Women's World Cup: Sasaki Hails Heartbroken Japan Players

Women's World Cup: Sasaki hails heartbroken Japan playersJapan coach Norio Sasaki said he was proud of his side's performances at the Women's World Cup but admitted the Nadeshiko were no match for the United States after a 5-2 thrashing in the final on Sunday wrecked their hopes of retaining the title they won four years ago in Germany.

Japan's six-match winning streak at the tournament ended in brutal fashion as the Asian champions conceded four goals in the first 16 minutes, including a hat-trick by U.S. captain and Golden Ball winner Carli Lloyd.

"My players have given their all in every match, and overall they've had a great tournament here in Canada. Today, though, the Americans were simply too strong," Sasaki said.

"In the first few minutes, it seemed as if every shot ended up in the back of the net. But we never gave up fighting for our supporters in the stadium and back home in Japan."

"We're proud of our performances. Four years ago, we won in Germany and in doing so we really gave the development of women's soccer in Japan a big boost."

Sasaki fielded largely the same team that won the 2011 final to give the country a major lift four months after it was devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the eastern coastline and took thousands of lives.

The charismatic 57-year-old said he hoped reaching a second straight final will lead to a new period of growth in the women's game, which enjoyed an explosion in popularity after the success of 2011.

"This time around, we reached the final, and I hope that this will lead to a new period of growth for the game. I would like to congratulate the Americans and thank the Canadians, who organized a superb tournament."

"The United States are on top right now, and it's up to us to emulate them. Women's soccer in Japan is far from finished."

The Americans' victory helped to ease the pain of their 3-1 penalty shootout defeat to the Japanese in the 2011 final and U.S. coach Jill Ellis, while admitting to being surprised by the early salvo of goals, said she believed her players were capable of producing something special.

"After 15 minutes, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. We wanted to put them under pressure right from the start, and everything fell into place perfectly," said Ellis.

"To be honest, I couldn't really have imagined things turning out better. However, I did know that my players were capable of doing something exceptional. That's what they were born to do."

"The greater the pressure on their shoulders, the more they perform at a higher level. My backroom staff also did a fantastic job. We have a lot of respect for Japan, but tonight we were completely focused and were able to adapt our style of play perfectly."