U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Seeks Redemption Against Japan

Julie Johnson US Women's Soccer AP

Japan, who beat England in Wednesdy’s women’s World Cup semifinals, famously defeated the U.S. in the finals of the 2011 World Cup on penalty kicks. The U.S. team made a rematch possible through scoring, and defending of sorts, a penalty kick.

“We didn’t come here just to make the final,” American Carli Lloyd explained in a postgame interview after the victory over Germany. “We came here to win it, so we’re going to go after it.”

As they say about sports, momentum is everything, and with the tournament’s leading goal scorer set to break the ice of the then 0-0 game in the 63rd minute, the tide seemed to be turning in Germany’s favor.

Célia Šašić had scored twice from the penalty spot against France in the quarterfinals, once to equalize and once in the penalty shootout. The German woman’s team had never missed a penalty in their World Cup history. Everything pointed to a 1-0 German advantage.

And then … she missed!

U.S. goalie Hope Solo dived right, Šašić shot left but wide of the net, enabling the US to extend their 483 minute shutout streak. While most of the blame surely lies with Šašić for missing the shot, apparently there was something else in play.

“You do what you can. I did the stall tactic, it worked,” said Solo in an interview with FS1.

The idea behind the stall tactic was to take as much time as possible before the shot, in order to get inside Šašić’s head and have her overthink the shot. Clearly the tactic worked, much to the chagrin of the German squad which looked to rebound from a disappointing quarterfinal exit on home soil four years ago.

“It was a big chance and I am very sorry for the team. It was a great chance. [The goalie] shouldn’t influence me, my job is to score the goal” said a dejected Šašić after the game.

Seizing upon their opponent’s mistake, the U.S. were awarded a penalty shot of their own just minutes later with a controversial call that did not sit right with German coach Silvia Neid. Already upset that American defender Julie Johnston was given only a yellow card instead of a red on the play that led up to Germany’s penalty, Neid couldn’t help but show her disappointment.

“It was clearly outside the penalty area and it could be seen quite clearly on the television,” said Neid following the game. “Of course, I’m very, very sad about this, that this penalty shot decided the match. What am I going to do though? A referee decision is something I have to live with. I am very sad about it, but I cannot change it.”

The foul did appear to occur outside of the box but due to a new FIFA ruling that allows for penalties to be called on plays that carry into the box, the U.S. were awarded the opportunity from 12 yards out. U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd capitalized and put the U.S. ahead. On the 84rd minute, Lloyd set up a Kelley O’Hara goal with a beautiful volley that sealed the semifinal win for the Americans.

The U.S. team now looks to avenge their brutal finals loss at the hands of the Japanese four years ago, and this time on North American soil and with a home crowd behind them.

The final will be played Sunday at 7 p.m. Eastern in Vancouver.