and skilled distribution to the flanks.

Alex Morgan opened the scoring for USA in the 69th minute after latching onto a long through ball from Megan Rapinoe and using her pace and skill to one-touch the ball into the back of the net. The Nadeshiko kept pressing patiently and earned an equalizer in the 82nd minute when some confusion in the U.S. box allowed Aya Miyama to score from close range. As the match went to extra time, team USA's fitness and experience in high pressure situations seemed destined to earn them their third World Cup trophy as they threatened through set pieces and attacking plays featuring Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach.

After a bevy of missed opportunities, Wambach put the USA ahead in the 105th minute with a header from an Alex Morgan cross that marked her fourth goal in four consecutive World Cup games. But just when it looked like the USA was sailing to its third World Cup title, the Nadeshiko’s skilled passing game and legendary patience blossomed again, this time three minutes from the final whistle. Homare Sawa flicked an Aya Miyama corner into the back of the net to make the score 2-2 in the 117th minute and send the 2011 World Cup final to penalties.

For the USA, Shannon Boxx, Tobin Heath and Carli Lloyd missed penalties one, two and three, while Abby Wambach scored on spot kick number four. For Japan, Aya Miyama, Mizuho Sakaguchi and Saki Kumagai scored penalties one, three and four, after Hope Solo saved penalty number two from Yuki Nagasoto. Japan scored from three penalty kicks, to one from the USA, with one penalty remaining and hence won the trophy upon Kumagai’s penalty conversion.

Japan now join Norway, USA and Germany in an elite group of four nations who have won the Women’s World Cup. Homare Sawa won the Golden Boot award for top goalscorer with five goals as well as the Golden Ball award for the tournament’s best player. Japan can claim victories over Germany, Sweden and the USA on its way to World Cup glory.

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