Monday, July 11, 2011

FIFA Women's World Cup: Miracle on Grass

If anyone missed the United States take on Brazil in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Quarterfinals, you missed out on one of the most exciting, thrilling and hard fought sports matches of all time. It's almost hard to explain in words to get that same thrill of seeing it unfold live.

Down 2-1 in Extra Time, the United States ended up tying it on an Abby Wambach header in the final minute of the match. This came after a player on Brazil pretended to be hurt to waste time, which the ref added on since she clearly faked after jumping up and running back on the field. If not for the fake injury, the USA might not have tied it. Karma? Maybe. The game then went to penalty kicks, 12 years to the exact day after the USA beat China on Penalty Kicks to win the 1999 Women's World Cup at the Rose Bowl in front of over 90,000 people and 40 million watching on TV in the US alone. That 1999 team captivated the country, and the buzz surrounding the 2011 team has catapulted up to the top of every news outlet, just like in 1999. The USA beat Brazil this time on Penalty Kicks, in the same way Brandi Chastain did 12 years earlier. USA goalie Hope Solo came through big as well, blocking Brazil's 3rd penalty kick in the shootout which helped.

Germany has embraced the tournament as well, with over 20 million people watching Germany matches on TV. On Saturday though, Japan shocked Germany by eliminating them, playing more physical than anyone thought possible. Japan passes the ball with more accuracy than any team I've ever seen, and play tough. They've become a sentimental favorite following the March Tsunami and Earthquake, and will take on Sweden. Do yourselves a favor and watch the rest of the matches! The semifinals are on Wednesday. In the USA, they'll be on ESPN starting with France vs. United States at 11:30AM Eastern Time (Game starts at 12), followed by Japan vs. Sweden at 2:45 PM Eastern. My pick: USA and Japan moving to the final. France vs Sweden for 3rd place.

As for soccer in the US, the World Cup and Olympics are very popular, as well as other big international matches. The attendance record for the Men's World Cup is the 1994 World Cup held in the USA, and the record for the Women's World Cup is 1999 in USA. The MLS (and WPS) can't have that same excitement, so it's seen as second rate to the World Cup and Women's World Cup. Finally, watch the big Wambach goal below:

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