July 18, 2011

Processing US Women's World Cup Final loss

Without a doubt, this year's Women's World Cup was the most entertaining (on this side of the pond, as they say) since the 1999 edition of the global tournament.

The USA's performance and "never say die" attitude endeared this team to many American fans rather quickly, which was no more apparent than when the team stormed back to tie Brasil in 120+ minute, before going to win in penalties.

Unfortunately, the dream ended in penalty kicks to a resilient Japanese side who was more fit for the task.

Here's my attempt to process and set expectations on yesterday's US loss:

1. The best team doesn't always win in soccer.

Sometimes, even the most dominant team in a particular game doesn't win that game. (HT: Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated)

2. Here are some notes on penalties ending this game:

(a) Tough on USA, since Japan had data on US shooters, since they had just seen them against Brasil. There are players that take their penalties the same direction/spot their entire lives, from high school through international level. Just saying, it's tougher when your opponent knows what you want to do.

(b) Penalties get saved. See Copa America matches over the weekend -- Brasil's senior team missed all their penalties vs. Uruguay, and Argentina's Carlos Tevez (EPL leading scorer in 2010/11 campaign) had his penalty saved, costing ARG the match. All that to say, having your penalty saved doesn't mean it wasn't taken well.

(c) Penalties are mental. On the world's biggest stage, the pressure is amped exponentially. Add an extra shot of adrenaline, and sometimes the ball just goes over the cross-bar. It happens.

Sometimes the journey itself is more fun than the destination.

I've never heard of someone hiking the Appalachian trail because of the endpoint of the hike, other than to say they completed the hike. Hikers do it for the enjoyment and experience of the journey.

Understand me, you always "play to win the game" (right, Herm Edwards?), but for the American soccer fan (however casual he/she may be), this tournament showed a great side of soccer that anyone with rooting interest could enjoy.