"The Final will be played to an audience on both sides of the world," said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter ahead of Sunday's FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ showpiece in Germany. "From the East, where the sun rises, all the way over to the West."
After Japan's dramatic penalty shoot-out win over USA, it was as if the sun had decided to remain in the East for the time being, at least judging by the radiant smiles of Homare Sawa and Co. as they paraded the trophy around the packed arena in Frankfurt.
"I can still hardly believe we won," said FCR 2001 Duisburg star Kozue Ando. "After our game against Germany, my colleagues from Germany told me we had to go on and win the title. That really inspired us. I'm very proud that we're the first-ever Asian world champions. Our predecessors paved the way for us to go on and succeed."
Norio Sasaki's Nadeshiko were certainly made to work for their title, requiring extra-time and penalties to overcome a USA side currently top of the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking. "I didn't know how the Americans were going take their penalties, I just trusted my intuition," said goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori. "When we were 2-1 down, we didn't give up because we knew we still had enough time."
"I still can't believe we did it," continued the 24-year-old, who, like many of her colleagues, dedicated her success to the victims of the catastrophic earthquakes in her homeland earlier this year. "I'll be delighted if our victory gives the people of Japan strength. It proves that you can achieve anything if you fight hard enough."
Almost four months after the tragedy, the Japanese squad set out on their mission to bring a smile back to people's faces back home. Midfielder Aya Miyama said: "Obviously the victims of Fukushima were a huge motivation. The team should take the money they've won here and give it to the victims. At least that's what I'm going to do with my money. We kept fighting right to the end and I always believed we could do it, even ahead of the tournament."
All hail Sawa
The players were not the only ones beaming after their historic achievement. Japanese Football Association (JFA) President Junji Ogura also took the opportunity to express his delight at the victory. "It's almost like a miracle. We've played the USA 25 times before and never won. After all, the USA are top of the world rankings."
"If Japan ever host a FIFA Women's World Cup in the future, I hope Homare Sawa is responsible for the organisation. I'm delighted that our players were able to demonstrate the strength of Japanese women. There can't be a happier President in the world than me right now."
Homare Sawa's name will forever be associated with Germany 2011. Undoubtedly the star of the Japanese team, she finished the tournament as the adidas Golden Boot winner with five goals and also won the Golden Ball as the competition's best player.
"I'm so grateful and proud that Sawa won so many awards as she's the engine of our team," said Yuki Nagasato. Fellow striker Shinobu Ohno added: "Sawa is the big star in Japan. What she's done for this team is worth more than any gold medal."