As far as the host nation was concerned, the outcome of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ was not in doubt. Confidence was high among the fans in the build up to the tournament, so high that tickets for all games up to the final had been sold. The stage was set for one big party and it seemed that nothing would stop the Nationalmannschaft on their march to the title.
It was in that mood of unbridled optimism that the Germans took on Japan in the quarter-final of the competition. The day was 9 July and the supporters who packed out Wolfsburg’s Volkswagen-Arena expected nothing less than an exhibition from the home side, the reigning world champions.
The omens were good. The Japanese had never beaten a European side in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 11 attempts and had never reached the last four of the competition, while Germany had the luxury of leaving the great Birgit Prinz on the bench. Though Prinz was coming to the end of her career, she was still regarded as one of the best players in the women’s game.
Try as they might, however, the Germans could find no way through the determined Japanese rearguard. There were chances for Kim Kulig, Celia Okoyino Da Mbabi, Kerstin Garefrekes, Melanie Behringer, Simone Laudehr and Inka Grings, but no matter what the hosts threw at her, Nadeshiko keeper Ayumi Kaihori stood firm, pulling off save after save to keep the game scoreless going into extra time.
Then, at the start of the second period, came the moment when Japan’s unlikely dreams of victory turned into reality, as Karina Maruyama latched on to Homare Sawa’s long ball and kept her cool to slot home past Nadine Angerer. Though 12 minutes remained, Silvia Neid’s charges could find no way back. The hosts and favourites were out.
That stunning win was just the start for Japan. After disposing of Sweden in the semis, they edged out the USA in the Final to land their first world title.
A little over a year on, FIFA.com relives the dramatic day when Japan upset the mighty Germans, the perfect appetiser for the latest high-stakes meeting between the two countries: Tuesday’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Japan 2012 semi-final in Tokyo.
This time it is the Japanese who are the hosts, and as was the case in Germany last year, the entire nation expects their girls to go all the way. The question is, can the Germans turn the tables this time and exact revenge?