Maui Sports

Japan Stuns Americans in World Cup Final

July 18, 2011, 10:27 AM HST
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By Fred Guzman

The last time the US women were in this position was 12 years ago.  Under sunny skies at the Rose Bowl, the Americans enjoyed a dream ending, winning the World Cup by beating China on penalty kicks.

Yesterday, under a roof in Frankfurt, Germany, the shootout became the stuff of nightmares for a hugely favored US team that earlier had used penalty kicks to eliminate Brazil in the quarterfinals.

The Americans missed their first three penalties – two of them saved –  and Japan outscored the US 3-1 in the shootout after the two teams tied at 1-1 in regulation and 2-2 in overtime.

Japan twice overcame deficits to win its first World Cup and deprive the Americans of a record third.  It was an emotional victory for a team carrying the hopes of a disaster-torn nation.  It was the first time Japan had beaten the US in 26 tries.

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Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath all missed penalties for the Americans, who squandered multiple earlkier chances, struck wood  three times,  and blew a second lead with just six minutes left in OT.

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Hope Solo saved one penalty and got her hand on another, but it wasn’t enough to keep the ball out of the net.  That set the stage for Kumagai to clinch an unlikely but richly deserved victory.

Yes, the US created more chances, but its hard to belittle a Japanese team that pulled off three of the most surprising results in World Cup history by successively beating favored host Germany, former champion Sweden and, finally, the US.

The irony for the US is that it played its best game of the tournament, outshooting Japan 27-14 and creating more clear scoring chances.  But the Americans didn’t capitalize enough, opening the door for Japan’s dramatic comebacks.

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