This is the best way to describe Japan’s historic success at the Women’s Football World Cup last night in Frankfurt, Germany. In a game that saw them often outplayed by the United States’ Women’s Soccer Team, Japan never gave up and with some astute resilience they fought their way back into the game and to the title.
On their route to the final Japan eliminated the holder and hosts, Germany in a closely fought encounter, 1-0 a.e.t putting a premature end to the host nation’s dream of topping the men’s achievement of 2006 in the male counterpart. The quarterfinal defeat by Germany will raise serious questions about how the team handled situations of public interest and pressure.
However, a lot of respect has to be paid to Japan as they made history: No male team from Asia have ever won the World Cup and did so in Europe. Here the women are ahead of the men in their respective sport. Usually in the men’s version, it’s a European team that dominates the tournament and goes on to win in Europe; often even the hosts win the title as we have seen on several occasions. Only three times has a team from South America won in Europe or Asia: 1958 Brazil won in Sweden and 2002 they did so in Japan and South Korea, while Spain won the title last year in South Africa. Japan now have won the highest honours in World Football for women and made their country proud; their victory always had the smell of a higher purpose: the success is meant to bring some relief to the country which is still reeling from the consequences of the 11 March earth quake.
The game was dominated by the United States but Japan did not succumb and after half an hour they had their chances too. The same happened in the second half and after 69 minutes, Japan was forces to act as they conceded after a long ball was converted by Morgan. Japan reacted in their own stoic way and tried and tested and finally got lucky as under pressure as Krieger played the ball accidentally into the feet of the onrushing Miyama who had no problems to score from 4 metres. Sloppy defending on both sides saw two easy goals to make it a 2-2 draw after 120 minutes. The late equalizer by Japan by Sawa after 117 minutes clearly shook the Americans. There can be no other explanation other than that they cannot perform in a penalty shoot out. Three out of four kicks missed is a terrible figure and it does speak volumes. Japan on the other hand coolly converted three of the four necessary and deserved to win the tournament after some fine performances. Plucky and Lucky.
On a different note, what can be expected for the development of female football after this tournament? This is difficult to forecast as the development of the game across the globe is certainly very different. The United States, Germany have a sound infrastructure in place and other countries surely can offer similar surroundings. However, the media were torn between ignorance and exuberance which left little space for good analysis. The German public certainly embraced the tournament even after the host nation was kicked out by Japan. Maybe this was a relief for both as the public expectations put on the shoulders of Silvia Neid’s squad clearly appeared to put too much weight on them and it left the viewing public with the chance to embrace the tournament without a national preference.
Ahead of the World Cup it was assumed that the game was to be taken to the next level in terms of popularity and revenue. This however remains to be seen. The next occasion will be the Olympic Games 2012 in London and the World Cup in 2015 and the respective Continental championships to be played out in the next years. If Canada in 2015 and the host of the following World Cup in 2019 do manage to create a similar event, only then can it be said that Women’s football has taken the next step. Judging this development after one tournament staged in the limelight and in front of a largely open-minded public, is premature.
N.B: For now the World Cup Final even set a record at Twitter: The service recorded 7.196 tweets per second (TPS) during the final moments of the penalty shoot out, leaving the quarterfinal exit of Brazil in the Copa America in second place.
Source: The Guardian