Sunday, July 17, 2011

2011 Women's World Cup: Quick Thoughts on USWNT and Japan

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!


  1. OK, so I'm not Nostradamus, though if Abby puts away the gimme change at the end of ET, the final is US 3 Japan 2 in ET. After an emotionally exhausting 3 hours, the soccer gods once again demonstrated the validity of the (paraphrased) expression; "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make miss easy chances."
    After the first 30 minutes had gone by I turned to a fellow spectator and said, "This is the kind of game where the dominant team loses." Yet the US would take seemingly game clinching leads twice, deep into regulation and extra time, only to see hustle, guts and sublime skill seal the deal for the land of the rising sun. Sawa's equalizer must rank as the goal of the tournament, and fittingly clinched the scoring title for her.
    Before the PKs began I noted that rarely does the team that has been ahead and then tied in the ET period win the shootout; witness France vs England and US vs Brazil. Once again this truism prevailed; the psychological trauma of having victory snatched twice from your grasp proved too much.
    I conclude with my hat off to both teams, and confess that justice has been served. Japan is simply the better team all around, and their Cinderella story must rank right up their with US Olympic hockey triumph in 1980. The American team was good, competent but not great; after all, this is the squad that lost the CONCACAF championship to a Mexico team that laid a big fat egg here. Too many lazy giveaways in midfield, too many aimless long balls, too many squandered chances, do not a championship team make. That they made the final over more talented teams is testimony to their hard work and true grit, but the soccer gods are cruel and unforgiving; you may get away with blown goals, or you may get away with blown leads, but you will never get away with both.

  2. Really enjoyed your coverage of the WWC and am sorry it's all over now.

    One final note...I hesitate to link to this column by TJ Simers but it's so hateful as almost not to be believed. Readers of the LA Times already know he's an asshole but this is really too much.,0,889620.column

  3. After reading the first line of that article Matt, I didn't bother with the rest. One of the best games I've watched and I don't need it tainting!

    So sad it's all over.


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