If you ask me what I did this summer (2011), an honest answer would have to be that I became obsessed with the Soccer Women's World Cup. The World Cup is a series of international soccer games between countries that takes place every four years. I remember enjoying the Men's World Cup games last year, but my involvement with the men's teams in no way compares to the depth of my admiration of and love for the women's teams. I love the power, strength and committment of these players. They are beautiful, smart, strong and interesting women who love soccer, as I do, and who are great at playing the game (unlike me.) The tournament was broadcast by ESPN, and while some might have complaints, I enjoyed the coverage, the commentaries, the interviews and the replays. I especially enjoyed the stories of the teams: Japan was unable to practice on fields after the tsunami, and the players could only run to prepare for the tournament, for example. These stories brought the players to life for me. Now, as a devoted and avid fan, I feel as though I know some of them.
My favorite team is the US team. I also fell in love with the Japanese team and, ironically, these two teams played in the final. In the end, if the US was not to win, I'm happy that Japan was the team it lost to. I also felt the nature of the Japan win was random, as any soccer fan knows, because to win in PKs does not mean the stronger or better team won, at all.
In this article, I will try to upload some video highlights of goals, the most exciting and spectacular momemts for me.
The final game, US v Japan, was played July 17 in Germany. It was a heartbreaker because the US did not win. Both teams played excellently and seemed evenly matched although. The game was exciting as both teams played clean, efficient, beautiful soccer, devoid of fouls, tricks, fakes and flops, things that are so common in men's games. (With the exception of Brazil, the women in the World Cup played true soccer, and for this reason, it is more enjoyable to watch.) Japan answered each US goal with one of their own. In the end, despite the fact that the US made every PK against Brazil to make it into the semi-finals, three shots did not make it into the back of the next in this final game. Each of Japan's did. The US lost to Japan in PK's after two overtime sessions.
So, while the US v Japan game was great, it had a heartbreaking ending. The happiest and most exciting outcome for me was when the US beat Brazil in PKs, after two overtime sessions, in the semi-finals. Unlike the US loss to Japan, Brazil's loss to the US was especially just because of several bad referee calls, or lack thereof, and the fact that the US played a man down for 55 minutes of regulation and overtime play. The cincher was when a Brazil player flopped and was carted off the field on a stretcher, only to pop back up again seconds later in a effort to stop the US's momentum at the very end of the game. The fake backfired however, because the US scored in the stoppage time awarded. Here is a video of the result: the tying goal scored by Abby Wambach, forcing the game to go to PKs:
Homare Sawa is captain of the Japanese team. Against Mexico, Sawa had a hat-trick (3 goals in one game) in which Japan beat Mexico 4-0. She is my favorite non US player.
My favorite US players are Hope Solo...
...and Abby Wambach, whom I admire because of their talent and their confidence. I believe these traits are especially important for women, not just athletes. I love that these players are role models for hundreds of thousands of young girl athletes all over the world. They inspire me
Yes, I am obsessing, and I am transferring, I know! My own daughter no longer plays varsity soccer after years and years of this being a huge part of our lives. But I think having watched how hard Elsa worked and trained, week after week, month after month, season after season, I understand the committment these players and their families have made and it makes me appreciate their dedication, their talents and their game all the more.
I am going to be much more aware when the USNT players will be playing locally and will try to post updates as I learn of them, in case any readers are avid soccer fans and want to keep this World Cup momentum going with me.
Here is a video Hope Solo posted on her Facebook wall. I think it's very inspiring:
Here is a video of Abby Wambach:
There are more on YouTube as well. Search "Pressure Makes Us" by Nike.