The FIFA Women's World Cup is an international association football competition contested by the senior women's national teams of the members of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport's global governing body. The championship has been awarded every four years since the inaugural tournament in 1991. Japan won the 2011 tournament in a penalty shootout. The current format of the tournament involves 16 teams competing for the title at venues within the host nation(s) over a period of about three weeks;– this phase is often called the World Cup Finals. A qualification phase, which currently takes place over the preceding three years, is used to determine which teams qualify for the tournament together with the host nation(s).
The FIFA Women's World Cup is recognized as the most important International competition in women's football and is played amongst women's national football teams of the member states of FIFA, the sport's global governing body. The first Women's World Cup tournament, named the Women's World Championship, was held in 1991, sixty-one years after the men's first FIFA World Cup tournament in 1930. The six World Cup tournaments have been won by four different national teams. The next World Cup will be hosted by Canada in 2015.
Japan won the Women's World Cup for the first time on Sunday, denying the United States a record third title after twice coming from behind in the final and then winning a penalty shootout in Germany. Japan had come into the tournament as sentimental favorites, helping rally a nation that had been devastated by a March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster. For the United States, it was more a disappointment -- especially considering that the team twice relinquished leads. The U.S. conceded equalizers at the end of the regulation and extra-time periods, then Japan had a player sent off before the Americans missed their first three spot-kicks. Japan missed their third, but Saki Kumagai blasted the winner high into the net for an unassailable 3-1 lead to make her team the first from Asia to win the four-yearly soccer event. "We lost to a great team, we really did," U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo told ESPN, which broadcast the game. "I truly believe that something bigger was pulling for this team."
Japanese residents were glued to their televisions, despite the game starting around 4 a.m. local time. In one Tokyo eatery, for instances, scores adorned in the team's colors burst out in joy once their team beat the U.S. squad for the first time in 26 tries. The Japanese had won only three matches in five previous tournaments, and have never won the Asian title.
Women's soccer a 'beautiful flower' for post-disaster Japan
But, despite their preparations being affected by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated their homeland in March, Japan qualified second in Group B with two wins from three matches.
They then denied the hosts a third success by winning the quarterfinal 1-0 in extra-time before beating Sweden 3-1 in the semis.
The U.S. had last reached the final at home in 1999, winning the tournament for the second time after triumphing in the inaugural event in China eight years before then.And Pia Sundhage's team had looked set to end that long wait wait for another trophy, dominating the first half in Frankfurt as top scorer Abby Wambach hit the underside of the crossbar with a scorching left-foot shot and Lauren Cheney headed over when unmarked.
Cheney was replaced at halftime by Alex Morgan, who broke the deadlock in the 69th minute when she latched on to a long pass from Megan Rapinoe and fired in a left-foot shot that gave Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori no chance. But Japan equalized with nine minutes of regulation time left through Aya Miyama following some disastrous defending by the Americans.
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