As much as it pains me to say this, the Women's World Cup is now officially over. Besides the heart break of how it ended for the United States, I am also going to genuinely miss the World Cup period. The harsh reality of a devastating loss along with the abrupt end to 3 weeks of non-stop soccer to watch on television, is a lot to happen all at once.
Tucker's Tales has been dominated as of late by World Cup this & World Cup that. Rightfully so, in my opinion. It's July afterall. What the hell else is going on? Don't answer baseball or I'll punch you in the kidney. Anyway, after 3 weeks of soccer fever it is finally time to put it to rest for a little while here on Tucker's Tales. Not for good of course, just on the shelf for a little while.
Before we take a break though, I just have some final thoughts here at the end of the 2011 Women's World Cup that I want to share with you all. Take them or leave them. Agree or disagree. Feel free to add your own comments and thoughts in the comments section.
Final Thoughts (in no particular order at all):
Take absolutely NOTHING away from the 1999 Women's World Cup and the United States team that brought home the title, but there was something different and even maybe a little bit more "special" to me about this US team and their run. I know they came up short, and the '99 team brought home the gold medal but think about a few things with me here for a moment.... The 1999 World Cup was on home soil here in the United States. The hype surrounding that team had been building for months. It was convenient and almost our duty as the host nation with a competitive team involved to "care about it." We not only helped fill the stadiums, but the 1999 was the story of that summer, without a doubt. This US team had ZERO HYPE! Some might argue me on that point but think back to May. Did you even realize that the Women's World Cup was coming? If you did, did you know half of the players on the team? Did you know their story? I'm a former player, a current coach, and what I would call an intense love and fan of the game in general. I keep up with it more than the average bear, to be sure. Even I didn't see this coming. I knew that the World Cup was this summer. I knew that we were in it. I knew quite a few of the key players and had watched them play some over the past year. But I was nowhere near as excited about it as the 1999 World Cup. This World Cup was in Germany--not our own backyard. This team had to earn and create it's own hype with its play on the field ONLY. This team began to creep its way into America's hearts. Little by little at first and then full blown during the Brazil game when it was hard to find someone who hadn't watched or hadn't fallen in love with this team. To me, that made this team more special. No one saw them coming. But they stole our hearts this summer.
Abby Wambach provided what I still claim will be one of the most memorable moments in all of sports in my lifetime with her game-tying goal in the final minutes of overtime to keep the United States alive. Chills. Every. Single. Time.
Hope Solo completely, 100% redeemed herself after the embarrassment and controversy of 2007. No one will think about that when they think about Hope Solo from this day forward.
Hope Solo also became the new "hot girl" in women's sports for guys (and even some girls) to drool over. Seriously guys, pick up your jaws. In the words of my friend Whitney Price, "Hope Solo can procreate by herself. She doesn't even need a man." (Sidenote: she has a baby voice and it never fails to surprise me every time I hear her speak)
Brazil = the new bad guys on the block. That crowd in Germany absolutely turned on them and I think a lot of the soccer fans across the world were left with a bad taste in their mouth. Good job, Erika.
(Stop dancing, everyone hates you....)
France will win an international competition (Olympics or World Cup) soon. Very soon. They are the team of the future and their style of play was the most impressive on a consistent basis throughout the World Cup. The bulk of their best players are young too. Louisa Necib is the best midfielder the women's game has seen in a long time. I think she is comparable at her position to Marta when it comes to transcendent talent at the forward position. Watch out for France people....watch out.
Someone please stop letting North Korea Korea DPRLightening Strike Victims steroid users in the World Cup. The lightening claim was over the top. Them looking like the most depressed team of all time was hard to watch. Five of them apparently testing positive for steroids during the World Cup? Give me a break. Seriously, I'll take anyone over them.
Alex Morgan is the next big star for the United States Women's National Team. I don't care how you slice it, the girl has that "x factor" about her that players before her such as Mia Hamm had. She's fast. She's legitimately talented. She is a finisher (that goal today was world-class. It was ridiculously good & in a clutch moment...not just anyone could have made that shot. In fact, I'm not sure Mia Hamm would have made that shot). She is an attractive girl. She seems to have her head on straight. She's young and her best years are still ahead of her. All of these things in combination lead me to believe that she will not be simply a "second half sub" for very much longer, if at all. Abby Wambach, in an eery quote filled with foreshadowing following the France game said, "Mark my words. This will be the first of many goals for Alex Morgan on this team." Agree with ya there Abby.
(If this is somewhat of a passing of the torch moment--the future looks bright for US Women's Soccer)
Speaking of bright young stars, how about Megan Rapinoe & Lauren Cheney? For some reason we all spent much of the first few games of the World Cup trying to decide which one should be in the game at which time. First it was Rapinoe in the qualifying rounds. Then it was Cheney taking her place in the starting line-up for the first few games. Then it was Rapinoe filling in for an injured Heather O'Reilly. Then it was "Rapinoe is a super sub." Screw that. Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Cheney are 2 of the best players on the team. Not just at their position, but on the team period. PLAY THEM BOTH ON THE FIELD AT THE SAME TIME EVERY SINGLE GAME!!! Who cares if they prefer the same position? Find a way to have them on that field. I think Pia is brilliant and made very few wrong moves at any point, but her finally starting both Rapinoe and Cheney today was crucial. I completely give credit to why the US played so well in the first half to the fact that they finally had all of their best players on the field--regardless of position. Granted--Cheney had to leave at halftime (in my opinion, we win that game 3-1 if she plays the whole game), but when they were on the field at the same time, we were a different team. A better team. Rapinoe is one of the best 4 players on our entire team. Guess what? So is Lauren Cheney. Again, the future is bright for US soccer because they are both just pups.
Christie Rampone will never get even 1/4 of the credit that she deserves for what she did in this World Cup. That is all I can say.
Julie Foudy & Ian Darke are the most brilliant pairing of announces ever. I am in love with the 2 of them announcing games. I hope they never try to come up with any other combination. They compliment each other beautifully. Foudy provides the credibility because everyone knows her from the yesteryears of US Women's Soccer. She can tell great stories. She can analyze the game like only a world class former player can. And she's funny. Ian Darke....is the man. Some of his quotes from this World Cup will still make me giggle years from now:
"This is the Last chance drink at the last chance saloon for the United States" (in the final minutes of OT in the US vs. Brazil game)
In reference to Nigeria's physical style of play against Germany, "This Nigeria team is awfully physical. In fact, I worry that if a piece of paper blew across the field right now , they would be tempted to tackle it."
"Marta is not amused!"
Sidenote: I love that they brought back so many former players (from a variety of national teams) to carry out their coverage on ESPN. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
This was by far the best all-around World Cup that I've ever watched. For the first time ever, all 16 teams were competitive. You just didn't see 8-0 blowouts like in years past. There are no longer simply 3 powerhouse teams (Germany, United States, Brazil). The rest of the world is catching up and catching up fast. Japan, Sweden, France & Australia were not just flukes. The landscape of women's soccer is changing and it couldn't be better for the sport.
Abby Wambach's performance in this World Cup should be counted as one of the greatest individual efforts of all time in a major sporting tournament. Don't tell her that, because she will quickly and humbly deflect back to all of her teammates (I love that about her). But honestly, she willed her team to victory so many times. She put them on her back and came up big in the biggest moments. Brazil. France. Japan (her goal in overtime should have won it all). She even was the only player on her team to hit her penalty kick (I'm not expert but if I'm Pia, I think I let Abby shoot first. She is the only player who I feel will step up there every single time and knock it in. Why not let her lead off and give your team confidence every shootout? Food for thought. Hindsight is 20/20).
Also pertaining to Wambach---I can't help but ache for her that she didn't get this title. Listening to her talk before the World Cup, she just wanted it so badly. I'm not sure I've ever seen or heard a player say the things in the way that she said that made me believe that she wanted it more than anyone else in the whole world. Her quote was something to the effect of, "Not winning would be completely heart breaking. I'm tired of watching other people dance and celebrate and lift the trophy with the confetti. I don't want to watch them anymore. I want to be them." She did everything she could. It kills me that they came up short. I really, really hope she stays fit and relevant over the next 4 years so that she can be a part of the next World Cup. I want that for her.
Tough World Cup for Amy LaPeilbet if you ask me. It actually became the running joke with my friends that I watched the game with that everything could be blamed on her. Bad pass? "DAMNIT LAPELBEIT!" Miscue on defense? "Probably LaPeilbet's fault!" We literally began (jokingly) blaming every single thing that went wrong on her. Was it her player that scored on the game tying goal in overtime? Yep (not jokingly). I hate to knock anyone on the team I cheer for, but I've got to be honest--for me, she was the weak link on the US team. She never really seemed to get it going in my mind. She was a little slow to play outside back. Her foot skills and ability to hold possession did nothing to make up for her lack of speed in my mind. She would attempt to push forward, take a bad touch, lose the ball, and then have trouble recovering. She should write Christie Rampone a few thank you notes for covering for her time and time again. I have a hard time believing that there is not a better outside back lurking somewhere around this country. I'm going to find her and send her in express mail to Pia's doorstep. Might even put a bow on her. I'm mostly kidding here. I mean,I do believe she was a bit of a weak link but I don't actually blame her for the loss. That's not how soccer works....which brings me to my next point....
I really hate to throw the word ignorant around but anytime that a large mass of people (many of which don't normally watch soccer) begin to catch on to a team at some point during a run--whenever that run ends, seem to make ignorant comments which remind you why they don't (and probably shouldn't) watch soccer in the first place. For example: Anyone who thinks that the US "threw the game away" or "choked" in the shootout, clearly hasn't watched or experienced a lot of soccer. Everyone knows that shootouts are honest to God crap shoots. I've lost to teams that were worse than me in shootouts. I've beaten teams that I had no business beating in shootouts. It happens in soccer ALL THE TIME. In this particular instance, the US was even at a bigger disadvantage. You can't tell me that Shannon Boxx & Carli Lloyd were not actually hurt by the fact that they had already been in 1 shootout before in this tournament. You can't tell me that part of their mind was thinking as they walked up to take that kick "should I go the same way as last time? Will she guess that way?" Sure they are professional athletes, but if either of those thoughts entered their head at any point (and you know they did), that's just enough in a penalty kick to cause someone to shoot poorly or even miss the goal completely. I will never blame a team for losing in a shootout. Never.
If you are going to lose a World Cup, could there be a better team to lose to than Japan? I think the media always overhypes the sympathy stories, but I really can't find any fault in this story. They were led by a player playing in her 5th and final World Cup (Homare Sawa---baller). Their country is still trying to pick up the pieces after two devastating natural disasters. I'm not sure what exactly this World Cup may mean to some of those people in Japan---but I hope that it brings them some kind of joy. I hope that it means something. You can tell that it meant something to their team. I'd much rather lose to them than a Germany or a Brazil any day. Japan was not the better team today on the field. No way. But they were deserving of all of the happiness and elation that comes with the World Cup.
Hope Solo gave what I think was the classiest, most well-said quotes of the tournament when being interviewed right after the loss to Japan. She said something to the effect of, "I can't help but think that there was something bigger going on here for them. I've wanted this my whole life (when her voice cracked and she began to cry as these words left her mouth, I truly believed her and felt her pain), but if it couldn't be us....I'm glad it was them." (as she glanced over to the celebrating Japanese team).
And last but certainly not least....what a fun 3 weeks that this United States team gave us. For the die hard soccer fans, we watched every game. For those who caught on late, how amazing was that to be a part of as a fan? I love when a national team captures the heart of our country and brings us all together cheering for one common cause even if only for a day. I absolutely love it. This team came up short in only one thing: the final score. They did everything else right and went above and beyond any and all expectations.
Like I said before....they came out of nowhere and captured our hearts. Thank you for a great summer ladies!