Team USA got to the 2011 Women’s World Cup championship game under the unlikeliest of circumstances, and ultimately, they left the game in the same exact way. As the undisputed favorites going in, the U.S. was expected to hop, skip and jump over the underrated Japanese side en route to a moderately easy win.
It was not to be, though.
After squandering multiple scoring opportunities, the Americans finally got a goal via an Alex Morgan beauty near the 70-minute mark. Japan struck back quickly and without hesitation, scoring the equalizer a mere ten minutes later – sending the game into an eventual extra minutes period. There, American women’s soccer hero, Abby Wambach, hit her fourth header goal of this tournament late, seemingly locking up the win for her side. Only, Japan wasn’t prepared to lay down. Shortly before time was due to expire for the extra period, Homare Sawa lived up to her legendary billing and salvaged her team and country’s World Cup hopes.
In penalty kicks, the Americans simply could not replicate the magic of the 1999 team. They fell in embarrassing 3-1 fashion, as the USA’s first three shooters-- Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath -- failed to convert on their opportunities.
Full breakdown of the game and its special meaning to Japan in the video below.