Japan’s Presence in Women’s World Cup Final Even More Improbable Than U.S.’s

Japan's Presence in Women's World Cup Final Even More Improbable Than U.S.'s The U.S. women's soccer team has been the talk of the World Cup since Megan Rapinoe's cross found Abby Wambach's head, but in the big scheme of things, there's an even more improbable story in Sunday's final.

Japan, led by midfielder Homare Sawa, is in its first Cup final, and the timing is one of those things that make people believe in destiny.

As emotional as an American win would be, the fact is that the U.S. boasts the top women's program in the world. From the very beginning of the tournament, the U.S. players insisted anything less than the championship would be disappointing.

Japan began play with no visions of gradeuer. The Japanese players simply wanted to represent well a country still recovering from March's earthquake, where soccer success is literally a foreign concept.

Germany knew this heading into its quarterfinal match against Japan, and made the mistake of taking the Japanese lightly. Then Sawa found Karina Maruyama and suddently, the Japanese players had to adjust their goals.

The desire to make their country proud remained. Added to that was a desire to win the whole thing.

"As a player, we cannot do very much for Japan," Sawa said before the semifinal win over Sweden. "At least we can try and play as hard as we can."

Four months after the earthquake that led to a tsunami that led to a nuclear plant meltdown, the nation of Japan still feels aftershocks. A win by the national team Sunday and the country may feel another, more welcome type of shock.