Time after time yesterday, the Women’s World Cup was within reach for the U.S. national team.
Winning, it seemed, was as simple as burying an open shot from close range.
The Americans whiffed.
The U.S. blew opportunity after opportunity in the first half of the final against Japan, then gave away 1-0 and 2-1 leads on their way to a 3-1 PK loss.
“It’s obviously heartbreaking,” said U.S. striker Abby Wambach, who put the Americans ahead in extra time. “Japan played well. They never gave up.”
The U.S. didn’t, either. But the finishing failed. The defending failed. The goalkeeping failed.
And the Americans’ dreams of a third world title ended up in a Frankfurt dumpster, trumped by Japan’s inspiring run in the wake of this spring’s earthquake and tsunami.
The Japanese refused to cave after U.S. goals in the 69th and 104th minutes, equalizing in the 81st and 117th. The Americans had nothing left by the time PKs rolled around, missing their first three tries.
So, what’s next for the U.S.?
Most of the core will be back for next year’s London Olympics, though it’s unclear how much longer stalwarts Christie Rampone and Wambach will stick around. And with teams like Japan, Brazil and France rising fast, the U.S. doesn’t exactly have an easy path to a third straight gold medal.
The next major competition after that is the 2015 Women’s World Cup, in Canada.