this July 17, 2011 file photo, Japan captain Homare
Sawa, center, lifts a trophy as Japan players
celebrate their victory over the United States in
the final match at the Women’s Soccer World Cup in
Frankfurt, Germany. Defending champion Japan heads
into the 2015 Women's World Cup relying heavily on
the experienced players which led it to success in
2011, and confident it can repeat that triumph.
Japan upset the United States in the 2011 final,
winning in a penalty shootout. The win touched off
emotional celebrations back home where the nation
was dealing with the aftermath of the deadly tsunami
and nuclear crisis.
British Columbia — Four years ago when Japan's players
hoisted the Women's World Cup trophy, a nation rejoiced.
up to the victory in Germany, Japan had been deeply
scarred by the deadly earthquake and tsunami. The national
team gave the country reason to cheer, and the players
were welcomed home as heroes.
won the nation's first-ever title in soccer's premier
tournament by taking down the mighty Americans on penalty
kicks after a 2-all draw.
Japanese will again face the United States in the Women's
World Cup final, this time at Vancouver's BC Place on
Sunday. The crowd figures to be largely on the side of the
Americans, with Vancouver only a short distance from the
2011, both teams had a wonderful game in the final,"
said Norio Sasaki, who has coached the women's national
team since late 2007. "And for the women's football
in the world, I hope that we will have a wonderful game
like the way we did in 2011. Then I'll be very
win, Japan would become just the second team to repeat as
World Cup Champions (Germany, 2003 and '07) in consecutive
World Cups, and it would solidify the national team's
standing among the world elites. The United States is
seeking its third title, but first since 1999.
Japanese arrived in this year's final with a dramatic —
and for the English, heartbreaking — semifinal victory.
England outplayed Japan for much of the second half, a
charging Laura Bassett inadvertently directed the ball at
the net and it ricocheted off the crossbar for an own goal
in the final minute of stoppage time, giving Japan a 2-1
victory set up the rematch with the United States. Japan,
ranked No. 4 in the world, has met the second-ranked
Americans three previous times at the World Cup, with the
United States winning two matches before the final in
Germany. The U.S. women have outscored the Japanese 9-2 in
the U.S. team is 24-1-6 against Japan.
final against the U.S., it's going to be a tough game, but
we'd like to have good pass work," said defender
Sayori Ariyoshi. "I would want to win, so we'd like
to stick to our plan of passing."
To get to
this point in Canada, Japan won all of its group stage
matches. Brazil was the only other team to sweep the
Japanese defeated the Netherlands 2-1 to open the knockout
stage before ending upstart Australia's tournament with a
1-0 victory in the quarterfinals.
have an amazing team and they're the reigning World Cup
champions, so I think it's going to be a fantastic
final," U.S. forward Abby Wambach said.
"Everyone will have to bring their 'A' game, and
whoever finishes their chances the most will come out on
top. Hopefully it will be us."
years ago in Germany, Japan was the sentimental favorite
after all the tragedy the nation had endured in the prior
11, 2011, more than 20,000 people were left dead or
missing by a massive earthquake and tsunami that
devastated much of the country's northeast coast. The
natural disaster touched off the worst nuclear catastrophe
since Chernobyl in 1986 at the Fukushima nuclear power
each match in Germany leading up to the final, the
Japanese players marched across the field with a banner
that read, "To our Friends Around the World — Thank
You for Your Support," in gratitude for the global
outpouring of support in the wake of the disaster. Sasaki
reminded his players of the events to inspire them to
victory along the way.
final, Japan battled back from behind twice. Wambach
scored in the 104th minute of overtime to give the U.S. a
2-1 lead before Homare Sawa's goal in the 117th to tie it.
Japan prevailed 3-1 on penalty kicks.
boarding the flight from Germany, Sawa said: "I have
to dedicate this win to the people who suffered the
time, honor is driving Japan.
team is very powerful ... we may not be good at playing
against that," Sasaki said. "But the final will
be final, and there will is nothing beyond that. So we
shouldn't be afraid of making mistakes. And I'd like to
send the players to the pitch with this strong will."