Frankfurt: Their country's misery was never far from their hearts.
Thousands dead or missing. Villages erased. Homes destroyed.
The players on Japan's women's World Cup team invoked the slow recovery from a devastating tsunami and earthquake time and again. Whatever they could do, they vowed, they would.
True to their word, the gleaming World Cup trophy will ride back on the plane with them - a prize, they hope, that will lift the gloom, even if only for a short while.
"Before we went to the match tonight we had some commentary on television and we heard comments on the situation in Japan," coach Norio Sasaki said after Japan upset the Americans for the World Cup title in a riveting final Sunday night, 3-1 on penalty kicks, after coming from behind twice in a 2-2 tie.
"We wanted to use this opportunity to thank the people back home for the support that has been given."
Text & Images: AP
Image: Japan's Homare Sawa holds the trophy in celebration with teammates after winnign the final match between Japan and the United States at the Women’s Soccer World Cup in Frankfurt, Germany, Sunday, July 17, 2011. The Japanese women's soccer team won their first World Cup Sunday after defeating USA in a penalty shoot-out.