Japan Wins the 2011 Women’s World Cup!
In recent years, the Japanese women’s national teams have had an uncanny ability to rise to the occasion against the United States women when the lights are shining the brightest. This 2011 World Cup victory versus the United States was not the first time when an unlikely Japanese women’s team defeated the American women for all the glory. As recently as in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a similar story played out as well. The Japanese women’s softball team faced an American team that had won 4-straight gold medals and entered the finals with a 22-game winning streak spanning years. As the heavy underdogs on this Olympic stage, the Japanese women defeated the Americans for the gold medal. And in this year’s World Cup, the Japanese women have done it again. Entering into this year’s final versus the United States, the Japanese women had lost to the Americans 25 straight times in soccer, which allowed them to once again play the role as underdogs. With respect to sports in general, I understand playing the role as the underdog has its advantageous, but being the favorite also has its benefits as well – a point not often made. Most teams favored or expected to win have an aura around them, which creates a level of intimidation, an advantage the Americans weren’t able to tap into versus the Japanese this time. Whether they took their eyes off the prize a little with respect to the Japanese and their homeland crisis, we will never know, but clearly being the favorite again did not help them as the Japanese were never intimidated and appeared more focussed despite the natural disasters that have recently ravaged their country. I think it might have been possible when gloves touched for the first time before this fight, civility took precedent when a stare down may have been more appropriate if you catch my drift… nevertheless, the victory for the Japanese team was earned and well deserved. However, the defeat wasn’t as heartbreaking as one might imagine for most Americans, because as most Americans do, we are a culture that roots for the underdog, and despite this sporting defeat in “soccer” – I think most Americans appreciate the broader significance this win will have for the Japanese people. The American women fought hard, and had their chances, but it appeared Japan was more destined to win this one for their country and all those who have suffered at the hands of the earthquake and tsunami – reminiscent of the 2009 New Orleans Saints Superbowl victory in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Congratulations Japan!