FIFA Women's World Cup Final: United States "Here to Inspire a Nation"
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Sunday marks the biggest day in US women's soccer in 12 years. The Americans are back in the World Cup Final for the first time since 1999.
Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and company will be taking on Japan, who are in the Final for the first time ever.
The United States won two of the first three World Cups before Germany took the last two. Now, they are the favorites to win for the first time in 12 years and become the first country to three titles.
It has been an unusual run to this point for the team ranked No. 1 in the world. They lost to Mexico in the semifinals of CONCACAF qualification before beating Costa Rica in the Third Place Game and then beat Italy 2-0 in a two-legged play-off round.
Upon arrival in Germany, they won their first two games before losing their first ever Group Stage game at the World Cup since its beginning in 1991, ending an unbeaten Group Stage run of 17 matches. The loss to Sweden in their last group match cost them the group and made them the runner-up.
Losing the group meant the United States had to face Brazil, the third ranked team in the world. Of course, we all know of the magic that transpired late in that game, with Wambach striking the goal in the 122nd minute, the latest goal ever at the World Cup and then all five kickers coming up clutch in a 5-3 penalty shootout victory.
Following that, they had to overcome a tough France team which equalized in the middle of the second half by nabbing two late goals from Wambach and Alex Morgan to reach the Final for the first time since beating China in a penalty shootout in 1999.
The excitement is building in anticipation for the 2pm Eastern Time kickoff from Frankfurt. The women themselves are excited and their play and never say die attitude has made an entire nation pay attention and many are expecting that ratings for the Final will be much higher than what they have been throughout the tournament.
The team is relaxed. Pia Sundhage has been keeping them loose with her beautiful singing the past couple days, but the team does not really need much help staying relaxed and excited at the same time.
The bench is rarely quiet as midfielder Lauren Cheney points out. "We joke that our bench is Team Annoying," she says, "because we're all so loud on the bench and excited."
No one on the team needs motivation leading up to kickoff. If there is anything that makes them more excited than they were for the France match, it is that Rachel Buehler will be back in the defense after serving a suspension for her red card against Brazil. That will bolster the strong back line.
Abby Wambach is firing on all cylinders right now, as is super-sub Megan Rapinoe. The two have been vital to America's run. We also saw a glimmer of what Alex Morgan can be. The speedster came off the bench to lob a shot over the French keeper for the third US goal of the Semifinal.
The glue of the team is no doubt Hope Solo. The world's greatest goalkeeper has been a brick wall in the back and an instrumental part of the run. She has come up with vital saves at key times, including deflecting away the shot by Dianae in the shootout against Brazil.
Solo was quick to point out that the team is not in Germany just to win for themselves. When a reporter told Solo that tons of American teenage boys surely had posters of her on their walls, she cut him off and responded.
"Well, let's hope there are teenage girls as well," Solo said. "We're here to inspire a nation."
Win or lose, they certainly have. Their attitude above all is what really makes them an inspiration to the entire country. Even in a country that has yet (for whatever reason) failed to embrace the Beautiful Game, this team means something.
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