As I watch a match I am often accompanied by a certain feeling that may be familiar to many football fans, the dull stomach aching sense of foreboding that something is going to happen. Usually this feeling is reserved for important Chelsea, USMNT, or Norn Iron matches, yesterday was the first time I felt this way for a women’s game. That familiar dull ache came with the complete atmosphere that comes with a packed Piper’s Pub, which barely had room to fit all of the supporters that came out to watch the Women’s World Cup Final.
The first half immediately started amidst cheers and the pub singing the national anthem along with the women on the field, but as the game began the nerves began to set in. As the United States rang shots around and on the frame of the Japanese net, the tension grew as did the gasps with every chance that went begging. Standing there in my freshly made Hope Solo t-shirt (pictured right), I felt the United States were destined to break through at some point, but as the whistle blew for halftime there was still no score.
The second half began similar to the first and I began to think this would be the worst sort of game where your team dominate the play, yet have nothing to show for it. I was proven wrong when Alex Morgan latched onto a Megan Rapinoe ball and blasted home the opening goal. The crowded pub went wild and cheers of “USA! USA! USA!” rang throughout, but as the pub settled down, the ladies on the field did as well. Minutes later a botched attempted clearance was hammered home by Aya Miyama, and the bar fell quiet and despite the best efforts from the USWNT the game would head to extra-time.
This atmosphere continued in extra time, but exploded again when Abby Wambach headed home what would surely be the winning goal just before the break in extra time. The mood once again grew tense over the beginning of the second half of extra time as the USA missed a couple opportunites, but Japan continued to put the pressure on. They eventually broke through when Japanese captain Honmare Sawa scored a brilliant backheel goal of a corner kick. Despite being drawn level at this late stage, the USWNT still had opportunities to take the lead before the end of extra-time, but failed to capitalize from a free kick in prime position and were forced to penalties.
After the United States had their first two penalties saved and missed respectively, the pub turned somber as the crowd realized it was watching a losing effort. Despite Hope Solo’s best efforts, the day would belong to Japan, a nation that desperately needed something to cheer about. That familiar feeling in my chest had been justified along with the sense of foreboding, but the day was not a complete loss. The USWNT had fought valiantly and provided another boost that this ever-developing football nation needs.