In the last two games the distinct outline of their character has emerged.
This team is not nearly as decorated as its predecessors, or as financially deprived. Nor are they quite as fast or as technically beautiful as some other teams in the field, including France and Brazil. But they have an indefinable something, a charisma that begins with their physical largeness, personified by Wambach, who at 5 feet 11 has the ability to bully her way through defenses and find the ball. Solo, at 5-9, is a formidable obstacle in the goal, with her combination of swagger and irradiated blue eyes. As a group, they are demonstrably the strongest, fittest team in the world.
Hundreds of U.S. soccer fans flocked to an outdoor viewing party for the women's World Cup outside San Francisco City Hall watching the Americans defeat France 3-1 to quality for Sunday's championship final against Japan. (July 13)
Above all, they have a ferocious refusal to be defeated, and that quality has made believers out of elders like Foudy. Their victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals, should they win the Cup against Japan on Sunday, will be the start of their own enduring legacy. For 59 minutes they fought absolute exhaustion and were on the brink of elimination, playing with just 10 players against 11 after a referee issued a questionable ruling and tossed Rachel Buehler for a foul. But then Wambach headed the ball in for the game-tying goal in the 122nd minute, the latest goal in Women’s World Cup history. Afterward, Wambach said to Foudy, “Can you believe it?”
Foudy said, “Yeah, I can.”
A few minutes later Wambach saw Hamm. “Can you believe it?” she asked again. Hamm said, “Yeah, I can.” Then Wambach ran into Chastain. “Can you believe it?” she asked for a third time. “Yeah, of course I can,” Chastain said.
It was a case of three-fold validation. Ever since, the American women have exuded certainty. “Losing is unacceptable,” Wambach announced. When fatigue could have become a factor against France on Wednesday – all of sudden the Americans threw some fresh players into the game, and surged. “We lost our legs, but we found our heart,” was how Coach Pia Sundhage put it. Afterward, asked where their confidence comes from, Solo replied, “From our preparation — and because we know we’re damn good.”
The rest of us know it now, too.