So the Women’s World Cup finished up this past Sunday, and real talk, it’s one of the rare women’s sporting events I can bare to give a second look to. I mentioned in the past how much I LOVED the ’99 World Cup because of Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and the rest of the Americans, and this world cup quickly captivated me just as much.
Honestly, my women’s soccer fan dedication is embarassing. I won’t lie, I care about the WWC as deep as the American Team makes it. Fortunately, they’ve yet to not make it to the semi-finals in all WCs so I’ve certainly been busy watching. As I mentioned before, the ’99 Cup was special for me, but this year, this team, they’re a very very very close second. I loved this team and this cup.
Coming into this year’s cup, I knew three things about team USA:
1. They were the #1 team in the FIFA rankings
2. Abby Wambach
3. Hope Solo
That’s it. I had no clue about anybody else on the team, which is sad, because I know at least 3 players on even the most mediocre Men’s teams. But, that’s how a male following women’s sports is I guess. As I watched this team in group play, I certainly did not feel like I was watching the best team in the world. Hell, I saw the best team in the world beat us, Sweden. That was a far superior team in my mind.
But, we moved on out of group play and into hell, against Marta and Brazil. Now, the Brazilian men are ALWAYS in the top tier of soccer. What I didn’t know about the women, however, is that their program is very new and they’ve been getting more and more dominant as the years go by. I kind of looked at them as the Oklahoma City Thunder of the WWC, young and extremely dangerous. I also remember the drubbing they caused USA to put on my girl Hope last WWC and the Scurry-Gate that followed. I was scared, without a doubt.
Then, what ensued in that Quarterfinals match-up against Brazil was the single greatest soccer game I have seen in my life. Controversy, suspense, penalty kicks, flying headers, it had it all. From the first goal for USA, an own goal by Daiane, to the final equalizer scored with 2 minutes left in the stoppage time of overtime by Abby Wambach…WOW. After we prevailed in this game, thanks mostly to Daiane (she’s probably already been killed and buried back in Brazil), I knew this team was special and nothing was going to stop them.
Then the semi-finals against a very game France squad which we walked right through. The drama of a rematch with Sweden in the finals was taken away the night before, as Japan quietly defeated Germany and Sweden on their way to the finals, but it was set. USA vs. Japan for the WWC finals.
We were on a roll, an unstoppable force. That play continued right into the finals as we literally DOMINATED Japan from end to end for most of the game. It was only a matter of time before we punched in a goal. But the whole first half, we didn’t, and anybody familiar with the world of sports knows: the longer you let an underdog hang around, the more chance they have of winning. So we scored, then they scored to force overtime. Then we scored and held them off the board until 3 minutes left to go in the overtime and they scored again. A deflating goal, right along the lines of the Wambach header vs. Brazil. Japan had the momentum and we didn’t.
0-0. That’s the score once penalty kicks start. No pressure, just play the game. But the next 5 minutes left me speechless, furious and let down by my American girls. Three of our four best players completely choked and could not capitalize on their opportunity. Two of which could not even put the ball on net! And just like that, Japan shocked the world and are now the world cup champions.
Now, I don’t want to take anything away from Japan. They deserved this victory more than any other team in the world, not ONLY because they ran through gauntlet of the best teams to get to the finals, but just the fact that they were there only a year and change after the devastation that occurred in their country. They certainly played with heavy hearts each time they stepped onto the field, as that earthquake/tsunami disaster is far from being resolved. I would not have wanted to lose to any other team and Japan put on a ’99 USA team-type show.
However, the USA women choked. They underachieved in that final game and I don’t care who says different. I read columns online that said “Oh, hey they’re still winners, look at what they did for women’s sports”….NO! None of that bullshit. It’s not 1992. Title 9 has been around for YEARS. This isn’t a Jesse Owens at the Munich Olympics type-deal where they’re winners just for showing up to play. Fuck no. This is the #1 ranked women’s soccer team in the world, that has made it to the semi-finals of EVERY WWC. This is a team that has won two previous WWC. This is a team with arguably the two best players in the tournament. This is a team that has won a gold medal in 3 of the past 4 Olympics. This isn’t some team full of Lucy the Riveters and Florence Nightengales, this is an elite squad of physical specimens.
I loved watching them, cheering for them, and winning with them. But, I just couldn’t lose with them. That loss should not have happened, and I refuse to believe that some of the American women out there did not simply give up. I don’t know why, maybe it was a fatigue thing. Maybe it was a big-stage thing. Whatever that thing was, some of our girls packed it in, and it showed.
There was no moral victory here, just a devastating loss that will take four years to avenge.
Sidenote: I just wrote 1,000 words about women’s sports, and I’m not a hired columnist, or a PR man for the team. I wrote this column on my own free will. Wow, I impress myself more and more as the days go by.
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