It's hard for me to be disappointed in Japan's victory over the United States in an overtime shootout in the women's World Cup final Sunday because of how much the triumph meant to Japan, ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
Perhaps the match should merely be taken for what it was -- 117 minutes of heart-stopping competition between two talented and unified teams.
And before I write this, I must admit that I'm far from an expert on soccer and saw little of the competition until Sunday. Perhaps one of our readers can answer my questions.
But I'm still baffled as to how the U.S. could go scoreless on its first three penalty kicks, except perhaps that exhaustion had set in after 30 minutes of extra time.
Japan's coach Norio Sasaki was smiling as his players huddled before the penalty kick phase began. Was that because he was confident after scouting the U.S. players' tendencies in this situation? I read today that the team that comes from behind to tie the game and force penalty kicks usually has momentum. But does that explain how one of the U.S. kick's went totally over the goal? Did the first kick save by Japan goalie Ayumi Kaihori on Shannon Boxx's attempt give Japan even more momentum? Was U.S. goalie Hope Solo more injured than she let on? Did U.S. coach Pia Sundhage play into Japan's hands by using the same strategy on penalty kicks that she had against Brazil in the quarterfinals?
The U.S. team lived on drama during its run to the final and Sundhage seemed masterful in alleviating the pressure. But I can't help but wonder if her strategy during the penalty kick phase was women's soccer's equivalent of Metcalf up the middle