Japan worthy World Cup winners in glittering tournament

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Football does not discriminate.  Since the first kick of a ball in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup held in Germany, this statement has been proven.  In the past, football has acted in breaking down barriers to race and religion.  Now, gender barriers have been well and truly shattered.  The world game belongs to us all – its ability to unite, harmonise and empower.

This morning, Japan lifted the World Cup trophy after an inspirational effort against the mighty United States.  Underdogs by name, champions by stylish play.  The match was a high-energy thriller to the very end.

Alex Morgan opened the scoring on 69 minutes but Aya Miyama levelled it with nine minutes remaining.  1-1, another match headed into extra-time.  A goal on 104 minutes by the USA’s, Abby Wambach was again cancelled out by Japan with just three minutes to go, 2-2.  Japan captain, Homare Sawa was determined to take the match to a penalty shootout.  There was no contest.  Japan dominated the spot kicks, 3-1, leaving the USA crestfallen.  Americans don’t do second well.

Japan is the first nation from Asia to win the tournament.  It means a lot to the team but even more to the nation after the recent earthquake and tsunami tragedies.  What a story for Sawa, the number ten was an outstanding contributor.

“We came here for a medal but I could never have imagined winning it and I could never have imagined collecting the Golden Boot as well as being a world champion,” Sawa said, in an interview with FIFA.com.  Sawa went on to say, “I’ve been through the difficult times for women’s football in Japan so I really feel relieved.  It doesn’t feel like reality.”

The tournament was a shining display of why the beautiful game is watched by billions around the world.  The women’s game seldom features the simulation (diving, playacting etc.), time-wasting and egotism regularly featured in men’s football.  Kudos to the good nature and ethical respect in women’s football.

For those who have watched the women’s game grow, the World Cup in Germany was in many ways a watershed moment.  The game has met the point of no return – it has engaged the world.  Be sure to watch the London Olympic Games in 2012.  It will be another year of superb women’s football.

Congratulations to the players, coaches, administrators and fans of Japan.  It’s a win for Asian football and an undeniably inclusive game.