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Running Blog Of The 2011 Women’s World Cup Final — United States vs. Japan

Hello. I love you

Today’s the day. Today, our United States women’s soccer team can become world champions, clinching their first World Cup since 1999 and becoming the first nation to win three. It is a story that has captivated all of us.

By tomorrow, all of us will probably start to forget it. But hey, in this moment, we are all one.

OK, so I’m not a fan of soccer, and I am just selfishly projecting my beliefs onto everyone else. I can’t help it. Watching soccer for me is watching “Tree of Life.” Nothing happens for about an hour and you’re really not sure why you’re spending your time on this. Then, something of actual consequence takes place, giving you hope. But at the end, those few random moments of excitement are situated inside a letdown.

But everyone around you seems to love it. I guess I don’t get it, and I’m fine with that.

So if you’re looking for a live blog about this country’s most important soccer game in at least a decade written by someone who doesn’t really give a damn about the sport, you have reached your destination. Welcome, friends.

Plus, you never know what could happen. Maybe this final will come down to a shootout and someone will showcase their sports bra. Or maybe, in the moments after victory, overwhelmed by triumphant euphoria, Hope Solo and Alex Morgan will share an intimate moment. A nation watches.

10:55 a.m. U.S.A versus Japan on German soil. Maybe I have been looking hard enough, but I’m sure someone out there is capitalizing on this confluence with some really good World War II jokes.

10:58 a.m. Of course I’m picking the United States to win. Japan may be faster, but our ladies are bigger and stronger and more athletic. Plus, we’ve got the better keeper on our side. I’m never going to doubt Solo. Just look into her eyes and you’re under her spell.

But in case you want another opinion, how about an elephant’s?

Of course the German elephant picked Japan. Whatever, you stupid, clumsy animal. You’re fat and you’ve got big ears! Yeah, yeah, go eat some peanuts, Dumbo! The only reason anyone’s asking you for your thoughts is because that beloved octopus is dead. You’ll never be half of the soccer psychic that Paul was. He is the true king.

11:00 a.m. So, Amy Rodriguez has started every match in this World Cup, but she will not start tonight. Megan Rapinoe will start in her place. Lauren Cheney will start and move from midfield to forward. What does that mean? I don’t know! I don’t know who these folks are! Draw your own conclusions! All I know about Rapinoe is that she orchestrated what may go down as the most memorable pass in U.S. women’s World Cup history.

All I know about Cheney is that her boyfriend is Jrue Holliday. So there’s that.

11:12 a.m. We’ve still got 32 minutes until the match starts. Starting this blog a few minutes before 11 a.m. was a clear miscalculation on my part.

11:21 a.m. Much love to the Japanese people who are up at 3 a.m. on Monday, preparing to watch this match. Screw work; there’s soccer to watch.

11:23 a.m. I think Japan could use this win more than the United States. Yes, we are constantly reminded about March’s earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster, and how much this World Cup final means to a healing nation far from 100 percent. But really, I just think that nation would treat such a win better. It would have more of a lasting impact there than a United States win would over here. Like I said, we’ll embrace it for a bit, but Japan really needs it, and it may have a larger long-term impact.

But we still want to win.

11:29 a.m. ESPN shows us a view into a pub in San Diego. YEAH, WOOO! U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A! The order of the day: alcohol with a side of women’s soccer.

11:35 a.m. Martin Sheen narrates: “And now, fans across the globe wish them both the best. Because these are teams you can only root for, not against.” Except for maybe China. They probably would like to see no winners today.

11:38 a.m. The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” blares over the PA system. What, Germany didn’t have any Jock Jams available? A little “Whoomp, There It Is”? No “We Will Rock You”?

11:39 a.m. And finally, here come the squads. Our long wait is almost over — for me to stop killing the time talking meaningless shit.

11:42 a.m. Our national anthem just ended, and I’m starting to actually get a little antsy.

11:46 a.m. 

AND HERE WE GO! JAPAN STARTS WITH THE BALL! WOOOOOOOOOOO …

11:46 a.m. By now, I would have usually fallen asleep with a regular soccer match, but business picks up early as Cheney gets the ball near the opponent’s backline, or baseline or whatever it is that you call the line that the goal rests along. Her shot from that tough angle is saved and leads to a corner kick, which Japan clears. Some nice action right away.

11:49 a.m. Japan comes back with a couple of semi-close chances. Both teams looked really hyped up, as should be expected.

11:51 a.m. The U.S. defense swarms a Japanese attack — seriously, NO World War II jokes??? — but one thing that has been well-publicized about this Japanese side is its ability to pass time and time again, right on target. So the U.S. defense needs to stay patient and have its eyes spread across the field. You can’t lose anyone because some Japanese player will find them.

11:54 a.m. The U.S. almost had its first goal — it seems like these girls always score early — but Rapinoe couldn’t quite get it done. Less than a minute later, Abby Wambach’s line-drive shot went just north of the crossbar.

11:57 a.m. Holy shit, the U.S. is on the verge. It’s just a matter of time. Carli Lloyd had a shot that was just a bit too high, and then a feed from Cheney to Rapinoe was perfect, but Rapinoe sent it just right of the goal from 10 yards out. LOTS of activity here early from the United States. After a couple of early near-chances, the Japanese are back on their heels.

12:01 p.m. Japanese passing it around in the backfield, settling things down. This is a bit more like it. These first 15 minutes have been tension-filled.

12:02 p.m. Lloyd displays some fancy footwork, but her shot from far out goes way high. Less than a minute later, another Lloyd attempt is blocked. Then Rapinoe gets a ball into the goalkeeper’s right, but the shot from a narrow angle goes off the side of the net.

12:03 p.m. Rapinoe probably should have passed that ball to the center where I believe Wambach was waiting. It was a bit of a rushed, poor decision. Eighteen minutes in, the U.S has five shots and even more chances. Japan has one shot, which came back in the sixth minute.

12:07 p.m. Japan owns possessions at a 53-47 clip. But a lot of that is just setting up. The United States is attacking.

12:07 p.m. A shot from a Japanese player — I’m not going to look up and try to spell out whom it was — goes well right of Hope Solo. No disrespect.

12:08 p.m. Another Japanese attempt goes wide, this time to the left. Japan starting to find its offense a bit now.

12:10 p.m. Corner kick for the U.S. from Cheney … she shoots for Wambach on the far past, but the ball pretty much falls in between a group of players to the turf. U.S. regains possession, but a shot from Wambach along the back line to the goalie’s right is easily saved.

And her name is Ayumi Kaihori. I’m learning.

12:12 p.m. Japan gets its own corner kick, but it doesn’t carry much threat.

12:14 p.m. Wambach gets out on the break and unleashes a shot that HITS THE CROSSBAR! Again, so close! But now in the 30th minute, no score.

12:17 p.m. The U.S.’ Amy Lepeilbet tries to head out a ball from the Japanese, but she knocks right to one of the Japanese players, who gets it to forward Kozue Ando. She is one-on-one with Hope Solo, but her attempt is a bit lame and gets gobbled up.

12:20 p.m. Off a U.S. free kick, a pass gets into the box to Lauren Cheney, whose header lands on top of the net. How many chances can the U.S. squander before it comes back to bite them?

12:22 p.m. About 10 minutes remaining in this first half.

12:23 p.m. Japan’s corner kick from Solo’s left is a pass out to the center of the pitch. But the fire is way high.

12:25 p.m. In the past few minutes, the Japanese have done a nice job of slipping through the U.S. defense, but it hasn’t resulted in much, obviously. 0-0. No matter how exciting the match — and this has been rather compelling — scoring is waiting for a Chris Getz home run.

12:26 p.m. By the way, I think Chris Getz’s last 34 hits have been all singles, so there’s the meaning to that reference. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t get it.

12:29 p.m. In the 43rd minute, the U.S. spreads the field well, but a bad pass ruins the possession. The Japanese come back down the pitch and a feed into Ando charging toward the net is just an inch or two long. If she got a foot on the ball, it probably would have been a goal.

12:31 p.m. And we’ve reached halftime. And you know the score. At least the action kept going; only 20 seconds of extra time were added before the first half was called to an end.

12:34 p.m. When you’re locked in a tie like this, there are obvious positives that each team can emphasize. For the Japanese, they are still tied despite 12 shots from the U.S.

For the Americans, they know they can get through the Japanese defense; it’s only a matter of time before one of the attempts finds its way home.

12:37 p.m. And that’s about it. Um … so, I’m gonna go watch baseball now for the next 10 minutes or so. I mean, do you really want my thinking on what substitutions or changes should be made in the second half? You might as well ask Golden Tate about what he thinks about the buddy-system style of racing at Daytona.

12:45 p.m. So Cheney is out and it is Alex Morgan coming in at the half. Apparently Cheney’s right foot is injured. You can see her on the sidelines with the limb wrapped in ice.

Jrue is bumming.

Considering how the U.S. has been able to get behind the Japanese today, Morgan should have a very active half. U.S. starts with the ball and we are underway in the second 45.

12:49 p.m. A throw in from the U.S. is centered to a sliding Morgan in front of the goal. SHE HITS THE POST BEHIND THE KEEPER!!! HOLY JESUS!!! For a split-second, the ball was just resting right in front of the line before Japan finally cleared it.

12:51 p.m. No cards in this match yet, but the way the physical play has picked up here in the second half, that is coming soon. Hopefully a goal is not too far behind.

12:52 p.m. Carli Lloyd fires a shot that hits off the left side of the net. Meh.

12:53 p.m. A feed from Rapinoe to a breaking Wambach leads to a kick that is launched above the goal. All these close calls are almost becoming boring.

12:54 p.m. Finally some action for Japan in this half, but a feed to Ando just outside the penalty area is intercepted and knocked away.

12:56 p.m. Corner kick for Japan …

12:57 p.m. Players from both teams try to head it out, and the ball actually makes its way across the entire width of the pitch.

12:58 p.m. Corner for the U.S. … everyone is on Wambach, and Japan negates the chance.

12:59 p.m. The U.S. puts together a pretty nice run, which probably would have been more dangerous if Alex Morgan hadn’t had her progress with the ball stopped by a tripped Shannon Boxx. Morgan basically ran the ball right into her back as she was on the ground. Morgan gets a shot off toward the goal, but it is soft and easily saved.

1:02 p.m. Christie Rampone tries to head a ball out of the U.S. zone, but it goes right over her head to a Japanese forward in the clear. But the ensuing shot is high.

1:03 p.m. Corner for the U.S. … results in another corner. Well, this is fun.

1:04 p.m. Corner for the U.S. … more of a pass than a shot, but a Japanese player gets a foot on it first and knocks it away.

1:05 p.m. Wow! Japan was probably just robbed a bit. A pass to a streaking forward was called for offsides, but the replay showed that Ali Krieger was actually a step or two in front of the last Japanese player when the ball went airborne. So a bad call ruins what would have been a golden scoring opportunity for Japan.

On the other end of the pitch, a header by Wambach resulted in yet another ball landing on top of the Japanese net.

1:09 p.m.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!

ALEX MORGAN! A tremendous pass, I believe from Krieger, from way down on the other side of the pitch fins Morgan, who just outruns her defender and drills the shot to the lower-right corner of the net, past the keeper’s dive to her left.

1-0, USA. 69th minute.

1:12 p.m. Japan mounts a bit of a charge, but Solo saves it. She does the same about a minute later. It all comes down to the U.S. defense and Hope Solo now.

1:16 p.m. Japan obviously playing with a sense of desperation, but with about 20 minutes remaining, they are putting together some decent chances. This is going to be a tough close for the U.S.

1:17 p.m. In the seven or eight minutes since that goal, the U.S. hasn’t controlled much of the ball in the Japanese end. They had one chance with Wambach, but other than that, it’s been all about playing defense.

1:20 p.m. A bad pass from the U.S. leads to a Japanese shot from a fairly far distance. Like I said, Japan’s put together some nice chances, but now they have to be more daring. They can’t fire balls to the net from 30 yards away. 80th minute.

1:21 p.m. 

AND A GOAL FROM JAPAN!!!! WOW!

Rachel Buehler and Ali Krieger both had the ball hit their feet, but they couldn’t clear it. Awful job by the U.S. defense there. The goal was scored by Miyama.

1-1, 80th minute.

1:22 p.m. Right after that goal, Japan keeps attacking and gets very close to the net, but without a shot. The U.S. looks stunned.

1:24 p.m. You can say that the U.S. was asking for it by not having a better offensive mindset once they went ahead, and playing back on their heels caused this. But it’s soccer. It’s 1-0 with about 10 minutes to play. You are the No. 1 team in the world with a great keeper. I think your thinking has to be all about defense.

1:25 p.m. A U.S. corner kick doesn’t hit anyone. Now both sides attacking with alarming frequency.

1:29 p.m. Everyone needs a break. This seems destined for the two 15-minute periods. Play is slowing down and balls are being sent down the pitch without much intent.

1:30 p.m. Of course right after I write that, the Japanese send a sharp grounder just to the left of the U.S. goal. 89th minute.

1:31 p.m. Two minutes of extra time begins with a U.S. throw in near the corner.

Heather O’Reilly sends a ball over the Japanese net. That was probably the last shot of regulation for the U.S.

1:33 p.m. Right before regulation ends, Japan mounts another charge down the left side. But good defense by the U.S. drives the ball out of bounds.

Thirty minutes of extra time upcoming. Oy vey!

1:35 p.m. Brandi Chastain says it right: The U.S. just seemingly can not win a game easily. They have to create conflict. They have to make you sit on the edge of your seat. And it annoys the hell out of me.

1:37 p.m. And the U.S. starts with the ball here in extra time. That’s one good thing about soccer: It keeps going. I’ve had  to go to the bathroom for about 20 minutes now, this game doesn’t allow you much of a break. And even if the action is dull at times, at least it keeps moving.

1:39 p.m. A U.S. corner kick results in some near chances, and then Boxx feeds Wambach for a header that lands in the goalie’s arms. Couple of real nice opportunities there.

1:42 p.m. We’re more than four minutes into this extra time and the ball has barely crossed into the U.S. zone. The Americans have played very well in the early goings on here.

1:43 p.m. Wambach fires a ball from past midfield to Morgan, who beats her defender enough to get a shot off, but it’s wide. That girl is exciting to watch. And she’s only 22.

1:44 p.m. And we have our first card of the day — a yellow on Japan’s Aya Miyama, who scored Japan’s goal. For what, I didn’t really see.

1:44 p.m. ESPN’s gametracker says “Miyama booked for dissent.” OK. That really clears that up.

1:47 p.m. U.S. has a couple of chances, but a pass out front to Wambach gets blocked. Then a couple of throw-ins don’t lead to much.

1:49 p.m. A long-range Japanese shot goes high.

And what’s this about some sort of debt that the U.S.A is about to default on? No worries, obviously.

1:51 p.m.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!

ABBY WAMBACH FINALLY CONVERTS ON HER HEADER IN THIS MATCH! She’s been trying all game long and has come so close. But Alex Morgan drives a ball right from the corner right onto the of Wambach’s head. What a pass; it made the score way too easy.

2-1, USA. 104th minute.

1:54 p.m. The teams have switched ends, and we just started the second 15 minutes of extra time. And the U.S. has to keep attacking. No surrender! No mercy!

That goal had been waiting to be scored for that entire first 15. The U.S. absolutely dominated that period. Now they have to keep it up.

1:57 p.m. Jesus Christ! A bad clear almost blows up in the face of the Americans again. The ball bounced around three different U.S. players in front of their own goal before it was finally kicked out of the zone. Japan is picking up the pace. Can the U.S. hold on for about 12 more minutes?!

2:00 p.m. The U.S. sends a couple of balls downfield. They are a bit too long, but I like it. They are still trying to work in the other end.

2:00 p.m. Are you kidding me? Miyama sends a ball toward the U.S. net. Solo can’t grab it because a U.S. player cuts in front of her, trying to clear it. Then a couple of U.S. defenders play like the Keystone Kops and run into each other. Luckily, Japan couldn’t do much with it.

2:o2 p.m. Tobin Heath replaces Megan Rapinoe, who played a great game and has a very fun name to say.

2:04 p.m. And another game-saver! A ball into the box for the Japanese gets over Solo, but Christie Rampone is there to knock it away. Now Solo is down, and the trainers are looking at her left ankle.

2:05 p.m. Solo is back up, and Japan has a corner kick with about four minutes left.

2:05 p.m.

UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE! GOAL FOR JAPAN!!!

Sawa scores off a fantastic corner kick and heads it right past Solo. 2-2 in the 117th minute. Holy Mother of Christ.

2:08 p.m. This is getting exhausting. A center in to Wambach right in front of the penalty area is sent over the net. So many chances!!!

2:10 p.m. THE PLOT CONTINUES TO THICKEN! Alex Morgan gets out on a break and gets blatantly tripped just outside the box. The offending Japanese player is given a red card, the first in Women’s World Cup final history!

A free kick for the U.S. just outside the box, with two minutes of extra-extra time added.

2:11 p.m. The free kick gets deflected and leads to nothing. I am exhausted.

2:12 p.m. That’s it. Extra time over. Penalty kicks to decide a winner, a true world champion. Hope Solo now has to shine again. Granted, trainers are cleaning up her left knee.

2:13 p.m. OK, here we go (no Bud Light, please). And I still have to REALLY go to the bathroom!

2:15 p.m. My face feels like I’ve been lying out in the sun for five hours.

2:16 p.m. The U.S. and Shannon Boxx goes first … OFF THE GOALIE’S FOOT! A KICK SAVE TO THE LEFT!

2:17 p.m. Japan scores easily on its first penalty kick. 1-0, Japan. Carli Lloyd next for the U.S.

2:17 p.m. And she just chokes. Lloyd kicks it completely over the top of the goal. That’ll just about do it.

2:18 p.m. Solo keeps the U.S. alive a little bit with a gigantic, critical save. Tobin Heath up next for the U.S.

2:19 p.m. SAVE!! SAVE to the right!! Japan now has a chance to go up 2-0 with only two tries left for the U.S.

2:20 p.m. So close! Solo gets her right hand on it, but it trickles through. 2-0, Japan.

2:20 p.m. Abby Wambach scores, but U.S. is still down, 2-1.

2:21 p.m. This is it for Japan … can they win it?

2:21 p.m.

Japan wins the 2011 Women’s World Cup!

The winning goal goes above Solo, into the upper left-hand corner of the net.

Japan wins, 2-2 (3-1 on penalty kicks)

2:25 p.m. Wow, what a game. But what a way to lose for the U.S., the better team today.

2:27 p.m. U.S. had more shots — 31-17 — and twice as many corner kicks. They had so many other chances that weren’t counted. But the Japanese showed incredible heart and didn’t quit. They didn’t let down after getting behind once. They didn’t let down after getting behind twice. It’s tough that the U.S. didn’t win, but I’m pleased for Japan, a tremendous underdog coming into this tourney and playing with the obvious emotional stories on their shoulders. That’s a great moment for that nation.

2:31 p.m. For the United States, it feels like a dream. Ever since the Brazil game, the World Cup was America’s for the taking. It just seemed like a foregone conclusion.

But they didn’t win. There was no ’99 repeat. No sports bras, no Morgan-Solo embrace (OK, now I’m openly weeping).

It was a great tournament with some fantastic memorable moments for the U.S. team. But they are the No. 1 team in the world. This has to feel like a failure because it is. For as much as Japan never gave up, the U.S. had this game won on multiple occasions and couldn’t close the deal, including with just a few minutes remaining in extra time.

The U.S played valiantly but came up short. It’s a disappointing ending to a story-book World Cup for the U.S. to this point. That’s how I think this match will be remembered. That is if it’s remembered at all by the majority of people here.

2:39 p.m. As Japan takes its place atop the World Cup podium, I’ll sign off. Thanks for following along with this running blog today. This was pretty awesome, no matter the result. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

A 2:41 p.m. P.S: Watching Japan celebrate with that trophy sucks a lot more than I thought it would.

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