Category Archives: 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Olympics: Gold Medal Match Preview – U.S.-Japan: Nadeshiko Try To Prove Me Wrong. Again.

“Insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.”

– Albert Einstein

There are probably psychologists – both amateur and professional – that can explain better than I the reluctance to leave a first impression, no matter what evidence there may be to the contrary. There’s something about what your eyes tell you the first time you see something that just makes it stick in your mind, no matter what comes after.

Last May, just two months after a horrific earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of Japan, the Japanese came to America for a two-game series. Japan showed little different than what I had seen from the Nadeshiko in the past: they knocked the ball around pretty well, had spurts (especially early in the matches) were they looked like they could be dangerous, but eventually the U.S. did what they had done every time (almost: Japan was 0-20-3 against the U.S. lifetime at this point) they’d seen the Japanese before, they took over, posted a couple of comfortable 2-0 wins in which the Japanese looked horribly vulnerable in set pieces and in the air.

When it came time to make the picks for the World Cup, I wanted to get an upset in there, looked at the brackets and focused on New Zealand. They were in a weak group, they could knock off Japan, right? And so I didn’t have Japan getting out of the group stages.

New Zealand nearly got a point from Japan, but I immediately recognized I had underrated the Japanese as they blasted Mexico. However, the vulnerabilities showed up in the final group game as a 2-0 loss to England sent them to second in the group (don’t think Norio Sasaki was telling people not to score that day) and a date with host Germany in the quarterfinal.

(Too bad Germany had to miss this party, by the way. What a great event, too. They’re going to be mad when they check their text messages when they get back from vacation. Next time, girls.)

They stood no chance, right? In the end, despite the upset, I attributed more of it to a failure by Germany than anything Japan did, and therefore picked Sweden to win the semifinal. Wrong again, as Japan was opportunistic one more time.

Of course, we know what happened in the final after I again dismissed Japan’s chances prior.

A year later, it was harder to dismiss the now World Champions. They had proven themselves at every turn. Clearly they were now a contender, but as 2012 commenced, Japan was beaten by Germany in the finals of the Algarve Cup (although they had beaten the United States 1-0 to get there). They were beaten soundly by France and the U.S. in warm-up matches for the Olympics.

I looked at the brackets and conceded that Japan would likely win their group (I wasn’t counting on a draw against South Africa, but I digress), but figured their luck may run out in a quarterfinal against France.

Bzzzz. Wrong again.

Japan is 90 minutes away from winning back-to-back major tournaments in consecutive years, a feat that’s never been accomplished. Not by the United States. Not by anyone.

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In Sendai, A Revolution–of some sort–Is Televised

Japan has this eerily consistent habit of making observers feel as though they’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and landed in, if not Wonderland, then at least a pretty good knock-off of it. To American eyes, accustomed as they are to unforeseen snafus and unmet expectations, everything in Japan just seems to work. Consider: everything–for better or for worse–occurs exactly on time; lost wallets get returned untouched nine times out of ten; convenience stores not only sell food you’d actually want to ingest, but just about anything else you could conceivably want; and no matter where you go, there are friendly, vocal, vending machines to offer you hot coffee in a can. Any long term resident can tell you that the feeling fades as you discover the maddening inconsistencies and staunch resistance to change that hamstring this society in more than a few places. But even then, Japan keeps coming up with new ways to keep your jaw scraping asphalt.

As the daylight faded over Sendai this past Sunday, Yurtec Stadium  served up a doozy for followers of the women’s game. We know, by now, that captivating World Cups can give us a dream summer. But a scene like this, in 46 degree weather on a Sunday night, for a glorified friendly?

Photographers Perched at the Tunnel

This is to say nothing of the journalists encircling the pitch, the Japan Air Self-Defense Forces marching band warming up near the bench, or the souvenir stands emptied of the newly-released Nadeshiko Japan scarves by half-time. The fitting cap on the evening, of course, were the over 15,000 spectators–many of whom had begun lining up hours before the gates even opened–singing, screaming, and chanting “Mi-Ya-Ma, Mi-Ya-Ma” before each corner. In fact, save for a complete sell-out and Dan Borislow being shipped over freight class to take a Miyama free kick to the groin, few dreams weren’t at least fleetingly glimpsed on Sunday.

Maybe it’s only mildly surprising that the Nadeshiko’s first domestic match in ten months would be on such a grand stage. Since Frankfurt, Sawa and her teammates have become permanent fixtures on those fabled, diabolical Japanese game shows, graced convenience stores nation-wide with their endorsement of prepackaged deli foods, and hosted numerous clinics for displaced kids throughout the quake-stricken Tohoku area. Rural newspapers now have a small column devoted to covering Nadeshiko League results, and Miyama’s smiling face is sometimes the one to inform you “You’re Watching NHK” before the nightly news.  The Nadeshiko’s stature here is currently pegged at “Rock Star”, and the team is getting the treatment fans have long felt their own country’s stars deserve. Yet again, and in a manner few countries can manage, things in Japan seem to work exactly the way they should.

It’s easy to fantasize that if Rachel Buehler’s foot had extended just a few inches further, or Shannon Boxx had sent her spot kick a few degrees more toward the post, the above photograph could have been taken in Seattle rather than Sendai. After all, we’ve assumed the existence of a magic, missing ingredient for so long that the World Cup naturally becomes the “what-if” of the moment. But if Japan is women’s soccer’s soup du jour, its secret sauce may not be easily copied.

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My 2011 On AWK: At Least We’ll Always Have Germany

Mere seconds after Abby Wambach’s dramatic equalizer in the World Cup quarterfinals back in July against Brazil, I got a text message: “Wambachhhhh” was all it said.

What was significant was not the message itself, but who it was from. My friend Steve (the name may or may not be changed to protect the guilty) is not a soccer fan. He’s certainly not a fan of women’s athletics, occasionally prone to both negative comments about soccer (“How could you call it a sport if you can’t use your hands?”) and women that play sports (I’ll let
you insert your own sexist remark here).

Maybe (or maybe not) like you, my life is divided into “soccer people” and “non-soccer people”. They usually stay as far away from each other as possible.

But for a magical week or two in July, as the noted philosopher George Costanza first theorized, my worlds were most definitely colliding.

People like my mother – whom I love very much but I can probably count how many soccer matches she’s watched on television on my fingers – wanted to know when the U.S. was playing next. Radio stations that I’d heard the week before begging to go to their website to vote for “The Hottest Moms in Connecticut” were talking up the semifinals and finals (and not just Alex Morgan and Hope Solo). People turned down Yankees tickets because they wanted to stay
home and watch the games in the knockout stages.

In some ways it seems like years ago, and in some ways, the final shootout against Japan seems like yesterday. And I can’t thank Jenna enough for the opportunity to give analysis and perspective for All White Kit. It was probably the highlight of my year, and I’m guessing the World Cup might have been the highlight of some of yours as well.

I began in June on AWK with my (horribly wrong) previews this way:

“Jenna and the finest women’s soccer website on the planet has been nice enough to ask me to add my two cents (or $2) on the Women’s World Cup. I spend most of my time writing on MLS and the men’s game, but I am a big fan of the women’s game. In my coaching career, I’m primarily a girls coach these days, and it’s always nice for them to have someone to look up to. Sadly, some of the youngsters I coach were barely born in 1999, and obviously have no
recollection of that wonderful summer.”

And 1999 mirrored 2011 in so many ways. Well, except the end, of course. But after spending years trying to get my players to learn by watching games on television, suddenly everyone has seen the games.

“That girl Necib is awesome on the ball.”

“Look how quickly the Japanese play, all one-touch stuff.”

“I wish I could head the ball like Abby Wambach.”

“Alex Morgan never stops running.”

When the high school season began, the girls had not only seen the games, but some could talk intelligently about individual players and teams. A few had even watched the WPS as its season wound down.

Ooooh, did I mention WPS? That brought our party to a screeching halt, didn’t it?

Seemingly just weeks after our glorious time in Germany was over, there was the WPS in the hospital again, near death. I don’t need to rehash the reasons, you can find them splattered all over this site, surely. But it did make me a combination of sad and angry.

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Catching up with Kara Lang

On August 20, soccer players of all skill levels gathered at Allan Lamport Stadium to compete in Athletes for Africa’s third annual Rock the Pitch Charity Soccer Tournament. The top eight fundraising teams had the opportunity to go head-to-head against teams made up of celebrities ranging from media personalities to musicians.

Funds from this year’s events in Montreal and Toronto will help “support a number of programs focusing on child and maternal health, HIV/AIDS, and clean water” through the African Medical and Research Foundation Canada, The Stephen Lewis Foundation, and WaterCan. Rock the Pitch Toronto raised a total of $31,329.

The top celebrity fundraiser was none other than former Canadian Women’s National Team forward/midfielder Kara Lang. While in between games (and scoring goals), she was kind enough to chat with All White Kit about participating in charity events, music, her foray into sports broadcasting and, well, life.

All White Kit: How are your games going so far?
Kara Lang: Good! It’s a lot of fun and we’ve won every game so far. We’ve let in a few goals, but we’ve got a really great team. I don’t really have to do anything; it’s nice.

It looked like Daniel Squizzato’s game plan yesterday was to pass it to you, let you do your thing, then victory.
Yeah, I think that’s what he said, that he was just going to stay out of the way. But he’s actually done a really great job. He’s a way better goalkeeper than he let any of us know and he’s saved us a few times.

We’ll just pretend he’s wearing #15 for you.
I didn’t even notice he had #15 on. I’m going to have to rib him for that one!

Did you and your A4A Soccer Scribe teammates all know each other before this?
I knew people like Ben Rycroft and Ian Clarke. I know some of the people on the other teams. On my team, I’m meeting a lot of them for the first time.

I know there are some indie rockers and other artists competing today. Did you meet any of them or maybe you already know them.
Yup, there’s a guy from Grand Analog here today, a local band. And a guy from Bedouin Soundclash was supposed to be here, but I’m not sure if he made it.

You’re definitely a huge indie music fan.
Yeah, I love music in general, but indie music especially. I’m a big music fan; it’s a big part of my life. It’s exciting to be here and meet some of these people.

Name some good bands.
Good bands? Right now I love a band called Grouplove. They’re kind of mellow, but awesome. Band of Skulls is one of my favourite bands. This guy, Hanni El Khatib, he’s got a two person band and it’s total ’60s rock and it’s awesome. I love that guy right now. Who else? Lissie.

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Morace Resigns as Canadian Head Coach Following Disastrous WWC

Good news? Bad news?
Head coach Carolina Morace and her staff, including assistant coach and former Canadian national team midfielder Andrea Neil, resigned Wednesday, July 20 during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 debriefing and analysis meeting with the Canadian Soccer Association and other stakeholders.

Under Morace’s guidance since February 2009, Canada rose to their highest ever ranking of 6th in the world, all while claiming first place trophies at the Cyprus Cup (twice), the Torneio Internacional Cidade de São Paulo (Four Nations Tournament in Brazil) and the 2010 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and defeating quality opponents like England and Sweden.

Ben Rycroft of It’s Called Football points out that between January 1, 2009 and June 25, 2011, Canada played more matches than Brazil, France, Germany, Japan and USA. Additionally, the team spent 114 days of 2011 training overseas in various camps.

Based on these results and preparations, Big Red headed into the WWC seemingly poised to capture its best ever results, even medal.

As it turned out, the team gravely fell short of expectations, losing all three games and failing to advance past the group stage for the fourth time. Canada’s best result at the WWC was in 2003 when they upset China in the quarter-finals and eventually placed fourth overall.

After a closely fought 2-1 match against Germany that featured a stunning free kick goal by Christine Sinclair that snapped the host’s 622-minute WWC shutout streak, Canada lost its composure and was hounded by France 4-0, and fell 1-0 to Nigeria. Canada finished last in the 16-team tournament and registered three shots on goal.

Since the loss to France, murmurings began to circulate of Morace potentially stepping down, but she bluntly stated, “Yes, I want to continue,” following the match against Nigeria.

All else indicated that Morace would remain as head coach. The Globe and Mail‘s Stephen Brunt said of the dynamic between Morace and the CSA, “This is a very tense relationship. It’s a bad marriage at this point, or at least a very fractious marriage, but it is going to continue.”

With Morace’s sudden resignation last week, CSA General Secretary Peter Montopoli told The Canadian Press, “Yes, I would say we were surprised.”

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The All-Curren Team: Picking The Best 18 From The World Cup

Well, I promised you people I’d have an All-Tournament team for the Women’s World Cup, and after a week of stalling (and working with the future soccer players of America in 100-degree heat), here you go.

But to do it the right way, I need to make an actual team. It’s easy (at least, easier) to give you a list of players, harder to pick the best at each position, and who I might want to use off the bench if I had to win a game (of course, I think I’ll do OK with this team no matter what 11 I choose).

Among the players that didn’t make the cut:

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Women’s World Cup – Things We Learned: Final Edition As Japan Is Crowned

The rules of athletics (at least knockout style) dictate that there has to be a winner and there has to be a loser.

Expert commentary, I know.

But (and I realize not everyone reading this is a United States fan, and I love that about AWK, so keep visiting) if you can take yourself out of your rooting shoes (or jersey) for a second and take the game you watched on Sunday for what it was.

A brilliant advertisement for women’s soccer, which saw the best the game has to offer. An underdog that everyone could root for, coming off an unspeakable tragedy in their home country, playing an attractive style of soccer, and exuding pure class and sportsmanship at just about every turn.

Of course, the rub is that this great story of Japan comes at the expense of the U.S., who lost the game in heartbreaking fashion, leading both in normal time and extra time before losing in penalties. It’s hard to imagine losing in a more painful fashion, actually.

But, perhaps the biggest lesson I try to get across to both the players I coach and students I teach is the “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” lesson.

Can you be happy for someone else even if it comes at your expense? Can you put aside your pride to congratulate an opponent or adversary on a job well done?

This one will hurt for a while for the United States. There’s no telling where the national team program will be in four years, there’s a lot of work to be done to stay on top of an ever-changing and improving women’s soccer world.

But there’s something to be said for being a part of something great. Sunday’s final capped a beautiful tournament that drew attention to women’s soccer that it hasn’t seen in 12 years. And, I would argue, this was even better because people seemed to be tuning in more for the quality of the play than the novelty of it. Or if they tuned in for the novelty, they were stunned by the quality and refreshing way the women went about their craft: few horrible tackles, less gamesmanship, more reasons to smile on a daily basis.

It was capped by the “right” team winning, the one with the best story, the underdog everyone can attach themselves to.

It was just unfortunate it wasn’t the team in our country.

But that doesn’t mean the U.S. shouldn’t be proud that they played such a big part, they had the better chances, controlled play, and played their best game of the tournament. They did everything but win the title, and getting so close will sting.

As Abby Wambach did, though, just minutes after the match, it doesn’t mean you can’t tip your proverbial cap to the Japanese and walk away with your head held high.

After all, even though they lost, they were part of something special. It may not mean anything tomorrow on the plane ride home or next week or even next year.

Someday, though it should.

The final edition of the 10 things we learned at Germany 2011.

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20 (or 12) Questions With Anson Dorrance

Courtesy University of North Carolina

We have time for one more of our 20 Questions (actually this is only 12, but there’s some good info in there) feature before this glorious World Cup comes to a close, and – perhaps the most legendary women’s soccer coach of all-time (at least in our country) – Anson Dorrance was kind enough to give us a few minutes of his time from the road.

Dorrance will soon begin his 33rd season as women’s coach at North Carolina where he has won an outrageous 21 national titles (20 NCAA), but he was also the coach of the very first World Cup champions, leading the United States to the 1991 title in China.

And to slip in a book recommendation, as a women’s soccer coach and fan, “The Man Watching”, a biography on Dorrance and story of the remarkable UNC dynasty is one of my top five books of all-time.

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U.S.-Japan Final Preview: There Won’t Be Any Surprises Between These Two

“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”
– General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

My head hurts.

It’s not a virus; I’m actually getting a decent amount of sleep in my week off.

No, my head is suffering from an affliction called TMI (Too Much Information). Ever had it? It comes when your brain is trying to decipher a wealth of facts, statistics, formations, game notes, player tendencies, and tons of other minutia that may play a role in Sunday’s final.

In the last 36 hours, I’ve watched the U.S.-France game twice, the Brazil match once, and pieces of their group stage games. I’ve looked at Japan’s last two games, glaring at the television for one little piece of information that might be the difference between the two sides.

But here’s the thing: at this point in the tournament, if I’ve done that much homework, you know the teams have.

How prepared was Japan for this World Cup? In the opening game against New Zealand, despite a size disadvantage, Japan kept playing corner kicks past the goal to the other side of the six. Seemed strange, but if you looked closer at the way New Zealand zonally marked the corners, there was no one in that spot. They didn’t score off it, but they came close a couple of times.

You add the fact that these two teams played twice in friendlies in May, and there’s not much they don’t know about each other.

Let me rephrase, there’s nothing Japan and the United States don’t know about each other at this point.

(More proof, this Janet Rayfield scouting report on the two Japan friendlies is brilliant. Very little has changed, and even includes caps: “LEAVES THEM VULNERABLE TO COUNTER”)

And so, although I’ll go over the tactics here and you’ll hear things like “Japan must stop Abby Wambach”, but it’s not like Japan doesn’t know that, and you can be darned sure they’re working on it as you read this.

But it’s not that easy, folks. A perfect ball at a perfect time in a perfect spot, or just a moment of sheer brilliance, could spell the difference between winning and losing.

And, as much as it’s cliched, so will that little bit of experience, little bit of confidence, little bit of intangible that may be the difference.

Here are the 10 things to look for in Sunday’s final (2:45 p.m. kickoff, ESPN):

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Women’s World Cup – Things We Learned: U.S. Semifinal Victory Edition

It was former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards who went on this rant in 2002, with the money quote, of course, being:
“You play to win the game.”
Less infamously, he continued, “You don’t play it to just play it. That’s the great thing about sports. You play to win.”
Edwards’ speech has – somewhat rightfully so, don’t get me wrong – been relegated to the comedy files, mostly because Edwards’ coaching career in the NFL was pretty forgettable (see: mostly mediocre).
But the message isn’t necessarily a bad one.
Yes, France was more technically sound than the United States today. Yes, Japan will probably be more technical in the final. Both can pass the ball better and probably had a better first touch overall than the U.S.
France clearly won the possession battle, and Japan probably will – by a wider margin – on Sunday.
Is that something we should strive for when we’re developing our players? Absolutely.
However, you play to win the game, and the United States has won in the quarterfinals and the semifinals.
They’ve done it through hard work, superior fitness, athleticism, better ability in the air, having the best goalkeeper in the world, and – yes – a little but of luck.
Those are the reasons why they’ll win in the finals as well.
You can say a lot of things, but you can’t say France was “better”, and neither was Brazil.
This isn’t a figure skating competition where we’re judging artistry, the rules are pretty simple: you score more goals than the other team and you advance.
(I’m not advocating cheating or gamesmanship, that’s a whole different element.)
Little known fact about Edwards and the 2002 Jets, they won seven of their next nine games, and pulled an upset in the playoffs before bowing out in the conference semifinals.
Maybe it’s the American attitude in me, maybe it’s because much of my playing career was spent against (and with) players that were probably better technically than me, but (and obviously not at younger ages, I understand) there is only one goal when you get to a World Cup and that is to bring home the trophy.
You play to win the game.
The United States only has to win one more.

Here are the 10 things we learned in Day 18 of Germany 2011.

1) Goalkeeping is the most important position on the field

We talked early on about goalkeeping being an issue at this World Cup, and the U.S. had a massive advantage again, and again put it to good use.
While none of the U.S. goals were complete goalkeeping calamities, you were never comfortable watching Berange Sapowicz in goal today, and that surely has an effect on the team.
Meanwhile, at the other end, you just sort of laughed when the French tried more than a few long-range shots.
Sorry, you’re not beating Hope Solo from there, France.
The first U.S. goal (which I’ll get to in a second) was a good example. It actually started with a Solo save on a pretty good Louisa Necib shot. Obviously, that resulted in a corner, Solo eventually got a hold of it, and less than 30 seconds later, the U.S. had a 1-0 lead.
There’s a lot in between, but it starts with the keeper.

2) France was better technically, but the U.S. had some good (and pivotal touches) as well

Back to the first goal, it was on a pseudo-counter, which helped the United States greatly in the end.
Carli Lloyd found herself on the left touchline, Shannon Boxx played her the ball, and Lloyd came up with a nifty backheel to find Heather O’Reilly (who had also popped up on the left momentarily).
Lloyd’s touch took right back Laure Lepailleur out of the play, center back Laura Georges had to come over and cover and that was a speed battle that O’Reilly was always going to win.
(Ironically, Georges probably should have known that. While Georges was ACC Defensive Player of the Year at Boston College in 2006, O’Reilly was also on the All-ACC First Team that season.)
Lauren Cheney’s deft touch finished the movement, and just like that a huge goal was scored.
But without Lloyd’s backheel, they probably get nothing.
Alex Morgan’s goal to seal it was also a very skillful touch as well that obviously led to another U.S. tally.

3) Don’t want to bring up Dawn Scott again, but…

You have to, don’t you? The U.S. fitness shined again in this match as just when it seemed they were getting tired of chasing France around the field, they seemed to get a second wind and took the game back in the last 20 minutes.
Again, I’m repeating myself, but you don’t know how hard it is to play as many minutes as these women have in the past few weeks and not get fatigued.
And it’s not like the U.S. is a young team, players like Boxx and Wambach have logged a lot of minutes in their careers and – those two particularly – looked strongest at the end of the game.
Of course, some credit goes to….

4) Pia Sundhage again seemed to press the right buttons

The Alex Morgan substitution made sense, but Megan Rapinoe for Lloyd in the 65th minute of a tie game? In retrospect, Lauren Cheney was in the middle most of the time anyway, and Rapinoe’s energy seemed to be contagious for the rest of the squad.
Leaving Amy Lepeilbet on the outside and inserting Becky Sauerbrunn worked as well.
Meanwhile, Bruno Bini’s move to take Marie-Laure Delie off in favor of Eugenie LeSommer at halftime seemed to be a good one, despite its awkwardness, but the U.S. scored twice in four minutes after he made an attacking sub with Elodie Thomis for captain Sandrine Soubeyrand in the 78th minute.
That wasn’t the main reason for the French collapse, but it probably didn’t help.

5) The France 4-2-3-1 did give the U.S. fits, but they couldn’t cash in

As we surmised, trying to matchup with a Necib the way the U.S. was set up proved to be a big problem. Early in the match, the strategy was to have one of the back four step up and pressure, which worked for a little while.
But once Necib found holes and/or Lloyd and Boxx gave the ball away in dangerous positions, Necib has her space.
At that point, though, the U.S. defense did well. They didn’t dive in, held their ground, and forced Necib to either shoot from outside the box or try to play a perfect pass to a teammate. Necib is great on the ball, but her decision-making wasn’t quite quick enough, and the U.S. was able to get back just in time on a few occasions.
(There were a couple of times that Necib was very close. In the 29th minute, Necib played a through ball to Gaetane Thiney, but Solo was there to save the day.)
That will be the next step for France or what Japan will look to do on Sunday, can they quickly take advantage of an exposed U.S. defense in the 4-4-2 before they recover.
We shall see.

6) France still should leave with their heads high, though

They easily could have won this game (they probably think they should have won) and certainly have to be in the discussion in the best teams in the world right now.
They’re not as young, though, as they were made out to be on the broadcast. This is probably the end for Soubeyrand and Bompastor, although you’d think everyone else will be around for Canada 2015.
You’d hope the French people support their team a little better. Reports from Monchengladbach were that there were very few French fans in attendance.

7) Becky Sauerbrunn was fine in a huge spot

You didn’t notice Sauerbrunn much in this match, and a good center back can often work like a good referee, the less you notice her, the better match she had.
Interesting note, Sauerbrunn (playing for Virginia) was also on the 2006 All-ACC Team with O’Reilly and Georges.
I still think Sundhage goes back to Rachel Buehler for the final, though, but we’ll see.

8) The winning goal was a disaster all around for France, but good hustle from the U.S. caused it

In the minutes before the goal, the subs Morgan and Rapinoe were using their energy to put pressure on the French, and the winning goal started with an awful clearance by Sapowicz that basically hit Rapinoe, and eventually became a corner kick.
It was 5-foot-7 Lepailleur who was picked to mark Wambach (would it have been Delie if she was still in the game?), and that went horribly wrong quickly.
As I would tell my players, “She’s going to the goal eventually, isn’t she?” But Wambach was two steps ahead of Lepailleur early, there was no one on the back post, Sapowicz couldn’t get there, and the rest is history.
(By the way, what Wambach did on that play was as brilliant as anything else in this game. The way she shook her mark, used her body as a shield, and knew exactly where to go to finish? Those are skills you can’t really teach, at least the hunger part of that.)
You’d think if there was one player you wouldn’t want to beat you, it would be Wambach. And that’s what makes her so good.
(And, yes, for those of you that have read this throughout the World Cup, I’m fully aware that it was a man marking problem and not a zonal marking problem. That happens sometimes, too.)

9) It’s cold in Germany in the summer sometimes

Even here in the Northeast (U.S.), it gets pretty hot in July, but watching the game today, we saw plenty of winter coats in the stands (and on Bruno Bini).
That probably helped with the fitness of both teams.

10) So it’s Japan in the final

A great matchup, but one I tend to like for the United States, although I said the same with Germany and then picked Sweden to beat them in the semifinals, so what do I know?
The danger will be if Kozue Ando can find the room that Necib did today, but we’ll have plenty more on the matchup Friday night.
One thing I will say is that I’m very happy for the Japanese, who deserve everything they’ve gotten at the World Cup. Great story, and they seem like a class act all the way around.

Bonus:

Hopefully, Ali Krieger is OK

She finished the match, but never looked 100 percent after going down midway through the second half.
It’s obviously not serious, but the U.S. is going to need her at her best (and she’s been one of the best players in the tournament) for the final.

Double bonus:

Did a man buy the U.S. uniforms?

Not soccer related, but it seems like we guard against the “see-through effect” when we buy our uniforms for girls at our club (or for boys or girls when you have white shorts).
But at least Alex Morgan matches.