Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


SECOND GUESSING THAT SECOND GOAL

A dogged Japan stunned the favored U.S. in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup final before a sellout crowd of 48,817 in Frankfurt, coming back twice to get even at 2-2 before winning a penalty-kick tiebreaker, 3-1.  Aya Miyama and Golden Boot winner Homare Sawa cancelled out strikes by Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach, and Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori made two saves in the shootout. 

The triumph lifted a Japanese nation still recovering from a devastating earthquake in March.  Sawa’s goal came just three minutes from the end of extra time and prevented the U.S. from capturing a record-third women’s world championship.  [July 17]

Comment:  A free-flowing sport such as soccer presents countless what-might-have-been moments:  the through-ball hit too hard, the off-target shot deflected in off a defender’s ankle, the caution that should have been a sending off, ad nauseum.  U.S.-Japan presented a truckload, particularly the USA’s two shots off the woodwork and at least two other precious chances in the first half.

Those goals denied will get much of the attention as American fans sift through the embers, but the spotlight deserves to be trained on the 80th minute and the goal by Miyama that leveled the score at 1-1 and ultimately sent the game into overtime. 

A cross from the left set up a clash in the middle of the goalie box between substitute forward Karina Maruyama and Rachel Buehler, and the U.S. center back, on the ground, seemed to have diffused the situation by poking the ball on to the right.  Right back Ali Krieger, however, inadvertently sent the ball back into the middle, where Miyama pounced on it and beat goalkeeper Hope Solo from five yards.

There were no Japanese players anywhere near the right side of the U.S. penalty area.  If Krieger had simply dummied the ball and left it to trickle toward the touchline, Krieger herself might have caught up with it or the ball would have been retrieved by speedy midfielder Heather O’Reilly, who was tracking back.

A second guess, perhaps, in a sport too full of potential turning points for second guesses.  But as a famous American sportscaster not covering soccer said on the air recently, “Not a second guess, just a thought . . . .”

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