But I have to issue the U.S. women’s soccer team a special waiver, to be used just this once. It’s not because losing is acceptable. It’s just that, considering everything, it’s not as stomach-churning as it could have been.
The U.S. women deserve a few gentle noogies today for squandering a raft of opportunities in their World Cup final Sunday against Japan. In another sporting context, you might be tempted to give them even more of a scolding. In the first half alone, they probably could have been ahead, 5-0, or so, if shots had gone a foot or two this way or that.
They had leads of 1-0, and 2-1 in this 2011 final, and each time allowed a determined team of Japanese women to tie the game. After extra time, it came down to penalty kicks, like it did in 1999. There likely were lots of sports bras on the field Sunday in Frankfurt, but none were bared for the U.S. in a moment of sports exultation and marketing bliss.
The U.S. women failed to come through. They lost.
Here are the three provisos from the aforementioned waiver that apply:
The U.S. women were among the favorites to win this World Cup. Japan wasn’t. The Japanese weren’t considered as athletic or talented as the Americans. What they were was well-coached and disciplined. Plus, they had perseverance, which is often the best thing to have.
In the second half, the Americans got a goal by Alex Morgan and one by Abby Wambach in extra time, but each time Japan fired back to tie the match. It was not an exemplary display by the U.S. of how to close. The Americans were six minutes away from winning their third World Cup before they let Japan back in.
But it was the penalty kicks that represented the icing on a fallen cake. Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath all looked like LeBron in the fourth quarter when they missed penalty shots. Japan won that shootout, 3-1, and with it came its first victory against the U.S. in 26 tries.
So any pundit would ask this question after such a fumbled chance: To rip, or not to rip? When choosing the former, it is important to feel it in one’s gut. The instinct to hammer must be greater than the one to ease up. In this case, it’s just not there with any real potency.
PST: Italy defeated Japan 4-3 in a wild Confederations Cup game that sealed the fate of Group A early.
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