TOKYO - Japan roared in support through pre-dawn hours Friday, from nightless cities to disaster areas, as their world champion women's football team bowed 2-1 to the United States in the Olympic final.
But supporters and media alike said they were proud of the silver medal for "Nadeshiko" who again showed the resilience with which they beat the same world number-one side on penalties in the women's World Cup final a year ago.
"Dream of gold medal carried over to next generation," said a headline in the influential daily Asahi Shimbun after the Japanese women lifted their first ever Olympic football medal.
"There is indeed a difference between the gold and silver medals. But there were no 'losers' in either team," Japanese football writer Yoshiyuki Osumi said in the online edition of the business daily Nikkei.
"Japan's performance that mentally drove the United States into the corner was befitting a gold-medal contest," he wrote.
"Everyone who watched the early morning TV broadcast might have felt that Nadeshiko are great. It was a final that everybody could be proud of."
Carli Lloyd's double gave the United States a third successive gold medal.
Striker Yuki Ogimi pulled one back on 63 minutes for Japan, nicknamed Nadeshiko after a pink flower that symbolises femininity in the country. They kept on threatening the US goal at Wembley to no avail.
Major Japanese dailies handed out extra editions early Friday, touting Nadeshiko's silver medal along with Saori Yoshida's third straight victory in the Olympic women's 55kg freestyle wrestling.
Hundreds of supporters tumbled out of a sports bars onto the streets of Tokyo's Shibuya entertainment district after the match ended at around 5:30 am.
They raised their arms, chanting "Nippon! Nippon!" -- which means Japan -- as they marched toward the station.
The TV audience for the live broadcast at one point reached 23.6 percent of the television-owning population in eastern Japan, a research company said.
"It was spectacular to watch. Although they missed the gold, I hope they will come home holding their heads high," 26-year-old Kenta Hayashi told Jiji Press at the "FootNik" sports bar where about 50 supporters gathered.
About 130 people watched the match live at a community centre in the village of Takizawa in Iwate prefecture, part of Japan's northeast region ravaged by the earthquake-tsunami disaster 17 months ago.
Japan defender Azusa Iwashimizu, 25, was born in the village and her grandparents attended the viewing session where a banner read: "Go for gold in London, too!"
"She hung on well. I'm glad she got the medal although its colour was different," her grandfather Susumu, 78, told Jiji. Her grandmother Kinuko said: "I must live long because my grandchild has given me strength."
Ogimi, 25, told Japanese media in London: "The Olympics and the World Cup will go on. We will have to train at a much higher level in order to beat the United States."