Japan will face the US on Sunday in the Women's World Cup final in Germany. The team's success in the Cup has lifted a nation rocked by the devastation of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disaster.
Hungry for some good news after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami – and the resulting, ongoing nuclear crisis – the country has latched on to the success of the Japan women’s national soccer team as it reached its first World Cup final by defeating Sweden 3-1.
“When you’re in a tough spot, think of the disaster victims and give it your all,” team coach Norio Sasaki told his players before Wednesday night’s semi-final against Sweden.
A tough spot was exactly where Japan found itself after going behind to an early goal following an uncharacteristic mistake from captain Homare Sawa, a veteran of five world cups. Ms. Sawa redeemed herself in the second half by putting Japan in the lead with a goal, in between two goals by teammate Nahomi Kawasumi.
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Public broadcaster NHK had been covering the women’s team from the beginning of the tournament, with interest growing from the rest of the media as Nadeshiko Japan – as the team is called after a flower that is said to embody the ideal of Japanese femininity – has progressed to its first medal in a World Cup.