For absence of all reasonable behavior, for fits, spasms, shouts and other involuntary reflexes, have you ever experienced anything like the Women’s World Cup? If we at home were insensible and raw-throated after all the “GOALS!” and the “OH NOOOOOOS!” can you imagine how the participants felt? It was past 11 p.m. in Germany, and Japan and the United States were dirty, limping and panting with exhaustion. But underneath all the grime, players from both teams were covered with something else, too. Call it honor.
By then speechlessness had set in — but what was there to say? Nothing, except a bewildered congratulations to Japan and thanks to both teams for such an unanticipated, enthralling spectacle — and thank God we don’t have to go through this again until 2015.
Prince William Soccer, Inc. hosted a Women's World Cup Final Viewing Party in honor of PWSI soccer alumn, Ali Krieger.
The only people who are entitled to feel bad about the United States’ enervating loss in the World Cup final on a penalty shootout after extra time are the handful of American players who thought the trophy was in their grasp so many times over the course of the game, only to have it wrenched away by — what? An unforgiving crossbar, for one thing. But for another, a Japanese team playing for more than itself, that trailed twice but wouldn’t leave the field without answering, and at last won thanks to their diving goalie Ayumi Kaihori
, whose flailing shin blocked Shannon Boxx’s first penalty-kick attempt and put the United States behind for the first time all game. “They never gave up,” Abby Wambach said simply.
Let’s get this straight: The World Cup has no magical powers than can make a tsunami and a nuclear meltdown un-happen. But it can console, and uplift and send a message home about fighting back, and you’d be one ugly American to begrudge them this victory.
You’d be ugly, too, to criticize the American team unduly for the loss after such a memorable run. The penalty-kick phase was inglorious — Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath each missed on successive attempts, no doubt affected by the pressure of the moment. But I’d defy any viewer or critic to hold up under the same circumstances, given the way Japan had seized the momentum with its overtime comeback. The Americans suffered from an invisible drag all game long, even though they dominated for long stretches, and twice led, including that 2-1 margin that came off Wambach’s header in the 104th minute. Though they ran themselves into the dirt mounting huge offensive surges, they were never properly rewarded on the scoreboard.
They had dozens of scoring chances — the United States could easily have led 4-0 in the first half. But balls bounced wide. They ticked off the post or the crossbar. Some went awry out of haste, or wrong decisions, or over-anxiousness. But in some cases they were just purely unlucky — Wambach missed one left-footed strike in the first half by a fraction of an inch. There was no understanding why shots simply wouldn’t go in the net. “You can’t,” Coach Pia Sundhage said.
You got the feeling it just wasn’t their day — and you got the feeling that they had that feeling, too.