It was an amazing way to end the 4th of July weekend for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, as it obliterated Japan en route to its third World Cup title and first since 1999.
The United States played with tons of swagger and confidence. Most of that was sparked by star midfielder Carli Lloyd, who turned in a hat trick within the first 16 minutes. Even before Japan could make an impact, the United States went up 4-0 and took the game out of reach.
Prior to today the United States’ attacking prowess was completely absent from the team’s performances. Sunday, however, the United States went out firing on all cylinders, giving no chance for Japan to stop them.
In fact, the team had 15 shot attempts on goal, with 7 of them on target. That success speaks to not only playmakers like Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, but also the magic of head coach Jill Ellis. At the midway point of this whole competition, Ellis’ tactics never seemed to work, as the team was severely underperforming. However, after the quarterfinal match against China, the whole team flipped the switch in part because Ellis made a few adjustments regarding Carli Lloyd’s attacking role and the solidification of the midfield.
Due in part to the early barrage of goals scored by the United States, Japan lacked confidence. I noted in our roundtable discussion yesterday that it would be important for Japan to be confident to have any chance of winning, but right from the get go the team seemed emotionally distraught, with no chance of coming back.
The United States also forced Japan to make many mistakes. One of the keys for Japan was to force the United States to make mistakes and then get on the counterattack, but the exact opposite happened. Every time that Japan looked to score, the United States forced the team to make poor passes. That eventually gave the United States a lot of opportunities to run in space and score on the counterattack. Specifically, players like Ali Krieger and Julie Johnston were very solid on defense and in sparking counterattacks.
Another factor that led to a U.S. win was Japan’s inability to spread the ball around and get multiple players involved. Japan functions best when it is playing as a coherent unit that gels together. There was only one moment when Japan was able to do this and that was when Yuki Ogimi scored in the 27th minute. Japan kept most of the possession (52 percent), but when the team was in U.S. territory it made many errant passes.
Lastly, the United States was all over Aya Miyama. The star midfielder was nowhere to be seen, except for when she received her runner-up medal. Miyama was one of the players that could have helped Japan win this game, but she didn’t make any impact.
What this means for the future: This World Cup title may very well further increase the growth of soccer and its popularity in the United States. Many young girls, who must have been watching the team, may look at this victory and think about what it would be like for them to win a World Cup for their country. More fans may also follow soccer games and watch World Cups not hoping for simply appearances in the round of 16, but rather championships and titles. U.S. women’s soccer is back.
This win certainly takes pressure off the team after ending its 16-year span without a title. However, now the expectation is higher. As soccer in the United States continues to become more and more popular, the expectation to win titles will only grow.
In future World Cups, players like Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx might need to make way for other younger players like Kelley O’Hara, Christen Press, Morgan Brian and many others. The success of the team will depend on the younger players and how they perform in place of stalwarts like Wambach and Rampone.
Overall takeaway: Today was a great day for U.S. soccer and its fans. They got to see their team win a World Cup final and do it in an entertaining and emphatic fashion. Carli Lloyd’s aggressive and inspired play was a performance soccer fans will never forget. The future only looks brighter for the team, as there is a lot of promise with a young cast of players. The expectations will increase, but the team should be looking forward to any challenge ahead of them after today. Instead of spending the next four years waiting for another chance to win a World Cup, the ladies can relax and savor this moment. Then it’s back to work.
Contact Aditya Krishnan at [email protected].