Japan wins World Cup

For the first 30 minutes of yesterday’s World Cup finale, the American team unleashed an offensive blitzkrieg that left the announcers speculating about it being a “statement game” by the US – except they didn’t score any goals. After the initial half hour flurry, the teams settled down into a typical soccer game until more than an hour into it when Alex Morgan who came into the game to replace an injured player took a long break-away pass and drilled the ball into the upper right corner of the Japanese net. With a 1-0 lead, the US eased up on the offensive throttle and tried to protect the lead, but in the final few minutes of regular time the US defense did a sloppy job of clearing the ball from in front of the net and Japan poked in the tying goal.

Soccer has no sudden death overtime, just a set 30 minute addition to the game, divided into two 15 minute halves. As the first half of OT wound down, the US scored. Abby Wambach, whose ability to plant herself in front of the opponent’s net and knock the ball in with her head reminded me of Phil Esposito, did just that after Alex Morgan – again – dribbled around an opponent in the corner and shot the ball across the goal mouth. All the US needed to do was protect its lead for the final 15 minutes but again as time wound down, Japan scored to tie it at 2-2.

After the 30 minute overtime, if game is still tied the outcome is decided with penalty kicks; five each to start. When the camera zoomed into the pre-penalty kick huddle of the Japanese team, it caught the face of their coach who was smiling like he was the happiest and most serene man on earth. We should have known at that point that the US was toast. That became clear very quickly as the US shooters repeatedly missed their shots while the Japanese fired theirs past US goalie Hope Solo. It was over quickly. If the US hadn’t been involved, we all would have been cheering for Japan what with the disasters both natural and man-made that racked that country this year and with this being the team’s first ever appearance in a World Cup final. As for the US team, they played very well and got farther into the tournament than the experts expected. Below are the ESPN highlights of the game (after the commercial):