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FIFA WOMEN'S WORLD CUP FINAL
Japan 2 (Miyama 80, Sawa 116) United States 2 (Morgan 68, Wambach 103)
Japan won 3-1 on penalties
att: 48,817; at Frankfurt
Japan lifted the FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time in their history after twice coming from behind before defeating the United States on a penalty shootout.
The USA dominated the match for long periods but were unable to break the resistance of a determined Japanese side who held their nerve from the spot to become the first Asian country to win the title.
The USA came flying out of the blocks from the first whistle with Lauren Cheney tricking her way past Aya Miyama on the goal line before her shot was blocked at the near post by Ayumi Kaihori.
Cheney went close again as she got on the end of a Megan Rapinoe cross but poked her near post effort just wide and Abby Wambach lifted a shot narrowly over from around 20 yards.
A Shannon Boxx cross into the area caused problems for the Japanese defence, who half cleared under pressure from Wambach as far as Carli Lloyd, who sent a free shot over the bar. Barely a minute passed and another good chance came, this time Lloyd was the provider as she cut the ball back from the line for Rapinoe who sidefooted wide at the near post.
Still the USA pressed and Rapinoe burst into the area after exchanging passes with Cheney but her shot from a tight angle hit the outside of the post. Wambach then produced the game's best effort so far, the referee playing a good advantage when Cheney was fouled and allowing the striker through on goal and she powered a shot which beat Kaihori but rattled the underside of the bar.
It wasn't until the half hour mark that Japan conjured up their first worthwhile effort on goal, Shinobu Ohno sliding a neat pass into the path of Kozue Ando but her angled shot lacked power and Hope Solo comfortably saved.
Cheney might have done better when Christie Rampone's long ball into the area picked her out in space but her looping header drifted over the bar. By now Japan had finally settled into the game and they had the final efforts of the first half, Nahomi Kawasumi driving over from the edge of the area following a quickly taken corner, then Ohno chipped a pass which just eluded Ando, under pressure from Alex Krieger.
The USA picked up the pace once again at the start of the second half and Alex Morgan, on as a half time substitute, almost made an immediate impact as she got on the end of a Heather O'Reilly cross but her shot hit the post and Homare Sawa reacted quickest to clear the loose ball off the line.
Lloyd hit the side netting following a strong run and Wambach fired over after being released by a good Rapinoe pass. Japan hit back with a rare effort as Sawa's lobbed ball was fired wide by Yukari Kinga but moments later, at the other end, O'Reilly's cross was met by the head of Wambach but Kaihori did well to tip the ball over the bar.
The goal finally came on 68 minutes and it was a strike worthy of the occasion. Japan were initially on the attack but lost possession on the edge of the area, allowing the USA to break and Rapinoe planted a superb pass over the defence and into the path of Morgan who shrugged off the attentions of Saki Kumagai before burying an unstoppable left foot shot into the corner of the net.
It seemed as though the trophy was heading back to the USA after twelve years but they were stunned ten minutes from time as Japan took advantage of some panicky defending. Karina Maruyama found room on the right where she crossed and Rachel Buehler did enough to prevent Yuki Nagasato from getting a shot in but a scuffed clearance from Krieger went straight to Miyama who coolly slotted past Solo from six yards.
Japan could even have been in front a minute later as Nagasato was put through on goal but the substitute hesitated fatally and this allowed Rampone to get back and dispossess her.
Mizuho Sakaguchi shot just wide from the edge of the area after Kinga and Maruyama exchanged passes, then at the other end O'Reilly fired narrowly over after cutting in from the right. These were the last attempts on goal as the game went into extra time.
Once again the USA started a period of play better with Wambach heading straight at Kaihori from a Boxx cross and Morgan racing through onto a Wambach cross to get the better of two defenders before putting her shot just wide of the far post. Kinga made a great headed clearance to deny Rapinoe as she looked poised to head in a cross from O'Reilly.
As half time approached, the USA went back in front as their pressure finally told. Although Kumagai had done well to head clear initially, Morgan managed to get past Kinga on the left and cross for Wambach to plant a firm header home from six yards.
In the second period, Maruyama fired wide from the edge of the area and then some less than composed American defending almost proved costly. A cross from the left by Miyama was missed by everyone in front of goal including Solo and then Rapinoe and Lloyd bizarrely tackled each other, allowing Kinga to return the ball back across goal but Nagasato diverted her header wide.
Sawa then played a brilliant through ball for Kinga who touched the ball past the oncoming Solo but Rampone was on hand to avert the danger. However from the resulting corner, Miyama's kick was met at the near post by Sawa whose shot took a slight deflection off Wambach and in to level the scores again. The goal would confirm Sawa as the competition's leading goalscorer with five.
USA almost hit back straight away with O'Reilly bursting down the right and her cross was fired over by Wambach, Azusa Iwashimuzu just doing enough to put her off with her challenge. However things turned sour for Iwashimuzu in injury time as she brought down Morgan when through on goal and was shown the red card. The resulting free kick, taken by Lloyd, was blocked as far as Tobin Heath whose shot was charged down by two defenders.
This was the game's last action and the USA went first in the penalty shootout but Boxx saw her kick saved by Kaihori. Miyama duly sent Solo the wrong way to put Japan in front. Lloyd blazed her penalty over and Solo saved from Nagasato, but Kaihori then pulled off her second stop from Heath before Sakaguchi sent Japan two ahead.
Wambach needed to score to keep USA hopes alive and she made no mistake but this allowed Kumagai the opportunity to clinch victory with her kick. The 20-year-old gave Solo no chance by finding the top corner of the net and Japan were World Champions.
Japan: Ayumi Kaihori, Yukari Kinga, Azusa Iwashimuzu, Saki Kumagai, Aya Sameshima, Mizuho Sakaguchi, Kozue Ando (sub Yuki Nagasato 65mins), Aya Miyama, Nahomi Kawasumi, Homare Sawa, Shinobu Ohno (sub Karina Maruyama 65mins (sub Mana Iwabuchi 118mins)).
United States: Hope Solo, Alex Krieger, Christie Rampone, Lauren Cheney (sub Alex Morgan 45mins), Rachel Buehler, Amy LePeilbet, Shannon Boxx, Abby Wambach, Heather O'Reilly, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe (sub Tobin Heath 113mins).
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