It nearly happened again.
For the third time in as many matches, former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach appeared to be the savior for the 2011 U.S. Women’s National Team, heading in a goal 14 minutes into extra time to give her squad a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, for the second time in the match, the United States squandered its lead, allowed their opponent to score an equalizer and eventually fell 3-1 in a highly-contested penalty kick finish, losing the 2011 Women’s World Cup to Japan on Sunday in Germany.
After a first half in which the USA squandered a number of scoring chances, a beautiful floating pass downfield from Megan Rapinoe to 22-year-old striker Alex Morgan at 69’ put the Americans on the board. The U.S. began playing defensively from that point forward but, just minutes later, the Japanese took advantage of poor defensive play in front of the net and scored an equalizer at 81’.
Heading into extra time, the United States got aggressive once again. Wambach took advantage of a brilliant cross and headed it into the net at 104’, giving the Americans a 2-1 lead with just over 15 minutes of regulation to play.
The second half of extra time began with the USA once again just looking to hold on, but the Japanese would have none of it, scoring just three minutes before the end of extra time to force a penalty kick finish.
The United States missed its first three penalty kicks; the first and third were blocked while the third sailed over the crossbar. Japan’s 2-0 lead was reduced briefly as Wambach struck one into the net, but a Japanese goal on the next try ended the Americans’ dream.
Should the United States have won, they would have captured a world-leading third Women’s World Cup title. The USA, which previously won in 1991 and 1999, lost in the World Cup finals for the first time in team history.
American goalkeeper Hope Solo went home with the Golden Glove Award, while Wambach was named both the Bronze Boot and Silver Ball Award winner.