Eric Brown |Managing Editor|
The spirit of this tournament was alive from the beginning with the tenacity and brilliance that the US women’s national soccer team brought to play.
As the FIFA Women’s World Cup started the US was number one on FIFA’s standings, but would be undone by their opponent Japan in the final.
Despite this, both teams played exceptionally well and this final will be one to remember.
The US ladies dominated the first half with multiple opportunities coming from Christine Lloyd, Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe.
However the real excitement came from Japan’s spirited defense.
While the US would execute beautiful crosses and hit the bar more than a few times to be denied the plus one, Japan showed an equal if not more driven defense.
After the half the game went to another level as the US upped the attack even more.
However the story of the second half was substitutions, as when for the second time this tournament Alex Morgan has come off the bench for the US to hit one home in the 69th minute.
The lease was short lived as when Japan’s Aya Miyama knocked one in at the 81st minute to equalize.
The close of regulation was a scramble by both sides that ended ultimately in a draw sending the teams into overtime.
Not to be forgotten, both keepers did amazing jobs, despite letting one in apiece the saves reflected incredible awareness.
Ayumi Kaihori for Japan was continually tested, having multiple save from hard angles.
While less busy, Hope Solo for the US showed good foresight and kept to her normal superb positioning.
As extra time got underway the US kept up the offensive and was rewarded in typical late style by Wambach’s goal in the 108th minute.
Content to tale it easy the US dropped into a more defensive set up, this proved undoing for the Americans as Homare Sawa scored in 117th minute.
While looking like an even match heading into the close of extra time, Azusa Ishiwashimizu was sent off with a red card in the closing minutes of stoppage time, leaving Japan one short for a penalty shoot out.
Ishiwashimizu was carded for being the last defender and interrupting a goal scoring chance.
At this point in the game the relentless American assault, with so many shots on target and from every corner seemed to mark the Americans as the favorites.
However, Japan was literally throwing players in front of the ball to keep on pace.
But all would be decided in penalty kicks.
When it came to the final moments the US would lose 3-1 in penalty kicks.
Despite Solo having a brilliant save and Wambach striking one, the rest of the US team couldn’t find the net, leaving Japan ahead in their first ever World Cup win.
The US haven’t won the cup since 1999 but has gotten Bronze in the years in-between.
The US will have to be proud of what they accomplished and with a younger and fresher team they will look to the future for perhaps another top finish.
In the meantime, the underdog and sleeper Japanese team can proudly call themselves champions, and thy means a lot for the recently ravaged nation to have something to celebrate. Good game.
As a spectator, this game was brilliant to watch; it was well played, well afficiated and provided a spectacular finish to the tournament.