Japan have become the first Asian winners of the FIFA Women's World Cup by defeating the United States on penalties after twice coming from behind to peg back their opponents.
Unable to beat the two-time competition winners in 25 previous meetings, Japan looked set for further misery in Frankfurt when Alex Morgan scored for the US in the second half. Her goal was cancelled out by Aya Miyama with nine minutes remaining, but Norio Sasaki's charges appeared destined for disappointment again when Abby Wambach struck in the first period of extra time. Team linchpin and tournament top scorer Homare Sawa levelled the scores late on, however, and spot-kick misses from Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath and Shannon Boxx sealed the US's fate.
Aiming for a record third triumph at this level, Pia Sundhage's side had nonetheless dominated the match throughout and enjoyed the better of the chances. Morgan's low drive and Wambach's powerful header seemed sufficient to make their grip on the game count, yet their opponents never gave up and were able to strike when it mattered, Miyama's close-range effort being eclipsed by a fine finish from five-goal Sawa at the climax of her fifth Women's World Cup.
Japan lost Azusa Iwashimizu to a red card in stoppage time at the end of extra time, and Yuki Nagasato had her spot-kick saved by Hope Solo, but Saki Kumagai buried the decisive penalty to spark joy among the newly crowned world champions.
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