x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Japan's pitched glory

Japan, which can certainly use a cheerful diversion this year, now has a fine one, after the Japanese women's national football team beat the favoured Americans to claim the Women's World Cup

There's no denying goosebump-inducing athletic narratives can, for a moment, offer escape from life's trials. And there is no denying that Japan, still reeling from the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March, could use a diversion.

On Sunday their ladies in blue delivered.

For 120-plus minutes Japan's national women's team - Nadeshiko - competed with the world's No 1 ranked side, finishing off the United States in penalty kicks. It was Japan's first visit to the Women's World Cup, and Asia's first trophy.

"It hasn't sunk in yet and I just can't believe it," the Japanese goalkeeper, Ayumi Kaihori, told reporters after she sealed the victory. "We have achieved something amazing."

Iraqis will not soon forget that its football team was an inspiration during years of war, winning the 2007 Asian Cup title. English fans still get dewey-eyed about the 1966 World Cup victory on their own soil, the landmark victory before the German curse set it.

The captain of Japan's football team, Homare Sawa, translated as "Glory" Sawa, was so named to bring honour to her family. On Sunday the Nadeshiko, with Sawa at the helm, brought it to their country.