Japan celebrates return to Women's World Cup final

Japan celebrates return to Women's World Cup final
By Reuters

02/07/2015 at 07:35Updated 02/07/2015 at 07:40

Japanese football fans screamed with joy on Thursday after "divine winds" blew their women's national team into the World Cup final following a heart-stopping 2-1 win over England.

The team, known as 'Nadeshiko' in Japan, will play the United States for the title in Vancouver on Sunday, a rematch of the 2011 final in Frankfurt where the Japanese won on penalties to become the first Asian World Cup champions.

That victory brought a jolt of much-needed happiness to a nation reeling from the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami less than four months before.

On Thursday, crowds throughout Tokyo shouted in triumph as an injury-time own goal from defender Laura Bassett gave Japan the win over England.

"The divine winds have blown in favour of Japan," said Noriko Kimura, 35, who was part of a group of some 200 frenzied supporters gathered at a public viewing in Tokyo as commuters headed to work.

Cries of "Be careful!" rang out during the game, along with occasional sighs of relief. Some fans wrapped themselves in Japanese team jerseys, while one mother watched with her infant in her arms.

"It's such a delight that we won with this kind of last-minute goal," said 29-year-old Yui Okamoto.

Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga also hailed the victory, telling his usual morning news conference that he would be cheering the team on when they faced the Americans on July 5, though it will be early Monday morning in Japan.

"It's really splendid, the result of all the hard efforts by coach (Norio) Suzuki and everyone on the team," the usually staid Suga gushed.

"I applaud them from my heart for making it to a second straight final, and I'm sure all Japanese feel the same."

Many people, including Suga, looked forward to the match as a chance for Japan to avenge their loss to the United States in the 2012 London Olympics final.

"We will definitely beat the United States again for the second straight World Cup title," Kennosuke Tominaga, a 55-year-old supporter, said.