Japan just defeated the US in the Women's World Cup final in a penalty kick shootout. The US missed their first three penalty kicks, while Hope Solo saved one shot and nearly one more in the final upset of a captivating Women's World Cup. What seemed a certain win for the US to many, had many twists and turns throughout the match, leaving this viewer reeling from the high's and low's of the game. The US had many opportunities squandered, particularly in the first half, as both sides headed into the half tied 0-0.
22 year-old blazing fast forward Alex Morgan scored in the 69th minute on a beautifully threaded ball from Megan Rapinoe, taking one deft touch before unleasing a left-footed rip that ended in the side netting. Japan responded in the 80th minute with a goal off a mis-cleared ball from the US defense to push the game to overtime.
The US was abound with missed chances during match play, and that only continued into the extra time. Abby Wambach scored on a header in the 104th minute, her fourth consecutive game with a header goal. Once again, ten minutes later Japan responded, as in the 114th minute, at the end of the first overtime session, when its captain Sawa scored her 5th goal in 6 games at the World Cup, winning the Golden Spikes for this year's tournament.
The penalty kicks ended up heartbreaking; with Shannon Boxx getting her shot saved, Carly Lloyd missing her shot high, and 23-year-old late substitution Tobin Heath getting her shot saved also. Watching it, I was still hopeful that US goalkeeper Hope Solo could shoulder the massive onus of saving two penalty kicks in the row to allow the US to tie that round of penalty kicks to get to another.
The final tally was in Japan's favor, as they became the first Asian nation to win the World Cup. In the post game Abby Wambach said, "Evidently it wasn't meant to be." Of Japan, she said, "I think their country is very proud of them." The game was being shown in Japan at 5am local time; the telecast showed the eruption of the Japanese fans watching in large auditoriums.
Japan played well enough to hang around and extend the match, seeming to embody their country's persevering spirit, managing to fight back two separate times, playing patiently throughout the match and making an opportunity out of an odd and eery penalty kick shootout. Their play aside, I send my heart out to Japan for what they are confronted with on a day-to-day basis as a result of the disasters there. This win in the World Cup must mean the world to them.