Japan wins first Women’s World Cup

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Japan wins first Women’s World Cup

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Japanese players celebrate with the trophy after beating the United States in the Women’s World Cup final in Frankfurt, Sunday. Japan beat the U.S. in a penalty shootout, 3-1. [AP/YONHAP]


FRANKFURT - Japan became the first Asian nation to win the Women’s World Cup on Sunday, beating the United States in a penalty shootout after both sides were level at 2-2 after extra time.

The Japanese denied the U.S. team the chance to become the first country to lift the cup three times.

The Americans missed their first three penalties, and Japan went on to win the shootout 3-1 when Saki Kumagai slotted the final shot high past goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Japan was always driven by a greater purpose, hoping its success at the World Cup could provide some emotional relief for a nation still reeling from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. It paid off.

The team displayed a banner reading “To our Friends Around the World - Thank You for Your Support’’ before the final, and coach Norio Sasaki inspired his players before the quarterfinal win over favorite Germany by showing them pictures of the devastation.

On Sunday, the players were even more pumped up as the match approached its climax. In a thrilling finale, 32-year-old Japan captain Homare Sawa flicked a corner through a jumble of players and past Solo with three minutes of extra time left to equalize and set up the shootout.

“We ran and ran. We were exhausted but we kept running,’’ said Sawa, the top scorer in the tournament with five goals.

Japan had already scored late in normal time to force extra time, and the shootout success gave Japan its first victory over the United States in 26 games.

“Not one of the players gave up,’’ coach Norio Sasaki said. “The penalty kicks are always a 50-50 percent chance.’’

Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori did more than her part, saving the first penalty from Shannon Boxx with her foot and swatting the third kick from substitute Tobin Heath away with her gloves. In between, Carli Lloyd skied her shot over the bar.

“In a shootout, I just have to believe in myself and I was very self-confident,’’ Kaihori said.

For a nation that prides itself on teamwork, Kaihori didn’t need the support of her teammates in the shootout. Instead, she received it from the opposition.

“The Americans missed and that was support from the Americans,’’ Kaihori said.

U.S coach Pia Sundhage was perplexed and couldn’t find an explanation for the penalty misses.

“Sometimes in, sometimes out,’’ she said.

Sawa received the cup and immediately went into a huddle with her players, a multitude of hands cradling the trophy, as tightly knitted together at the end of the three-week tournament as they were at its start.


AP

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
6무30패 일본여자축구, 첫 승은 우승

여자월드컵 결승전서 미국 꺾어
아시아 첫 FIFA 성인월드컵 제패
대지진에 휘청대는 조국에 희망

18일 새벽 일본열도에 환호성이 터졌다. 일본 여자 축구대표팀이 독일 프랑크푸르트에서 열린 2011 세계축구연맹(FIFA) 여자월드컵 결승전에서 승부차기 끝에 우승했기 때문이다.

 놀라운 승리였다. 일본은 세계랭킹 1위 미국과의 역대 전적에서 6무30패(18득점·121실점)로 일방적인 열세였다. 그러나 연장전까지 2-2로 버텼고 승부차기에서 3-1로 이겼다. 미국 선수 3명이 연달아 실축한 뒤 일본의 네 번째 키커 사키 구마가이의 슛이 미국의 골망을 가르는 순간, 초조하게 TV로 지켜보던 일본 국민은 열광했다.

 요미우리 신문 등 일본 언론은 일제히 호외를 발행했다. 일본은 남녀를 통틀어 FIFA가 주관하는 성인 월드컵 축구대회에서 정상에 오른 첫 아시아 국가라는 영예를 안았다. 열혈 축구팬들은 도쿄 번화가인 신주쿠·시부야 등지에 모여 승리의 기쁨을 나눴다.

 대회 최우수 선수상(골든볼)과 대회 득점왕(5골)을 거머쥔 일본팀 주장 사와 호마레는 “끝까지 포기하지 않고 싸운 결과다. 일본 국민이 보내준 성원이 큰 힘이 됐다”고 우승 소감을 말했다.

 3·11 동일본 대지진과 쓰나미, 원전 사태 등 국가적 재난을 겪고 있는 일본 국민에게 여자 대표팀의 승전보는 희망과 용기의 메시지를 전해줬다. 축구팬인 회사원 고지마 야스코는 “강한 동료애와 마지막까지 포기하지 않은 선수들의 끈기는 쓰나미의 폐허 속에서 재기해야 하는 재해민은 물론 일본인 모두에게 용기를 줬다”고 말했다.
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