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USA gives up lead twice, loses to Japan in penalties in WWC final

Japan USA 1 (Getty Images)



The feel-good story that was the U.S. women's national team at the World Cup has come to a close, and it does so without the fairy-tale ending.

The U.S. team lost in the World Cup final on Sunday, falling to Japan 3-1 on penalty kicks after playing to a 2-2 draw. The win gave Japan its first ever World Cup trophy.

Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath all missed their penalties in a game that saw the United States waste multiple opportunities and a pair of leads.

The Americans started the game strong, created most of the scoring chances, and looked ready for World Cup glory, but an inability to capitalize allowed Japan to equalize late on two separate occasions.

Alex Morgan, who entered the game at halftime, gave the Americans the lead with a left-footed finish in the 69th minute. Japan found an equalizer in the 81st, however, after a poor defensive clearance. The United States went ahead again in extra time off an Abby Wambach header in the 104th minute, but that was cancelled out when Homare Sawa flicked in a corner kick four minutes from the final whistle to force penalties.

Here are the match highlights in case you missed the game:



What do you think of the USA losing to Japan on penalty kicks? Surprised more by the Americans' penalty kick performance or their inability to close out the game?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. My thoughts exactly, waht in the earth are you doing clearing a ball into the center of the field???, the US loose this game by themselves.

  2. It was a great tournament. Other than Brazil, the play centered on football and sportsmanship. Someone said not one foul was called in the first 30 minutes, which gave Jose Mourinho a heart attack. Japan deserved their win, beating Germany, Sweden, and the USA in order. Perhaps Jogo Bonito, and Total Soccer will return to the next Mens WC. One can hope.

  3. Agreed. The women’s team (along with the coverage by ESPN) has really helped elevate the game from what I’ve seen in the US. I’m currently in the midst of a cross-country road trip, and have done my best to watch as many games as possible. Every state I’ve been through (which counts 13 currently) has had people really excited for the event as a whole. In one instance, we went to this little Mexican restaurant in Texas and asked to turn the game on the tv (Mexico vs England). After a little while, a bunch of guys walked in (they all seemed to be laborers), and after a bit of snickering, got really into the game. It was really nice to see, even thought Mexico didn’t win the game. In fact, everyone who came into this little restaurant was focused on the game, with a few people even rearranging their chairs to face the tv.

  4. Why wasn’t Christen Press, the only Mac Hermann Trophy winner who has never been given a shot to make the roster, on Pia’s radar?

  5. I was very disapointed. First of all with Cheney out at half, it left our best overall player of the tournament out with injury. Also, we had two leads, just to give them up. I also am displeased by the defense, especially when they had two poor clearances to give up the first lead. I am most unimpressed by Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath for missing three penalty kicks in a row. I believe that if the USA put in one or two goals from the early opportunities they could have been hoisting up the trophy. From my point of view(a youth soccer players) the courage, determination, effort and resiliency put up by Japan after their country was stricken by the earthquake and tsunami won the World Cup for them.

  6. I have to disagree with the comments here in regard to Japan “being a tactically superior side” yesterday. Rubbish. As far as possession and midfield play, that was the U.S.’s best game of the tournament. The U.S. dominated much of possession, and created FAR MORE scoring opportunities. Japan was the opportunist, and capitalized on a couple of defensive lapses. That’s the cruelty of soccer however…one team can dominate and still lose. Play that game 10 times and U.S. wins 9. It could have been 4-0 U.S at the half. However, of course that’s not what happened. I think the U.S.’s biggest failure yesterday, ironically, was in their mental toughness to close out the win. Congrats to Japan for not giving up, and showing some of that same American resolve.

  7. +10000

    Yeah. I was screaming at lloyd on the tv. Pass the damn ball! Ugggh as she tried another hero shot that she shanked horribly.

  8. They actually did try, but Japan’s pressing forced some bad plays. The back 4 became exposed because Japan began to throw numbers forward while we refused to park the bus. We kept going for the 3rd goal, as we should have, and it just backfired on us with a critical error by a single player in the back. Credit Japan for making us pay.

  9. I don’t follow. Germany was no longer competitive in the tournament… What matter which country they decide to root for? Perhaps they felt Japan deserved to win. Perhaps they felt Japan needed the reason to cheer as a nation a lot more than the USA. Perhaps they felt a Japan victory justifies Germany’s loss. Should they cheer for no one? If they had video of them cheering the US, would that make Japan upset?

  10. I agree. Morgan is a quality striker and should be a starter. As for possession, I don’t think that possession was what determined the outcome of the game – possession-wise the teams were very close and the US was by far a more threatening side creating numerous chances. The first goal by Japan resulted from a failed clearance by the US team rather than any kind of build up by Japan. The second goal was from a corner kick, which also resulted from a defensive miscommunication. I did not think that Japan created a lot of chances, but they took advantage of most of their opportunities. Not to take anything way from Japan’s victory, but it looked to me that Japan was playing for a draw, hoping to get to the penalty kicks.

  11. This is the same Japan team that knocked out the host Germany, a team in much better form than we were going into the tournament. The same Japan team that beat Sweden, the team that beat us in the group stage.

    The US team absolutely made errors that allowed Japan to stay in the match. No one will deny that. But let’s just leave the bitterness aside and give some credit to a team that took an EXTREMELY tough path to win a tournament that many of their players could not even train for.

    The US played an excellent match but failed to finish. There is no systemic issue. They just lost a match to a team that had better luck in front of goal. I think there is a serious bias affecting responses like this.

  12. I read the article, thanks for the “link”, yes, Ives does not allow posted links.
    There is no where in the article that says players are unhappy with Bradley. The closest it comes to that is to say they were miserable after the Mexico loss (no surprise, I was too) and some vague innuendo with no statements even close to being specific.
    The other points are OK, but like most griping, a real plan is not there:

    What better coach would actually want to coach? the USA the only ones Gulati tried essentially turned him down.

    Parents control what kids do, not US Soccer, all US Soccer can do is make suggestions and the parents will continue to ignore them.

    US Soccer does not control College soccer and the NCAA has made it very clear that it never will Ione reason Bradley left college coaching).

    Sure the kids who have passion for soccer are more likely to be found in the ethnic communities (from before Claudio Reyna was a star HS player, this has been true and every coach at every level knows it). Presently some players are missed in the identification, the only way that will change is when youth teams are run by professional teams rather than by parents who have a whole different agenda. (Who controls the purse strings influences which players get selected.)

  13. You can’t be serious. Are you trying to tell me that other talented athletes in the USA (eg female golfers tennis players basketball players swimmer divers and shot-putters) would make a better squad than this one? That is sheer ignorance. These women are the best at what they do as has been determined by years of practice hard work skill and yes TALENT.

    The USWNT is a POWERHOUSE in the WORLD of women’s soccer and has been since women’s soccer gained any kind of prominence. Japan was the Cinderella story of this world cup.

    You want high standards? How about expecting people to actually know something about a sport they are commenting on about beyond parroting the odd sound bite they pick up from major media outlets.

    Good teams lose. Get over yourself.

  14. I woke up with a major disappointment hangover this morning, as am sure all the players did.

    We win as a nation; we lose as a nation.

    Thank you for he wonderful ride ladies!

  15. I was surprised by the US tactics (or lack thereof) after the second go-ahead goal in extra time. Would have thought the team should pull back and defend at that point, yet they appeared to stay in a stubborn formation that left the back 4 exposed continually by Japan’s attack. Coaching error, in my opinion.

  16. heh. right about the time. harkes is the absolute worst, quickly followed by wynalda and lalas. foudy does understand the game, but her super-enthusiastic delivery is hard for me to swallow.

  17. The German ladies team, knocked out by Japan in the quarter-final, was at the WC2011 final sitting together, as was German ladies coach Sylvia Neid, who did not sit with her players. After both Japan goals, German TV showed shots of the German coach and players going crazy, cheering and high-fiving as if the German team was beating Japan. Was sort of irritating, and in German online forums some Germans were criticizing German coach/players for the public spectacle against the USNWT. I cannot imagine the US ladies or coach doing same. During the penalty kicks, German TV kept the camera off the German coach/players. I imagine German TV management knew how bad it looked and ordered the blackout. Anyway, I would advise US Soccer to get the video of the German coach and team cheering against the USA and use it as an inspirational film for the next time the USWNT (or, hopefully, the USMNT) meets a German team in a big match.

  18. for some odd reason, Ives does not allow links. On a normal Internet search (not a news search), use the key words “bob bradley san diego lost the locker room” and it should be the top item. The story ran June 28.

  19. *heartbroken*

    can’t wait to go support our Women at the nearest WPS game – gotta support WPS, develop fan base, keep revenues coming in, league can grow, more money to attract more talent, and heck, just cuz Abby says so “I can’t tell you how important to have that 12th man.”

  20. not to mention ian darke. ugh. i’d still take foudy over the moronic commentary of john harkes. foudy should spend the next four years figuring out how long a soccer match lasts.

  21. and, while her teammates were still (understandably) standing around in shock, wambach was shaking hands with the japanese players.

  22. I counted two times the defense tried to clear the ball across the face of goal. The first time was on the first goal, (should have let the ball go through). The second was when the two defenders ran into each other. The defender who tried to clear out of bounds was on the ground looked at the defender who tried to clear across the face of goal like “what the KCUF are you doing?!?!?!!?!?!”

    So what I’m saying is the US defense failed to execute basic defensive tactics and failed to communicate well leading to chaos at times. That coupled with all the missed opportunities early on kept Japan into the game mentally.

  23. I would love to know why so few people give Japan credit. Because they had never beaten the U.S. before? What rubbish! The Japanese were technically superior. They have developed a passing attack that the Americans have yet to embrace. Their goalkeeper had a superb game. They defeated two other more physical teams, Sweden and Germany (the two-time defending champions).

    Don’t buy this garbage that the United States lost to an inferior team. The U.S. was out-played in three consecutive games until the final. If anything, the U.S. was the inferior team…not because of the final score but because no world-class team would commit such a defensive fustercluck that led to the first tying goal.

    The U.S. was living on borrowed time. Today, it caught up w/them.

  24. A NT member is not going to come out and say to the media that he is not happy with the coach, when he has to ride the bus with the coaches son.

    People should just read the article and people will get different points of view. I am not saying fire bob Bradley, I am just saying that something is not right inside that locker room.

    Maybe Bob will get rid of someone if they are not happy with him or his son. I am ok with that because he is the coach and he makes the roster decisions.

  25. Don’t know why people feel the need to hate on these great players.

    Sure Carli made some mistakes, and is maybe not the player she thinks she is.

    However, that girl can play soccer. The men do NOT have her equivalent.

    For a big girl who can play good defense when she wants to, she has very good skill.

    Let’s keep in mind that until the final, the girl’s had been playing horribly possession soccer. All at once (in the FINAL) they figured out it’s actually better to hold the ball then to chase it the whole darned game.

    But Japan had been doing that the whole tournament.

    I still maintain… the US showed moments of team work, but Japan was the better team.

    It still irked me that Alex Morgan was wearing a pink sports bra. She played well, but that just stuck out to me as a sign of the individualistic tendencies of some players on this team.

    In other words, they showed lots of heart, but, for me, not enough unity.

  26. The article by Canales does not report on ANY bad feeling by any of the players. It merely says, rightly, that Michael Bradley is a little too intense off the field.

    I have never heard someone who played for Bob Bradley say bad things about him. I imagine some might not think he is god, but so far as I can tell they all like and respect him. So how might one find this SanDIego newspaper article upon which you hang so much weight. A simple google search turned up nothing.

    Were you not watching the Spain game? Yours is a very odd take on which players performed better.

  27. No problems with any players on the pitch today. My two questions are personnel related. Tobin Heath took a PK…WHY?!? She has had maybe 10 touches all tournament and hasn’t played more than 10 minutes in each game and takes a PK? Why not O’Reilly or Morgan? I understand the substitution for Rapinoe, sort of, but there were others on the pitch that could have taken a PK. Or at least Heath could have gone first…a little less pressure, not much, but a little, in that position. She went third and after the first 2 missed she had to make it and didn’t.

    Also, why was Buehler in there? We were so much better in defense when Sauerbraun was playing against France. She is much better in possession, much calmer on the ball and faster.

    Overall, it was a great game, and both teams played their hearts out. Congrats to them both for a well played game and tournament.

  28. What you wrote can be applied to most things in life. Thanks for sharing this.

    I guess thats why poor kids that become boxers or soccer players most of the time are better than kids that only play the sport to have fun. Those kids play it because thats their only way out.

  29. That wasn’t the same PK lineup. Rapinoe wasn’t in there. Heath, who had taken maybe 10 touches on the ball all tournament was in there to replace Rapinoe. That’s my only question mark. Why not O’Reilly? or Morgan (we know she can finish)? But otherwise, I agree. Loved the original comment. Both teams played well, and deserved to win probably the best game I’ve seen in a while, men or women.


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