It had the look of a Disney Classic, this US Women's soccer run, and for a short time late in the Women's World Cup Soccer Final, the miracle ending was within sight. But, as time often plays out, real life isn't like Hollywood and sometimes you don't get your happy ending.
Such was the case when Japan tied the match with just six minutes remaining and then went on to out kick the Americans 3-1 in the following penalty shootout, giving Japan their first World Cup Victory.
The US, who missed many opportunities to seal the game, finally went ahead in the 104th minute behind yet another header by Abby Wambach. Wamback, who stood practically head and shoulders above those guarding her, took a pass by Alex Morgan and with an easy flick of her head, sent it flying into Japan's net for the go ahead score.
With only minutes remaining, it looked as if the US was going to close out its third World Cup win. But, before the confetti and parade could get planned, Sawa from Japan flicked in a corner shot at the 117th minute that tied the game. The goal was so deflating that the US Women just couldn't get anything going in the shootout and Japan easily outshot the Americans 3-1 for the win.
"You don't; you can't," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said when asked to explain why the Americans couldn't hit their penalty kicks, a big part of what got them to the Finals in the first place. "Sometimes in, sometimes out."
Unlike previous match-ups, the US was clearly the more talented team but a lack of aggression combined with a huge amount of grit and heart from the Japanese kept it a close enough game for Japan to steal late.
"It's obviously heartbreaking," Wambach said. "Japan played well. They never gave up."
Japan became the first Asian nation to win the World Cup, doing it with its first win against the U.S. in 26 tries.
Photo Credit – AP