The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 concluded with an entertaining final today, as favourites USA took on Japan at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Stadium, Frankfurt.
The United States were roaring to go from the very first minute on and almost took the lead after 30 seconds. Lauren Cheney intercepted a ball by Aya Sameshima at the left flank and went on to the box to attempt a shot on target. But Cheney’s shot was blocked by Japanese keeper Ayumi Kaihori to deny the US an early lead.
The US girls displayed a pressurizing game and Lauren Cheney had another chance in the 9th minute. Megan Rapinoe delivered a well-timed cross into the box from the left flank and Cheney put her boot into the cross to get a touch on it. But the ball missed the target by a whisker.
Abby Wambach fired a long range attempt over the crossbar just one minute later, while Carli Lloyd’s attempt from the edge of the area went wide in the 11th minute.
It seemed like the US was looking for an early goal to get things rolling in their favour and Rapinoe almost scored in the first goal in the 12th minute, when a US player went down the right flank to the goal line and laid it off to Rapinoe. But her attempt went wide and the score remained 0-0.
Rapinoe was on fire and she had the next chance to score for the US in the 18th minute. The left winger played a wonderful one to one with Cheney before entering the box and shooting on target. The shot hit the post and went out for a goal kick.
Japan needed approximately 20 minutes to get used to the US pressure and to start own offensive activities.
But the US replied through Abby Wambach in the 28th minute, when the star striker fired a shot from the edge of the area on the Japanese goal. Her shot beat the keeper, but she couldn’t beat the crossbar.
Japan had their first notable move in the 31st minute, when a great through ball found Kozue Ando in the box. The Japanese striker tried her luck to beat US keeper Hope Solo, but she couldn’t produce a challenging shot on target. Solo had no difficulties to collect the ball.
Things moved to the other end just three minutes later. US skipper Christie Rampone delivered a long ball to the Japanese box and Cheney’s good header went over the bar.
Japan relied on her forward Ando and tried to find her in the box as much as possible. A long ball to Ando in the American danger zone could have caused some trouble to the US in the 39th minute, but an on-alert Solo snatched the ball away ahead of the on-rushing striker.
Ando was once again in the centre of attention in the 44th minute, as Shinobu Ohno delivered a wonderful chip towards the striker. But the US defenders kept her away from the ball and keeper Solo cleared the situation to keep the score line 0-0 at half-time.
US coach Pia Sunhage brought on Alex Morgan in place of Lauren Cheney at the beginning of the second half to utilize the skills of the speedy striker.
The tactical move by Sundhage almost paid off in the 49th minute, when Alex Morgan had the first chance of the second half. A good cross from the right side found Morgan in the box and the young striker used her body to keep her marker away and managed to pull off an attempt on goal. But Morgan’s shot hit the post and the Japanese players cleared the situation quickly.
Japan continued their calm and tactically well organised game and waited for the probably one golden opportunity to score a goal.
The United States pushed hard on the other end. An excellent cross from Heather O’Reilly was met by Wambach in the 64th minute. But Japanese keeper Kaihori managed to tip Wambach’s header over the crossbar.
The US girls broke the deadlock in the 69th minute, when a long ball by Rapinoe found Alex Morgan up-front. The substitute went past her defender and fired a left footed shot into the Japanese goal to give her team a 1-0 lead.
Japan increased the pace after conceding the goal, but their attempts lacked the final touch to challenge the US girls.
Nevertheless Japan took advantage of an US lapse in the 81st minute. Rachel Buehler and Alex Krieger failed to clear a cross from the right flank and Japan’s Aya Miyama slotted the ball home from a short distance to level the score.
Both teams neutralised each other after the equaliser, although Japan seemed to have more possession in dying minutes of the regular time.
The score line remained 1-1 after regular time and the exciting final headed to an extra-time.
Wambach had another chance to score in the 92nd minute as her effort hit the target, but Kaihori managed to save the shot.
And the US pressure continued rising as Alex Morgan produced the next chance for her team three minutes later. Morgan received the ball from midfield and ditched two opponents to cut in and attempt a challenge on the Japanese goal. But her shot missed the target and went wide.
But the US fans finally had something to cheer in the 104th minute! Alex Morgan delivered a superb cross from the left side and found star striker Abby Wambach in the box. Unmarked Wambach had no difficulties to head the ball into the Japanese goal to give the US girls a 2-1 lead.
The US almost conceded the equaliser in the 116th minute, when Kinga failed take advantage of a mistake in the American backline. Rampone cleared the situation and gave away a corner to Japan.
And the corner turned into a new lifeline for Japan as skipper Homare Sawa headed the ball into the US goal past a stunned Hope Solo to make it 2-2.
Japan’s Azusa Iwashimizu stopped a counter-attack by Alex Morgan and had no other solution than fouling the young striker at the edge of the area. Iwashimizu was sent off by German referee Bibiana Steinhaus.
But the red card had no effect on the remaining second as the match needed a penalty shoot-out to find a new World Champion.
The US team failed to convert three of their penalties, while Japan showed no signs of nervousness.
Japan’s Saki Kumagai scored the last penalty to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 for her team.
Japan has created history and became the first Asian nation to win a FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Japan 2-2 USA [after extra-time]
Japan 3-1 USA [on penalties]
0-1 Alex MORGAN (69′)
1-1 Aya MIYAMA (81′)
1-2 Abby WAMBACH (104′)
2-2 Homare SAWA (117′)
0-0 Shannon BOXX | hits the post
1-0 Aya MIYAMA | scores
1-0 Carli LLOYD | over the crossbar
1-0 Yuki NAGASATO | saved
1-0 Tobin HEATH | saved
2-0 Mizuho SAKAGUCHI | scores
2-1 Abby WAMBACH | scores
3-1 Saki KUMAGAI | scores
FIFA Women’s World Cup Stadium, Frankfurt
21-Ayumi KAIHORI; 2-Yukari KINGA, 3-Azusa IWASHIMIZU, 4-Saki KUMAGAI, 15-Aya SAMESHIMA; 6-Mizuho SAKAGUCHI, 7-Kozue ANDO (66′ 17-Yuki NAGASATO), 8-Aya MIYAMA, 10-Homare SAWA [C]; 11-Shinobu OHNO (66′ 18-Karina MARUYAMA, 119′ 20-Mana IWABUCHI), 9-Nahomi KAWASUMI
1-Nozomi YAMAGO, 5-Kyoko YANO, 12-Miho FUKUMOTO, 13-Rumi UTSUGI, 14-Megumi KAMIONOBE, 16-Asuna TANAKA, 19-Megumi TAKASE
1-Hope SOLO; 3-Christie RAMPONE [C], 6-Amy LE PEILBET, 11-Alex KRIEGER, 19-Rachel BUEHLER; 9-Heather O’REILLY, 7-Shannon BOXX, 10-Carli LLOYD, 15-Megan RAPINOE (114′ 17-Tobin HEATH); 12-Lauren CHENEY (46′ 13-Alex MORGAN), 20-Abby WAMBACH
2-Heather MITTS, 4-Becky SAUERBRUNN, 5-Kelley O’HARA, 8-Amy RODRIGUEZ, 14-Stephanie COX, 16-Lori LINDSEY, 18-Nicole BARNHART, 21-Jill LOYDEN
Bibiana STEINHAUS (GER)
Maria WOZNIAK (GER), Katrin RAFALSKI (GER)
97′ Aya MIYAMA (Japan)
120’+1′ Azusa IWASHIMIZU (Japan)