Japan turned the narrative tables: This time it was not the USWNT winning against the run of play. They attacked relentlessly for much of the match, and came awfully close to scoring over and over again. Japan forced the USWNT to bring the game to them. Every now and again, they let up their breaks. They exploited a defensive mistake, and scored a fantastic goal from a corner. And got more of their penalty shots than did the US.
It was a hard fought game. Abby Wambach was tireless. That must have been one of her best performances in this tournament. It was inspiring to watch. She is just a flat out heroic athlete. The full range of her skill was on display, which is incredible given how intensely she was being marked.
Rapinoe was also a star - she had some million dollar moves in this game, and many of them were defensive. She scooped passes off the ground, swept in to intercept passes, and plucked balls out of the air with her toes. Buehler was fantastic - her determination on the back line stopped more attacks than I could count. I could run down the roster, so many players turned themselves inside out tonight.
Sawa. What can you say about her? She is a very smart and skillful player. She has a sixth sense about where to be on the field and is so fast, it often seems as if she can teleport herself from one end of the pitch to the other.
The penalties were hard to watch. The last ten minutes of play were so chaotic, so frantic. It was plain to see that the US players were rattled, and their performance in front of the goal showed it. Japan were more steady, just.
My heart breaks for the USWNT players. That is a hard way to lose a match. Because they came so damned close. But it was a noble loss to a deserving team.
The stadium atmosphere was outstanding. Except for the sixty-plus VIP seats that sat empty from start to finish.
Today I was told (anecdotally) by a Fifa official that 80% of Fifa staff had never seen a women's match. I believe it, because if those assholes can't be bothered to attend a World Cup final, what women's match will they go to, exactly?
Let me conclude these thoughts on a positive note: Sepp Blatter was booed mercilessly during the closing ceremony.
Seriously, though, the US players threw their whole being into this match - I've never been more proud to be a USWNT fan. And if we had to lose to anyone, at least it was to the best team in the tournament!