Whatever the result of the FIFA Women’s World Cup final on Sunday (July 17), the tournament has already delivered a surprise winner: Japan’s national team. With their 3:1 win against Sweden on Wednesday (July 13), the athletic Asian squad have not only made it to the final against the USA (3:1 in the semi-final against France), but are celebrating their best ever international soccer success. At the end of the semi-final, the otherwise reserved Japanese players were over the moon: many of them cheered and hugged each other, absolutely overjoyed. And after the match, the spectators in the Frankfurt stadium witnessed a familiar Japanese ritual on the pitch. Fans cheered as the charming team expressed their gratitude for the worldwide sympathy and support following the disastrous earthquake and tsunami with their banner: “To our friends around the world: Thank you for your support”.
The fans can now look forward to seeing the Japanese team again in the World Cup final. Frankfurt, the city on the Main which has already hosted three of the World Cup matches, will be in the spotlight once more. And the World Cup arena, which was sold out for the semi final, will again be seething with a capacity crowd of more than 48,000 fans as the final kicks off between Japan and the USA. On the bank of the River Main fans will doubtless guarantee a great atmosphere for the climax of the tournament: the Football Gardens, Germany’s biggest Women’s World Cup fan mile, will be giving the fans another fantastic football experience. Along the bank of the Main, between Untermainbrücke and Holbeinsteg, more than 120,000 fans celebrated the World Cup opening match accompanied by a spectacular show surrounding a 14-metre high ball on a floating stage.
The big final will be flanked by the city’s World Cup motto “Frankfurt – The Heart of Women’s Football” in an atmosphere reflecting the host’s great women’s football tradition. This is where Germany’s first women’s football club, 1. Deutsche Damen-Fussballclub (1. DDFC), was founded in 1930. Today the city has numerous successful girls’ and women’s clubs, including Germany’s current top female football team, the 1. FFC Frankfurt. In the coming season this club will include a player who is now hoping to take her country to its first World Cup title: Saki Kumagai. The 20-year-old defence player in Japan’s national team is leaving the leading club Urawa Red Ladies to play for Frankfurt.
The city would certainly be happy to welcome a world champion into its football ranks. But one thing is certain: with or without the prestigious trophy, Saki Kumagai and her teammates will be saying “Thank you for your support” with their banner at the end of this exciting Women’s World Cup tournament.