Japan surprised the world and themselves, more so the United States of America by winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup 3-1 on penalties after a 2-2 extra-time score. The teams were 0-0 at half-time and 1-1 at full-time. The US seemed in control of the match from kick-off and constantly threatened to run away with the match from the onset.
Both teams exhibited a high level of technical ability and excellent game control owing to the slower pace and calculated risk. It must be said that the USA started very cautious, solidifying the defense and depending on fast breaks. The Japanese kept trying the long ball into the US defensive wall. While the match was a good advert for the game as far as entertainment is concerned, the US remained cocooned in their comfort zone, being far too cautious to take the initiative.
The women football showed sound tactical awareness by the way both teams kept shape under pressure and attacking the spaces when the need arose. The passing and positive touch ball control were superb. Japan proved masters of the short passes while the US were full of running and crossing the ball. Abby Wambach was a tricky customer by her height and ability.
The Asians were the mistresses of cool and calm under pressure, showing great emotional control when the chips were down. Twice they kept their heads up and stepped up a gear enough to pull a goal back to level the scores. They never really looked like they were going to lead the US most of the match, though there were moments it looked more likely they would, but it always looked like when the Americans were going to wrap it up. The emotional control was evident with the penalty shoot-out as the more composed Japanese slotted 3 of the 4 penalties while America squandered 3 of theirs.
The World Champions did away with their short physique which was an average of 6″ while the largest difference was actually 12″. They conserved their energy well and fought ground duels with efficiency and got to the ball first when it all mattered. The sustained discipline of the strategy paid off to squeeze the wind out of the tenacious USA.
It was basically a good match to watch, a very emotional victory for Japan who have had very difficult times at home following the tsunami and earthquake disasters.