A record crowd packed Wembley Stadium to watch a rematch of last year’s Women’s World Cup Final between Japan and the United States. Last summer, the U.S. lost a heartbreaker to Japan on penalty kicks and spent the last year using that defeat to spur themselves to greater heights. Abby Wambach spoke openly of her pain after losing last year and guaranteed that this team would bring home the Gold Medal.
Her guarantee came true as the United States beat Japan on the strength of two goals from Carli Lloyd, some amazing saves from Hope Solo, stellar play from everyone on the pitch, and a few lucky bounces. Japan fell behind 2-0 but battled back and nearly tied the game but for a diving save from Solo. The game was a wonderful display of soccer and of sportsmanship, with little of the chippy play that had characterized many of the other matches in the tournament. In the end, the United States got the Gold and revenge for last summer’s defeat and Japan served notice that they are a soccer power that will not fade.
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Here are some of the memorable images from the game and the celebration after.
The images that stand out for me are the elation of the U.S. team as they trotted around the field embracing each other and wearing the flag like superhero capes, Megan Rapinoe weeping as she sent kisses into the stands, and the tears from the Team Japan.
These athletes work so hard and for so many years that the wins and losses overwhelm them as their dreams come true or are dashed. We are witnesses to their successes, failures, pain, joy, triumphs, and defeats. Their victories become ours and we feel their losses in ways that often surprise us. For some of us we find that tears readily spring to our eyes as we watch these Games. The athletes don’t hide their emotions from us and we can’t help but love them for it. It’s precisely because they care so much that we love them. My three-year-old was so concerned about the Japanese players that she came up with ways she could cheer them up. The magic of the Olympics is that they make us fall in love with sports, with athletes, and with trying so hard that you can’t help but weep when it’s over, win or lose.
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