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Thursday, July 21, 2011
A Nadeshiko moment
Nadeshiko Japan won the Women's World Cup by defeating the heavily favored United States on Sunday in Frankfurt. It was a great feat. Japan's women's national team became the first Japanese as well as the first Asian team to become the World Cup winner, irrespective of men's or women's soccer.
As Japan reels from the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the team's ascendancy to the world's top position has spurred hope, courage and confidence in Japan, especially among those in the devastated Tohoku region, who are trying to overcome their suffering and setback from the disasters and to reconstruct their areas.
The Japanese and U.S teams should be praised for playing a thrilling and hard-fought game, which riveted people around the world to their TV screens.
Japan came from behind twice in a 2-2 tie, and then beat the U.S. 3-1 on penalty kicks — testimony to the Japanese players' tenacity and "never give up" spirit.
The secret of the Japanese team's strength lay in well-thought-out training aimed at overcoming the speed and size of the American and European players.
For example, Swedish players were about 10 cm taller than the Japanese players on average, and U.S. players were about 7 cm taller. Smoothly relayed passes and strong defense were big factors that led the Japanese team to victory.
In each game, Japanese players tenaciously chased opposing team players in possession of the ball. Since 1991, when the Japan's women's team first played in the World Cup event, it has pursued the same tactics consistently.
Team captain Homare Sawa, whose five goals led the team, won the Most Valuable Player and Golden Boot awards.
It must not be forgotten that the perfection of the team's offensive and defensive tactics enabled each Japanese player to give full play to their skills.
Coach Norio Sasaki, with a keen eye on the characteristics of each player, unified the 21-member team and adopted appropriate strategies that made the best use of players' strengths.
Women's soccer in Japan is not free of problems. The number of grassroots players is not large. Sports authorities should strive to create social environments that are more favorable to women's soccer.