Japan Rallies Twice, Wins Women’s World Cup on Penalties

The U.S. took leads in the 69th and 104th minutes of a riveting Women’s World Cup final in Frankfurt yesterday, but could not hold either advantage and eventually lost to Japan in a penalty shootout.

The Americans missed several golden chances in the opening 20 minutes, a period they dominated, and, with better finishing, could have used to put the game out of reach. As it happened, a defensive lapse and soft defending on a corner kick allowed Japan to rally twice, and then a failure of nerve in the shootout ultimately cost the Americans.

Here are the highlights:

Three quick thoughts:

• The U.S. needs more team speed. When they brought on striker Alex Morgan, who does have some wheels, she immediately stretched and put dire pressure on Japan’s backline. Imagine what this approach (and some more speedy attackers) could do against Germany or Sweden in future tournaments.

• With Hope Solo in goal, and the mental toughness they’d shown to that point in the tournament, the U.S. had to like their chances in a shootout. Yet, they gacked it like my former cat coughing up a hairball. Three straight misses! Surprising. And did you see the Japan coach laughing and smiling in the team huddle prior to the penalty kicks? His players were almost as relaxed as that as they took their shots.

• Great story for Japan, which lost some 23,000 citizens to an earthquake and tsunami this year, and great heart from their team to get the win. They played a tidy, technical style and didn’t wilt under the U.S.’s early onslaught.


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