The recently-concluded Women’s World Cup in Germany was a resounding success and, despite their loss in the final to Japan, the United States women’s performance should give a boost to girls and women’s soccer in our country.
That was the consensus among five local soccer personalities who watched the U.S. continually grind out wins with dramatic late goals against Brazil and France until Japan did likewise to the Americans, scoring late goals in regulation and extra time before winning in penalty kicks.
“It can’t help but advance women’s soccer for our young women and parents of our young women. They will see soccer as a viable sport to play, coach, encourage and watch,” said Husson University men’s soccer coach Jeff Gettler.
“Even with the loss, it will give women’s soccer a bump and reinvigorate it,” said Husson women’s soccer coach Keith Bosley.
“Winning the World Cup would have been a perfect ending to a wonderful story,” said University of Maine women’s soccer coach Scott Atherley. “The only disappointment, obviously, was the loss.
“But they have a great deal to be proud of despite not winning. Their performance was courageous and entertaining and they got better as the tournament went on,” said Atherley. “They really showed their true spirit. Some great personalities emerged like Abby Wambach and Hope Solo. They became household names just like Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Julie Foudy did in 1999. Those are players young players identify with and that’s very important in terms of development,” Atherley added.
“Like Abby Wambach said, they embodied the American spirit,” said Husson University athletic director and former Rutgers University men’s coach Bob Reasso. “They displayed our country’s resiliency, determination and passion to win.”
Reasso pointed out that it was some of those athletes who were 12-13 years-old in 1999, when the U.S. won the World Cup in penalty kicks against China in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., who evolved into the key members of this year’s team.
The TV ratings for the final, an 8.6 share, made it the second most watched women’s game in history behind the 1999 final. That beat the ratings for the Major League All-Star game (7.9) and the British Open (2.3).
The tweets, 7,196 per second, were the most ever.
“Americans rally around big events,” said Reasso who called Wambach’s header to tie Brazil in the waning seconds of extra time “as fine a headed goal as I’ve ever seen.
“It was textbook and technical and to be able to finish under that kind of pressure (is remarkable),” he said.
The atmosphere was also memorable.
“Germany did a great job supporting it,” said Gettler who noted that the attendance and TV coverage were outstanding.
Bosley and Reasso were both very impressed with the gracious way the U.S. players conducted themselves even after the heart-breaking loss to Japan, giving credit to the Japanese for their play and acknowledging how positive it was for the country of Japan, which was devastated by earthquakes and tsunamis earlier this year.
One of the common themes was how dramatic the development has been in some of the other countries like France and Japan.
“There is great parity now,” said Atherley.
“It’s great to see it at such a competitive level overall,” said Maine assistant women’s soccer coach Linda Consolante Hathorn, who was on the Canadian roster during the 2003 World Cup.
“The U.S. has always been one of the top teams in the world but there aren’t any cakewalks for them any more. They had to earn every inch,” she said.
“Look at the quality of play and how sophisticated the Japanese are. They are technical and dangerous (offensively),” said Atherley who also noticed that the French have become a world power “in no time.”
“Everyone expects the U.S. to win every time they step on the field. That’s no longer fair,” said Atherley.
Gettler thought the U.S. should have been more direct in the final to take advantage of its superior size and strength against the Japanese rather than play a possession game.
But it was also pointed out by the group that the U.S. had several chances to build an insurmountable lead only to fail to convert.
And that was a trend that followed the U.S. throughout the tournament although they managed to finish enough chances to come just a few minutes shy from claiming the World Cup.
The Olympics are next in London next summer and then the 2015 World Cup will be held in Canada in several sites.