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A Quintessential Japanese Moment

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Japan’s players celebrate with the trophy after the FIFA Women's Football World Cup final match Japan vs USA on July 17, 2011 in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany. Japan won 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out after the final had finished 2-2 following extra-time. AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLARZ (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan’s players celebrate with the trophy after the FIFA Women’s Football World Cup final match Japan vs USA on July 17, 2011 in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany. Japan won 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out after the final had finished 2-2 following extra-time. AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLARZ (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

A few days ago, I wrote about how the U.S. Women’s Soccer victory over Brazil was a quintessential American moment.

On Sunday, when the Japanese Women’s Soccer team won the World Cup in dramatic fashion, they too had their own quintessential moment.

The Japanese team represented an entire country that desperately needed something to cheer about. But more than that, the Japanese team brought this moment to its country in a game that presented incredible challenges that required courage to be overcome.

The U.S. team is ranked No. 1 in the world and had defeated the Japanese team on a regular basis in recent months. While any team who qualifies for the finals deserves to be there, the U.S. team was a heavy favorite.

Throughout the game, the U.S. team played like the heavy favorite, in every way but scoring. They had more shots, more momentum and looked like they had the game won, twice.

But whenever the game seemed to be just out of reach of the Japanese, they found a way to dig down and even the score. They evened the score the second time with six minutes left in overtime, and then carried the momentum to a shootout win over the Americans.

Monday morning quarterbacks may analyze the American team’s play and missed opportunities, but the fact remains that the Americans may simply have been on the wrong side of destiny.

The Japanese defeated the Americans on Sunday, but in the quarterfinals they knocked off the tournament hosts and favorites — the German team — who had been on an eight year World Cup undefeated streak.

While every country wanted their team to win the World Cup, this victory, and the way the Japanese accomplished it, by overcoming incredible odds and adversity, must mean a little bit more to this team’s home country.

Sports can transcend mere athleticism and become important markers in our history, our culture and sometimes, a collective psyche, especially after a tragedy. That is why the Japanese Women’s soccer team’s victory in the World Cup means more than a simple athletic event.

Now, I definitely understand one World Cup championship does not heal an entire country or take away some of the continuing problems from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters.

However, if this victory can bring merely just one moment of pride and happiness to Japan, I believe all of us can agree that it’s worth it.

I think U.S. goalkeeper, Hope Solo put it best in a post-game interview.

“We lost to a great team — and I truly believe something bigger was pulling for this team. And as much as I have always wanted this, if there’s any team I’d give it to, it’d be Japan.”

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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