Those same detractors should also recognize that the US women’s games against Brazil and Japan provided some of the best entertainment in all of sports. The Twitter generation is certainly in agreement based on the number of Tweets sent during the final itself. Abby Wambach’s late, great headed equalizer against Brazil will define this summer in the same way that Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria was the seminal moment of 2010. The goal received Best Play at ESPN’s ESPY Awards. Oh yes, Americans don’t like soccer.
Germany, the hosts of the Women’s World Cup were for that nation, sadly missing from their own party in Frankfurt last weekend. However, their team’s absence did not stop German fans from coming out and supporting the final. Approximately three quarters of the 48,817 crowd were locals and while they supported the United States throughout the game, they provided Japan with a great ovation when receing their trophy.
Another figure who received a hostile reception was the world’s best player, Marta. The Brazilian maestro sullied her reputation in the quarter-final defeat to the Americans with her theatrics and brazen attempts to get opponents booked or sent off. The crowd in Frankfurt let her know in no uncertain terms that they did not appreciate her performance against the USA. Marta is an extremely gifted player, but her play against the Americans and the tactical approach of her team was more reminiscent of the ugly Brazil sides of 1974 and 1990 rather than the much loved teams of 1970 and 1982. She deserved her abuse every bit as much as Blatter.
The nearest thing to Barcelona in the women’s game is Japan. The manner in which they beat Germany, Sweden and then the USA deserves to be replicated in the American youth and college games. The Germans ran out of ideas long before Japan scored their winner and there was a touch of England playing route one football about the Germans. In the final against the USA, Japan never panicked and continued to pass the ball while probing for an equalizer. They have supplanted Brazil as the most entertaining and attractive team in the women’s game.
Pia Sundhage is a great coach and for the most part she has been good for the women’s game in America. She was heavily praised and rightly so, for the manner in which she coached her team against Brazil in the quarter-final and France in the semi-final. She was 10 minutes (three in extra time) from being lauded for leading the USA to an unprecedented third World Championship. Sadly for her, it was not to be and now she will come under scrutiny for some strange decisions in the final. Why leave an unused substitute on the bench when so many players were visibly shattered in extra time? Would fresh legs have secured the victory before penalties? Why bring on the inexperienced Tobin Heath, who lost possession a couple of times before the second equalizing goal? Why replace Megan Rapinoe, who was having a tremendous game, was not visibly tired and who could have been called upon to dispatch a penalty in the manner she did against Brazil? Amy Rodriguez did not have a great tournament, but would her pace off the bench have caused more problems for Japan in those key final minutes? How does a defender, Becky Sauerbrunn play for 90 minutes in a semi-final and not see the field, when her team is leading 2-1 with three minutes to go in a World Cup Final?