Monday, July 18, 2011

Japan Wins World Cup !

Yesterday in Frankfurt German the US National Women's Soccer team well and truly lost the World Cup to sentimental favorite Japan, squandering numerous scoring opportuinities and finally failing to convert three penalty kicks in the dreaded PK 'shootout' to decide the winner after two periods of overtime.

The first half totally belonged to the United States, who dominated both possession and shots on goal, 12 - 5 in the first half and 24-16 overall.  The American women pounded shots off the cross bar, the side posts, and sent shots wide left, wide right, and over the goal.  Despite their many chances they could not score in the first half.

In the second half, US substitute Alex Morgan finally scored for the Americans in the 68' minute of play with a powerful shot for 20 yards out, giving the Americans a 1 goal lead.  But just 12 minutes later, Aya Miyama scored for Japan to equalize after punching in a loose ball in a melee in front of the American goal, and Japan was back in the game., sending the match into overtime.

Then, in overtime the US again took the lead in the 104th minute off a scintillating header from Abby Wambach, and again the American's seemed poised to finish the match.  But 12 minutes later Japanese striker Howare Sawa scored in the 116th minute to equalize for the second time, and the match went into Penalty Kicks to decide the World Champion.

And then the wheels fell off for the American women.  Shannon Boxx had her shot blocked by Japaense Keeper Ayumi Kalhori; Carli Lloyd sailed her shot over the crossbar; and then Kalhori saved a second shot by Tobin Heath.  Only Abby Wambach made her shot, and it wasn't enough, as Japan won the match on PK's to win the first FIFA World Cup Championship for any Asian nation.

This match was the first time that the Japanese women had ever defeated the US women in international play.  Their record against the US is now 1 - 3 - 22... and one world championship.

Despite the heartbreak, the American women have comported themselves with great dignity, congratulating Japan and even expressing a kind of backhanded satisfaction that it was the Japanese who defeated them.  After the match, US goalkeeper Hope Solo said, "I truly believe that something bigger was pulling for this team.  As much as I've always wanted this, if there were any other team I could give this to it would have to be Japan. I'm happy for them and they do deserve it."

Indeed.  It is clear that the US was not defeated, so much as they failed to win.  With so many scoring chances missed, and a final shot count that heavily favored the US, they have no one to blame but themselves.

So congratulations Nadeshiko Japan!  Japan's 'Beautiful Flowers' have delivered a major world championship to earthquake-and-tsunami ravaged Japan.  Perhaps they really did need this more than the Americans did, and the advent of a new world champion instead of a three-peat for the US, can only signify good things for women's soccer worldwide.