Since United States defeated Sweden 2-1 in group play of the WWC, I suggested our readers to support Team USA. They have a good story and are very fun to watch. Hope Solo is a great goalkeeper and her looks and personality are well received by many Americans. The thrilling penalty kick shootout victory over Brazil; overcoming bad calls by the referees, dealing with Brazil players trying to milk the clock faking injury, and playing 10 vs. 11 for 50+ minutes has made our women’s soccer team a joy to support.
However compared to Japan, Team USA might not have the best story of the world cup.
On Sunday, Japan will face the United States here in the World Cup final. The Americans have won three times against the Japanese this year and are 22-0-3 over all. Until now, the rivalry has been big-sister, little-sister, DiCicco said. No longer.
Japan normally known for being a finesse team, during a quarterfinals match vs. Germany received four yellow cards. ESPN analyst Tony DiCicco, who coached the United States to the 1999 World Cup title said “They’re playing with more fire and bite,”
Could it be a mere title fueling the Japanese team, it definitely does not hurt, but there is a larger force giving Japan the motivation it needs. “Their People”
Coach Norio Sasaki gave his players solemn, even grim inspiration.He showed them slide-show images of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan’s northeastern coast on March 11, killing more than 15,000 people and forcing one of the country’s professional women’s soccer teams to abandon its season. Stirred in part by the photographs, Japan stunned Germany, 1-0, displaying not only the graceful and crafty passing that is its trademark but also new found grit against the taller, bigger German team.
Many Americans can relate and understand the power of catastrophe, seeing people endure the aftermath of disaster rally a team. The New Orleans Saints had a similar heart felt story with their 2009 Super Bowl victory the favored Indianapolis Colts. Hurricane Katrina was four years earlier, The Japanese Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear disaster is only four months old and the country is still dealing with the challenge.
The women’s team is nicknamed Nadeshiko, after a pink flower that symbolizes classic Japanese beauty. Players wear a pink swath on the neckline of their jerseys. The flower also possesses a hardiness reflected in the player.
The rivalry with the United States has been as friendly as it has been lopsided. American players are particularly fond of the pioneering Japanese midfielder Homare Sawa — her country’s Mia Hamm — who has played professionally in the United States. In this World Cup, Sawa, 32, scored a hat trick against Mexico and delivered the go-ahead goal in Wednesday’s victory over Sweden. She is now a minor celebrity. “They call her Princess and Queen back home,” said Abby Wambach, the star American forward and a former club teammate of Sawa’s. “She has put the entire team on her shoulders.”
Five American players have recently become teammates with Japanese defender Aya Sameshima on the Boston Breakers of Women’s Professional Soccer. Her former team, TEPCO Mareeze, was sponsored by the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that experienced multiple meltdowns and a substantial radiation leak in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.
After reading on the struggle of Japan and its people; it is truly hard for myself to outright cheer against them in the Women’s final. It is an ultimate win-win situation, either Team USA completes its wonderful journey back to the top of women’s soccer or Japan providers a storybook ending and give the Japanese much needed relieve and solace to a country that could definitely use it.