Japan 2(3)-2(1) USA: Japan Accepts American Gifts For World Cup Glory

The United States twice gave away leads, and series of poor penalty takes opened the door for Japan as they captured the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The match was dominated for large portions by the United States. The first twenty minutes saw the Americans squander at least 5 quality chances inside the area, only to miss target. Most of the American success was enjoyed on the left flank. Megan Rapinoe was able to beat the right back Kinga on a number of occasions.

It took more than an hour for the goals to come. After a failed Japanese run forward, Rapinoe collected the ball near her area in the 69th minute, and sent a long, arcing ball to 2nd half substitute Alex Morgan. She was able to muscle her way around the defender, and her shot beat Kaihori for the opener.

The United States appeared to be on their way to victory, but with less than 10 minutes remaining the Japanese took advantage of a series of defensive lapses. The US Captain, Christie Rampone, tried to start an attacking thrust, but her pass was intercepted in the midfield. After playing up the right flank, substitute Karina Maruyama crossed the ball near Hope Solo’s goal. After two misplayed clearance attempts by Rachel Buehler and Ally Krieger, the ball came to Aya Miyama and she put the easy 6 yard attempt into the goal. Regulation time ended tied at 1.

In extra time, the US continued to dominate the possession, with Japan nipping back and getting opportunities on the counterattack. The second US goal was a product of returning to the left flank they ruled early. Morgan accepted a pass from Rapinoe towards the end line, and her cross was pounded home off Abby Wambach’s head to put the US up 2-1, with a little over 15 minutes remaining in extra time.

The US again struggled to maintain their defensive composure with the lead. At least two lapses in the defensive third nearly gave Japan their equalizer, but that eventually came off a corner kick opportunity. Japanese Captain Homare Sawa deflected the corner on its way by, and the ball glanced off Wambach’s chest before resting in the goal. The closing seconds of the match saw Japan take a red card, as Iwashimizu tackled Morgan running in on goal alone in stoppage time. Unfortunately for the Americans, they could not take advantage of the direct free kick right outside the area.

The 2-2 score held until the end of extra time, so penalties ensued. The United States had to take first, and Shannon Boxx’s effort was not good and was blocked by Kaihori. After Miyama converted her attempt for Japan, Carli Lloyd stepped up and skied one clear over the goal. At 2-0, a save by Solo on Yuki Nagasoto’s try gave the US hope. That glimmer was snuffed out when substitute Tobin Heath’s kick was low and not nearly hard enough to beat Kaihori. The final three takers were successful, but Kumagai’s shot sealed the victory for Japan.

There are several strategic questions that come to mind about this match:

1) Why did it seem that US Coach Pia Sundhage played for penalties, even after gaining the lead? The US had one substitute remaining, and another defensive midfielder like Lori Lindsay may have helped a spent defense to prevent the troublesome crosses that Japan threw their way.

2) Why did the US seem to abandon the left flank for much of the 2nd half? We had quite an advantage, and yet we seemed to try long ball way too much.

3) Where was Wambach on the free kick resulting from the red card? The complicated set play nearly worked, but it seemed like a clutch player like Wambach taking the shot would be the choice (remember Christine Sinclair against Germany?).

4) Why would you choose Boxx to lead off the penalties again? She missed the first one against Brazil, and was granted a second chance by the referee. With attacking players like Alex Morgan, Heather O’Reilly, or even Wambach available, why begin with a defensive midfielder who has shown a penchant for being nervous over the big shot?

In any event, the United States’ run in Germany is over. It was a great tournament, with plenty of intrigue and lots of viewership. You saw giants fall, especially Germany, and ultimately the United States. Sawa captured the Golden Ball, especially well-earned after tying the match late in extra time. It’s not the ending American fans were seeking, but they played a good tournament. They did have lapses against Sweden and Japan. Those were costly; the mistakes to Sweden forced the Americans into a long shootout with Brazil. The errors against Japan cost them the championship, and it will be tough to forget the disappointment.

25 thoughts on “Japan 2(3)-2(1) USA: Japan Accepts American Gifts For World Cup Glory”

  1. Very disappointed, but I am glad that Japan was the team to beat us if we had to lose. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that we had to lose. Still, they played great overall and made me a fan. Good job USA!

    1. I would have rather they lose to any team BUT Japan. Japan didn’t deserve this win, and it will only reinforce its sick citizens’ sense of superiority over people in the rest of the world.

      1. What is your *** problem? are you one of those *** with inferiority complex? if USA won you and other *** would be celebrating thinking you are the “superpower #1” of the world again, go *** yourself

  2. Major COACHING MISTAKES. Pia did not mentally prepare players for what to when leading. There was no re-grouping or leadership onfield. Brining in Tobin Heath so late instead of a defender is dumb. Lastly anyone can see Shannon Box is overrated and a nervous wreck. Starting again with her was just stupid. Pia lost this gam – fire her. CHOKE CHOKE CHOKE.

  3. wasn’t too happy to see USA lose but they played a great game. Subs should of come in a lot sooner to get some fresh defensive legs. USA should of played possession ball towards the end of the match but kept giving it away. Oh well, great game ladies and congratulations to Japan.

    I would of liked to see the star strikers go first in Pks to add pressure to Japan and let Solo come up big in the end if needed. But in the end Pks still need to be finished and USA wasn’t able to do that all first half.

  4. well, 2nd goal, she tied it with a mighty clever back-o-the-boot… not quite a gift. the first goal was messy, tho, but even that one wasn’t an easy 6-yarder, but a feint that worked. gotta give credit.

    1. Without the gift in the 81st minute, there would have been no clever back-o-the-boot. Of course, one could argue that the US was so shaky at the back with the lead that Japan would have equalized regardless of whether Buehler’s first attempt to clear had been successful. Yes, Sawa’s improvisation was both brilliant and fortunate, without Wambach’s presence Solo gets that one.

  5. Great game ladies, don’t clear in the midle of the field, for you younger ones kriegar and lloyd vets now rampone will find a team somewhere soon great left foot, used to play coed against boxxy keep your head up girl olympics love yaladies bobby reta

  6. Everyone must agree.Goddess of luck is Japanese.But this is how it goes in any sport.If you do not take what is offered to you someone else will.

  7. Why was Bruehler in there? She killed them. Every big goal against she had a hand in. Guess who was marking Sawa on the game tying goal? Guess who slopping clear lead to a goal? Guess who got beat in the box and drew a PK against Brazil? The refs did the US by giving her a red card against Brazil, so she missed the semis. Why put her back in for the final?

  8. Earl, just a minor note: if the US was getting its success down its left flank (and I’m no expert, but I think that’s true – Rapinoe was the left mid/left wing I believe), surely they were getting success against Japans RIGHT back?

  9. Ok, my own thoughts on the game:

    As a died-in-the-wool sexist when it comes to women’s soccer, I have to admit I was actually kind of won over by this game. It was exciting (that much I’ve never denied), but what surprised me was that a lot of the players were actually technically pretty good. Wambach in particular is a beast.Some of the players were still very clumsy and panicky, but it’s certainly a vast improvement on most women’s soccer I’ve ever seen.

    I didn’t really watch any of the tournament apart from the final (and the occasional highlights/bloopers reel), but I have to say that compared to the hype I heard for the Japan team’s technical/passing/possession game, I was a little underwhelmed by their performance in the final. I would be interested to know the possession stats. It certainly didn’t feel to me like they played a good possession game. I think even at this level, they still had one or two players who aren’t really comfortable on the ball, so any spell of possession would quickly be spoiled.

    Do you think they were just nervous, and so their passing and touch wasn’t as confident as normal? Or is that just what passes for patient build-up in the women’s game? Again, I haven’t seen much of the whole tournament, so I can’t really compare their performance in the final to how they’ve played in earlier games.

    Lastly, I suspected that if it went to PKs, Japan would win. And once it got that far, you could see from the behavior of the Japanese players and the coach in particular that they were extremely confident. The US, as you could tell from their PKs, generally were not.

    Oh and I thought Solo should take a huge slice of the blame for that comedy pinball first Japanese goal.

    1. 1) Japan – My observation was that the US midfield skewed to Sawa’s side early in the match. There would be three midfielders bunched on her side, trying to prevent the play from moving through her. That allowed us to negate much of the early thrust from Japan. As the match progressed, Japan adjusted, bringing up their fullback, primarily Kinga. They rotated to nearly a three man backline at that point, with Sakaguchi being primary cover for the defense.

      2) Solo was tentative a couple of times, one on that play, the other on that bounding ball that Rampone had to clear from the goal line.

      1. I don’t know if i would describe either instance as tentative on Solo’s part. She is visibly coming for the ball before Buehler’s hash of a clearance attempt. but once she stabbed at it, Solo was stranded.

        She made herself as big as possible on the second incident you note.

        This falls solely on Buehler and Pia in my mind.

  10. The Team played very well, however the US Coach did not take #15 out after the lead and use all substitutes available to win the match then, with no overtime and secure the win. Penalties that leave the win to chance is NOT a way to win a game! Its almost like PIA started to watch the game and forgot to coach! Why not substitute Rodriguez? Didnt she score 3 goals against them in proir match, two substitues should have been used instead of one, when clearly the players needed them. One in Defense the other in attack to secure the win. The team made me proud to be an American but disappointed in the Coach decission. YOU ARE FIRED!

    1. I’m not sure it’s as simple as firing. Lots of questions become apparent under the circumstances, the toughest being taking off Rapinoe at all IMO. I’d much rather have seen Lloyd removed than Rapinoe, preferably for Lindsey and not Heath.

      1. Still PIA USA coach chocked and did not make the right adjustments under preasure, maybe thats why she has never lead a team in Fifa soccer to a Gold.

        1. I disagree. Her positive nature meshes well with the American never say die mentality. I sincerely don’t believe they could have overhauled the injustice that was the Brazil game without her presence. That said, there were tactical mistakes made, such as not preventing such a low flying corner from being executed. That type of play, exquisite as it was, remained their only scoring option directly from a corner. The US’s size and prowess in the air would have prevented any other type of service. Why she didn’t put a player on the edge of the six to cut off that type of ball is a bit mind boggling.

          All in all I rate her highly for her decisions throughout the cup as a whole. I hope her job is not in jeopardy (something that i wholeheartedly oppose when it comes to the men’s team…)

  11. One of the reasons the USA lost is that it does not have the two center midfielders needed for the attacking possession style Pia Sundhage has tried to implement the last two years. Boxx and Lloyd do not fit the system and Pia relied too much on them in this WC. Boxx is way too old to be starting and playing every minute. Lloyd is not much better and just blasts the ball anytime she is outside the penalty area.

    Buehler is not the answer at CB. She has made too many mistakes in numerous games and cost the team goals in the final. Becky Sauerbrunn is a much better CB and defender. She played a good game against France and choosing not to stick with her against Japan was fatal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *