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Japanese Women's Football Team Makes Triumphant Return Home

Japanese women's national soccer team coach Norio Sasaki, center, holding the World Cup trophy, poses with team players during a press conference in Tokyo, July 19, 2011.

Thousands of flag-waving fans flocked to Tokyo's Narita Airport Tuesday to welcome Japan's women's football (soccer) players on their return home as the nation's first World Cup champions.

Fans waved and cheered as the players strode through the terminal wearing the gold medals they earned with an unexpected victory over the United States. The women stunned the sports world Monday with their 3-1 penalty shootout win over the top-ranked Americans.

The jubilant onlookers were led by Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who issued a statement earlier in the day praising the team for restoring courage to a nation that was shaken by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The win was the first World Cup championship victory by an Asian team.

The women's team is dubbed "Nadeshiko," which is the name of a pink mountain flower that symbolizes beauty and strength.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.