For nine months the United States Women’s National Team has told the global public to stop worrying about recent struggles. The rest of the world has improved greatly, they said. It is just a ‘different road’ to a title, they said.
The majority scoffed at the idea, noting a clear sign of a declining global power in women’s soccer. Problems in qualifying and Wednesday’s group stage loss to Sweden didn’t aid the cause of the U.S., but after Sunday, the doubting has to end.
No, the United States did not just win in the final, but Sunday’s 5-3 penalty kick victory over Brazil after a 2-2 draw through 120-plus minutes sure felt like it. Abby Wambach’s 122nd minute header in extra time miraculously sent the game into penalty kicks.
There, the U.S. defeated Brazil thanks to all five American kick takers finishing their opportunities and Hope Solo making one incredible save on Daiane, the player whose own goal opened the scoring for the U.S. just 74 seconds into the match.
Tactically the United States did what it needed to in order to get the victory. Getting wide early, the Americans had chances against Brazil’s odd three back system with two marking backs and a sweeper. Christie Rampone, the player of the match in my book, contained Marta all night along with Ali Krieger and the rest of the U.S. defense.
But honestly, you can throw tactics aside with this victory. What we learned today is that the United States players – all 21 players on the Women’s World Cup roster and everyone who has been in camp this year – can back-up what they have been saying.
In the situation the Americans found themselves in two hours into a game that was meant to test their patience, it takes something special – something intangible – to pull off a victory like that. Wambach could not put it into words following the game and truthfully I have trouble doing so as well. Intangibles won this game and just as those qualities go unnoticed, the words to describe such traits go without articulation.
The match exceeded even the highest of expectations and lived up to the dog-fight that it was expected to be, but as I explore in my Fox Soccer recap, this match was about determination and superior leadership.
Rampone led the charge as unsung hero and Wambach took the spotlight with her miraculous goal at the death of the game. Call it cliché, but the U.S. just wanted it more. Brazil deserves credit for doing its part in the most memorable quarterfinal ever. Marta got two goals and it looked like she would deliver heartbreak to the United States again, just as she did in the 2007 semifinal when Brazil won 4-0 and Marta scored twice until Wambach and Solo matched her efforts.
For the U.S., though, losing was never an option, even being down a player and a goal. Marta talked about how much she wanted that Women’s World Cup title for Brazil, but perhaps it is Wambach’s hunger that will deliver one to the U.S.
For further thoughts on the match, check out my Ten Talking Points post.
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