2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final
|After extra time|
Japan won 3–1 on penalties
|Date||17 July 2011|
|Player of the Match||Ayumi Kaihori (Japan)|
|Referee||Bibiana Steinhaus (Germany)|
16 °C (61 °F)
The 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final was a football match that took place on 17 July 2011 at Commerzbank-Arena, in Frankfurt, Germany, to determine the winner of 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. It was played between Japan and the United States. Japan won 3–1 in a penalty shoot-out following a 2–2 draw after extra time, becoming the first Asian team to win a FIFA World Cup final. The match's shocking outcome and Japan's route to the title had been considered as the world's greatest giant-killing in history, given Japan's low expectation before the tournament. It was even more meaningful for the country as Japan was still feeling the effects of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people prior to the tournament.
The 2011 final was the last major sporting event to be broadcast in Japan prior to the country's digital switchover that took place on 24 July 2011.
The match was between the United States, which had been a major power in women's association football since winning the inaugural World Cup championship, and Japan, which had never won a major world title, or indeed even reached the finals of a major world competition. This was also the first appearances of the United States in the final after 12 years. The United States was bidding to become the first team to win a third world championship, having won in 1991 and 1999. Japan was bidding to become the fourth team to win a world championship, joining the United States, Norway and Germany. Interestingly, before the beginning of the competition, the Japanese side had almost pulled out from the competition due to the disastrous earthquake that happened back in their home country, as the women's league in Japan was suspended and eventually cancelled.
The match was the third between the two teams in World Cup play. The United States beat Japan 3–0 in pool play in 1991, and won 4–0 in a 1995 quarterfinal match. Going into the final, the United States had never lost to Japan, with 22 wins and 3 draws. Prior to the World Cup, the United States was the top-ranked team in the FIFA Women's World Rankings, while Japan was ranked fourth. Despite being ranked fourth, very few people expected Japan to reach the semi-finals, let alone win the tournament.
This marked the first time that a team won the World Cup having lost a match in pool play.
Japan became only the second Asian national team to reach the FIFA Women's World Cup Final, following China's final appearance against the United States in 1999. This was also only the second final not involving a European team.
Route to the final
|New Zealand||2–1||Match 1||North Korea||2–0|
|Germany||1–0 (a.e.t.)||Quarter-finals||Brazil||2–2 (a.e.t.) (5–3 pen.)|
Despite being ranked 1st in the world by FIFA, the United States was the final team to qualify for the 2011 World Cup. After finishing third in the 2010 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup, which serves as the CONCACAF qualifier, the United States was forced to defeat Italy in a Home and Away playoff. Japan, ranked 4th, qualified for the tournament by finishing third in the 2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup, which served as the AFC qualifier.
Once at the finals, the United States reached the knockout stage by finishing second in Group C behind Sweden, the only team they lost to in group play. They advanced through the quarterfinals on a penalty shootout with Brazil, in which the United States footballer Abby Wambach scored an equalizer in the 122nd minute of the game – in stoppage time, the latest goal ever scored in Women's World Cup play, – to tie the game 2–2 and bring the game into a penalty shootout. The United States then defeated France 3–1 to reach the final.
Japan reached the knockout stage by finishing second in Group B behind England, which was the only team to defeat Japan in group play. Japan then stunned the host nation, two-time defending champions Germany, 1–0 in extra time. They then defeated Sweden 3–1 to reach the final match.
The Americans began strongly as being the favorite to win the trophy, and pressured the Japanese from early 20 minutes. However neither Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe or Abby Wambach managed to bring down the Japanese to take an early lead. In 22', Shinobu Ohno gave Japan its first strike, but to no avail. In 28', Wambach missed a golden opportunity to take the lead with her shot hit the bar. The Japanese tried their luck in 30' but Ohno's breakthrough proved to be too easily predicted by Hope Solo. The Americans resumed pressure and in 44', Christie Rampone almost cleared the Japanese line but was blocked and the Japanese launched an unsuccessful counterattack, ending the first half goalless. Remarkedly, Japan possessed more ball control than the U.S. despite being mostly in defense.
The second half also began with American domination. Alex Morgan wasted a golden chance in 49', Heather O'Reilly drove a low cross towards the near post which Morgan took a shot, beating Japanese keeper Ayumi Kaihori but denied by the post. Kozue Ando and Ohno made the American defenders few minutes to startle from 54' to 56' where Aya Sameshima's corner kick was cleared. In 60', the Japanese almost got a chance to score when Yukari Kinga thrashed Sawa's excellent lofted through pass over the bar, but no goal. In 69', Alex Morgan reacted first to a deep ball from Rapinoe, held off a challenge from Kumagai before drilling a low left-footed shot past Kaihori to give the U.S. a major breakthrough, giving the U.S. a goal lead. The Japanese side regrouped and attacked the U.S., but Rampone's good defending management proved hard to break. However, in 81', as the U.S. was busy planning a counterattack, they were shocked by quick Japanese response, and while Ali Krieger might have cleared the danger first, mistake by Rachel Buehler provided Aya Miyama a golden chance, and she didn't miss it to level 1–1 for Japan. The U.S. tried to give a decisive end for the game, but there was no goal to come as the two sides settled 1–1 after 90 minutes.
Extra-times began with Japan enjoyed better possession as usual, though they still maintained mostly a defensive approach to fight against strong American attacks. In 104', when it appeared that they would end the first half of extra-times with no goal, Wambach's powerful header from the centre of the area with connection to Morgan's excellent pass sent the U.S. a 2–1 lead again. With the second half of extra-times started, the Japanese looked exhausted and the U.S. was thought to have an advantage. Yet, mistakes by American defenders reappeared when they flopped too much balls allowing Miyama and Homare Sawa to make direct threats, though there was no goal. It didn't last long, in 117', Japan got a corner kick and Miyama this time sent the ball to Sawa, who ran towards the near post, met the corner before any U.S. defender and poked the ball over Solo at the expense of American defenders to level it again. The result was kept after extra-times, putting the game into penalty shoot-out, even when Azusa Iwashimizu got a red card in added times.
For the United States, having taken the lead twice only to be levelled both times drastically demoralized the Americans, Shannon Boxx, Lloyd and Tobin Heath missed three straight kicks for the U.S., while only Yūki Nagasato missed the opportunity for Japan in the first three. Wambach tried to salvage with a goal to reduce the limit, but it went in vain when Saki Kumagai scored the decisive penalty to give Japan the historic World Cup trophy for the first time, where they decided to give the trophy as a gift for the Japanese people at home who suffered the devastating earthquake in earlier March.
|Japan||2–2 (a.e.t.)||United States|
Player of the Match:
Reaction and impact
The outcome of the game was so unbelievable that it caused widespread celebration in Japan as the country had just suffered the devastating earlier March earthquake that demoralized the country. The Japanese side received international acclaim for becoming world champions from the background of a catastrophic natural disaster and poor conditions prior to the tournament, as well as referring Japan's journey as a "fairytale", noting that how the Japanese side came with a natural disaster crisis, lacked any sufficient support from the JFA as women's football wasn't the top priority of Japan's football development and had almost pulled out from the tournament owing to the disaster at home. Miho Kajioka, a football fan from Tokyo summed it up "We haven't had a single piece of good news for the past four months. It's as if we had nothing to be hopeful about, so in that sense the result is great. It's incredible."
The Japanese victory meant that it has officially broken Saudi Arabia's FIFA monopoly that acquired back in 1989 FIFA U-16 World Championship, becoming the second AFC member to win a World Cup trophy in every levels and genders.
Tony DiCicco, manager of the victorious American side in the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup and a commentator in ESPN at the time, expressed the shocking outcome, “They feel they can win. That's almost never been the case before.” Aya Sameshima, who was part of the Japanese side in 2011, expressed that determination was the reason for Japan to overcome the adverse situations.
- 2007 AFC Asian Cup Final, which Iraq won the tournament despite significant adverse situations (Iraq War) at home
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