It just didn't happen
|Hope Solo and Abby Wambach
“If any other country was
to win this, then I’m really happy and proud for Japan,” Carli Lloyd said. “Deep down inside I really thought
it was our destiny to win it. But maybe it was Japan’s.”
the Japanese players celebrated, the Americans watched in stunned silence. Through every comeback, to every last second, they
believed they were meant to be World Cup champions after their rocky year—needing a playoff to qualify, a loss in group
play to Sweden, the epic comeback against Brazil.
They simply couldn’t pull
off one last thriller.
“The players were patient.
They wanted to win this game,” Sasaki said. “I think it’s because of that the Americans scored only two
The Americans squandered countless chances
before Abby Wambach scored in the 104th minute of overtime to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead.
But Homare Sawa, flicked in a corner kick in the 117th to tie it. It was the fifth goal of the tournament
for Sawa, who led all scorers in her fifth World Cup.
ran and ran,” Sawa said. “We were exhausted, but we kept running.”
The Americans had beaten Brazil on penalty kicks in a quarterfinal, but they didn’t have the
same touch Sunday. Give feisty goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori credit for some of that. Chirping and yelling, she showed no fear
as she faced the Americans. Never mind that she is just under 5-foot-7, and the goal is 8 feet high and 24 feet across.
Shannon Boxx took the first U.S.
shot, and it banged off Kaihori’s right leg as she dove. After Miyama made her penalty, Lloyd stepped up and sent her
shot soaring over the crossbar. As the crowd gasped, Lloyd covered her mouth in dismay.
After Kaihori’s impressive two-handed save on a shot by Tobin Heath, Mizuho Sakaguchi converted
Japan’s third kick. One more, and Japan would win the title.
made her penalty kick, but Saki Kumagai buried hers and the rest of the Japanese players raced onto the field.
“This is a team effort,” Kaihori said. “In the penalty
shootout I just had to believe in myself and I was very confident.”
It’s been 12 years since the United States has won the World Cup, and these players were certain they
were the ones to break the drought. They’d needed to beat Italy in a two-game playoff just to get into the World Cup,
then lost two games in a three-month span, an unusual “bad streak” for the defending Olympic champions.
After easy wins in their first two games in Germany, the Americans lost to
Sweden—their first loss ever in World Cup group play.
they rallied with one of the most riveting finishes ever in a World Cup game—men’s or women’s—against
Brazil in the quarterfinals. Down a player for almost an hour and on the verge of making their earliest exit from a major
tournament, Wambach’s magnificent, leaping header in the 122nd minute tied the game.
The Americans beat Brazil on penalty kicks and, just like that, a nation was hooked.
Hollywood celebrities, pro athletes,
even folks who don’t know a bicycle kick from a Schwinn were captivated by the U.S. women and charmed by their grit
and can-do attitude that is proudly American.
set the record for tweets per second, eclipsing the wedding of Prince William and Kate and the death of Osama bin Laden. The
exciting climax drew 7,196 tweets per second, according to Twitter. Paraguay’s penalty shootout win over Brazil in a
Copa America quarterfinal later the same day came close to beating it with 7,166.
The previous record of 6,939 was set just after midnight in Japan on New Year’s Day. Other
spikes include bin Laden’s death (5,106 per second) and the Super Bowl in February (4,064).
President Barack Obama was a fan, taking to Twitter on Sunday morning to wish the team well, and
his staff posted a tweet after the loss.
be prouder of the women of (hashtag) USWNT after a hard-fought game. Congratulations to Japan, Women’s World Cup Champions.”
The U.S. fell to a team to whom
the victory meant so much more than just a title.
just seemed like all of Japan suffered so much,” Wambach said. “It seemed like their country needed them to win
more than ours.”