Women's World Cup Final: A Proud Japan Braces for Big Match vs. USA

Article excerpt

Fans across Japan hope that the women's national team will lift the country's morale with a victory of the US team in the Women's World Cup final today.

Japan is gearing up for its first Women's World Cup final as the national team gets ready to face the US with the hopes of a subdued nation on its shoulders.

Although kick off for Sunday night's final in Germany will be 3:45 a.m. local time, Monday is a national holiday in Japan so bars and restaurants across the country are staying open to show the game live.

Grateful for some good news after slow months of painful recovery from the March mega-quake and tsunami - not to mention the ongoing nuclear crisis and political deadlock - the women's team unexpected run to the final has lifted morale in Japan.

"I didn't think they'd get this far, and I really started to get into it after they beat Germany, and then watched the semi-final against Sweden on Thursday morning," said Yukari Taraguchi.

Ms. Taraguchi was at Todoroki Stadium just south of Tokyo with her boyfriend to watch Kawasaki Frontale play Kashiwa Reysol in the men's domestic J-League on Saturday evening.

"I think it's going to be a tough game but I'm hoping Japan can win - my prediction is 2-1," says Ms. Taraguchi who is hoping that the underdog national team can emulate Kawasaki Frontale who had just beaten league-topping Reysol 3-2 with a late goal.

"It's also good to hear the players dedicating their victories to the disaster victims," says Ms. Taraguchi.

Ms. Ishikawa's boyfriend, Akihiro Ishikawa, says he became more interested as Japan progressed in impressive style through the tournament, though he is not sure how the team will fare in the final.

"America is ranked No. 1 in the world, so I don't know if Japan can beat them," sys Mr. Ishikawa.

Soccer's rise in popularity

Although baseball remains the de facto national sport - scandal- tainted sumo is still the official one - soccer has been gradually gaining popularity. …

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