Home / Dave Brockington / Japan 2 – 2 USA (aet; Japan wins 3-1 on penalties)

Japan 2 – 2 USA (aet; Japan wins 3-1 on penalties)


And if this is a spoiler for you, cope.

During the match (which my wife insisted we watch in a pub, and being the good doting husband, I dutifully agreed) I was exchanging texts with an English mate of mine back in Plymouth (who flew out for the nuptials a couple of weeks ago), and at the end of the match he said this:

“Commiserations to you both.  Now you truly understand the horror of being English following England in assorted epic failures . . . “

To which I replied:

“But unlike England, we should have won this thing.”

And we should have.  Going into this match, I anticipated lengthy spells of Japanese possession, and I figured the end possession rate would be 55 to 60% Japan.  They’re a possession side, and the evidence offered thus far at this tournament, we’re not.  Yet, I believe the final stat on possession was 50 / 50.  And we dominated.  Starting Rapinoe on the left wing was ideal, as I suggested in my post following the France match.  Alex Morgan didn’t start, and even though Morgan was probably our best player when she did come on as a sub to begin the second half, Cheney looked fine in the forward role today.  To Morgan’s credit, when she came on, I told my wife that she’s great: pace to burn and a deft touch.  She demonstrated both on her opening goal (which of course was supplied by a sublime Rapinoe through ball).

Everybody who watched the match will know our failures, so apologies in advance if I’m not adding anything new here.  We didn’t convert our plentiful chances, especially in the first thirty minutes.  I do think the team were under a tactical instruction to challenge the Japanese keeper from a distance, but that obviously didn’t work: it’s difficult to challenge the keeper when the shots are not on target.  While there were a few shots that were on target (hitting the post and the cross bar is just bad luck), the Japanese keeper, when actually challenged, did make two incredible saves (one in normal play, one during the cursed penalty shootout).  She’d be my “man of the match” so to speak.

The second failure was the first Japanese goal.  It was a textbook error: never, ever, ever pass the ball, in defence, in your own box, in front of the goal mouth.  Buehler did, and we all saw the result.  It’s one of the first things anybody is taught in playing this sport.  She was on the ground, her options were limited, but she could have poked it forward, not across.  Avoiding that move should be part of the DNA of a soccer player, and I’m certain she knows this.

In the end, we dominated play, and lost.  Soccer is like that, as the French (and Brazilians before them) well understand in this tournament.  For a neutral, it was a wonderful match to watch.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t a neutral today.  I’ll leave it to my mate Rich to have the last word on this via text (he was quite possibly the lone English person pulling for the USA today):

“Oh well, it’s raised the profile of the women’s game.  No consolation, I know, though.”

And to that, it did.

UPDATE: Kara McDermott has just posted her analysis over at Prost Amerika Soccer.  McDermott’s writing on this tournament has been solid and insightful; if you’re interested you should check their archives.

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  • Walter the Penniless

    Morgan does look like she may be able to eventually take over from Wambach as our next great striker (though they are different types of players).

  • Jim Lynch

    Not being a soccer fan, I really didn’t have a dog in this fight. Still, I am an American, and wished the USA team all the best. But after everything Japan has endured during the past few months, I can’t help but feel good for them.

    Then again, their navy did attack Pearl Harbor…

  • Mrs Tilton

    First: well done Japan. In soccer it is a great compliment to call a player a “terrier”, and Japan is a side full of them. No great superstar other than maybe Sawa, but every one of them hunkered down, yapping and biting and keeping at it without respite until the end, and in the end that was enough.

    Second: yes, this will have helped the women’s game tremendously. The Waldstadion was hopelessly sold out; every pub with a video link was packed. The best of the tournament was not “good, for women’s football”, it was great football, full stop.

    This is actually more important here than in the USA, where soccer was a small and exotic enough sport, and for long enough, that there was never any reason the women’s game could not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the men’s once the sport began to develop. It is precisely where the 11-man (emm, 11-person) code has always been strongest that the profile of the women’s game needs raised. I live in a city that boasts a football club whose record of successes is so spectacular as to be almost offensive, almost comical; yet most football fans here don’t even know it. (Incidentally, Kumagai Saki, who sent the USA home without a cup tonight, now plays for them.)

  • Bill Murray

    I think the primarily problem on the first Japanese goal was the poor clearing ball from Rampone, followed by Buehler’s slip. The US had 24 shots but only 5 on goal. I think the US probably was told to take some outside looks, but several times in the first half Lloyd and Rapinoe took poor shots when they had better options

    • Dave Brockington

      Yes, they did take poor shots when other options were evident, and that was maddening. I do believe it was a tactical instruction. I get it, but in this case it didn’t work.

      • elm

        Lloyd in particular was maddening. It seemed that whenever she got the ball in the attacking third, she would hold it or dribble with it until she took a weak or poorly aimed shot or was dispossessed of it. It never seemed like she was even looking around to see if she could pass it. She made some great moves to get around some players, but then couldn’t finish it herself and wouldn’t let someone else finish it for her.

  • jeer9

    If you watch a lot of sports, the ending was heartbreaking, if predictable. Dominant team squanders numerous scoring opportunities. Scrappy team refuses to buckle. Breaks finally go their way at the conclusion. An exciting game. I feel bad for Wambach if it is her last grasp at the ring. On the other hand, Japan certainly needs a bit of inspiration these days. Good for them.

    • Dave Brockington

      I had a sense it would turn out that way the entire time, Japan deserved it — they beat not only the USA but Germany en route to the title. And yes, my one regret is that Wambach didn’t get her world cup victory. She did everything she could. She won’t be at the next one, but there are the Olympics in a year’s time.

  • Tybalt

    I thought the game was brilliantly played with the ball; Japan’s women play the ball on the floor as well as anyone, of any gender, anywhere. Hell, they play the angles-and-running ball on the floor game as well as Barcelona. For me, a coach who has been taught (and tries to teach) a school of possession soccer that is sometimes derided as extreme, Japan’s ability to move the ball against a bigger and (mostly) faster team, simply by using endless three-on-threes and two-on-twos and angled, rolled passes was beautiful.

    And the US had great, slashing build-up play and great heart and physicality. Both teams looked great on the ball.

    But they were both *allowed* to look great on the ball. Both sides (the US mostly in the second half) simply surrendered far too much space and time. The lack of a pressing game made it look very pretty. I think the US was understandably worried about their shaky back four, and didn’t want to concede on the break, but they’d have had an easier time of it in the second half if they’d just got stuck in when defending, and forced quicker play.

    • Kurzleg

      I don’t watch much “football” and so don’t have much with which to compare them, but I too was impressed with Japan’s ball movement and accuracy. That goes especially for the “angles-and-running” aspect. At first I just thought it was poor positional defense by the US, but Japan continued to get behind US defenders with the ball on nice passes from the middle that I realized it was Japan’s superior skill.

  • I wish FIFA would figure out a better way to break ties, though. Deciding a game of this magnitude on PKs is like Game 7 of the World Series tied after nine innings and going to a home run derby to determine the winner.

    • pete

      This is true. In the good old days they had a rematch three or four days later. But the world won’t allow that anymore, and the bonus schadenfreude sort of makes up for it unless you’re on the wrong end. It really is very high drama.

    • Furious Jorge

      I’ve always felt that changing the rules of the game in order to wrap things up is a copout. This is why I hate PKs, college football overtime, or the shootout in the NHL (which is especially egregious to my mind because when the games are actually important – the playoffs – they just keep playing overtime after overtime until someone wins).

      Honestly, I don’t know why they can’t just give each team a few more substitutions after 120 minutes and keep going. Yes, fatigue will set in, but that could end up leading to the goal that ends the game.

      • SP

        The solution is to go to golden goal, which for some reason they had in 2003 but no other tournament if I recall correctly.

  • cpinva

    i didn’t get to watch a lot of the game, but both teams left everything on the field. you can’t really ask much more than that. there are always going to be mistakes, especially in such a high stress event, but that’s what makes it exciting.

    both teams and coaches deserve all the praise and honors they get, a hard (but cleanly) fought contest, between two teams who respect each other, but are equally unafraid to challenge each other.

    good on the japanese ladies, well played!

  • BKN in Canadia

    1. Generally, from what I saw, a very clean game. A credit to the game.

    2. Japanese breakaway at about the 60th minute was NOT offside.

    3. Buehler’s defensive tap back across face of goal was shocking–even my 10 year old knows never to do that.

  • Stag Party Palin

    And if this is a spoiler for you, cope.

    Dave Brockington writes a Murder Mystery. The title: “The Son-in-Law Did It Because He Was In Love With His Stepmother And Needed Money To Run Away To Mexico With Her.” His agent copes with it by feeding Dave into a woodchipper.

    It seems to me that on the first goal the defense and the goalkeeper didn’t look like they had played together for more than a week. Why didn’t Solo throw herself on the ball as if it were a grenade? It turned into one, after all. Also, the otherwise admirable Rapinhoe collided with (Boxx?) in front of the goal late in the game and got a WTF look from Boxx. In short, defensive teamwork went walkabout way too often.

    • Stag Party Palin

      oops – I see McDermott used the grenade metaphor already. I didn’t know – honest!

  • Leeds man

    She was on the ground, her options were limited, but she could have poked it forward, not across.

    That’s too hard on Buehler. She wasn’t on the ground when she kicked it, she was going down. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to decide where to kick a ball while you’re falling, but it’s not easy, if even possible. Options were not limited, they were zero. Get it away from immediate danger, which was the Japanese attacker behind her. If the ball hadn’t struck her partner, it was probably clear.

    • Leeds man

      Actually, scratch that. I was going by my memory, which ain’t what it used to be. Just saw the highlight video. She certainly had time to put it out for a corner.

  • Michael Drew

    Sorry, but the shame of this match is being understated almost farcically everywhere that I am seeing commentary. Up a goal at both 80′ AND 115′? And you lose in kicks. This should not happen.

  • blowback

    “But unlike England, we should have won this thing.”

    Dave, Dave, Dave, that is the whole point. England should win as we wrote the rule book for every major sport.

  • Bart

    My first thought after the game was the red card that prevented Morgan from scoring. It was like the “good penalty” in hockey where a man is taken down during a break-away and awarded a penalty shot.

    Japan were good at holding the ball all right, but mainly in their own end; hence the whistles.

  • skidmarx

    Al least the penalty taking was better than that of the Brazilian men against Paraguay.

  • CK Dexter Haven

    This is an application of Leo’s Law.

    Leo’s Law – If you almost make your shots, you almost win your games.

  • Kurzleg

    I thought it was curious that Rapinoe was substituted. I’m sure she was fatigued, but she was probably the best player the US had on the field. Certainly, she was the most active. I didn’t notice Heath at all after she came in except when she missed her penalty kick.

    On both Japanese goals it seemed as if the US players panicked. I never noticed that from the Japanese when the US had the ball near the goal.

    • SP

      I noticed Heath right after she came in, her first two touches were both awful- ran right into the defense and gave up the ball. Poor substitution, especially since Rapinoe is good on PKs.

      • Kurzleg

        LOL – well, I guess I meant I didn’t notice any positive contributions.

    • Bill Murray

      Rapinoe was completely out of gas. Just before she was substituted, she tried to run onto a ball and looked like she was carrying a 200 pound plow

  • America lost to a better team, is all. As usual, the USA were sloppy in the first thirty minutes, lackluster and almost expecting magic to happen.

    When they took a lead, their defense, which admittedly had been chasing down deep penetrations all game, suddenly let their guard down, again, expecting magic.

    Going into extra time, the Americans looked as if they should have been the aggressive, stronger team but Japan held firm and Hope Solo was not impregnable.

    For 2015, I hope whomever is coaching the team goes back to fundamentals like possession, lead passes and working the ball around the box. Waumbach has an amazing advantage over nearly the entire competition, but you can’t expect her to score at will. They need a better ground game.

    • Kurzleg

      Hope Solo played reasonably well, but the Japanese goalie is clearly better. Still, no one could have stopped the goals Japan scored. The US defense choked big time.

      • Bill Murray

        that’s why the Japanese federation has been going to the volleyball and basketball federations to get a new keeper

      • I didn’t say and did not mean to imply Solo had a bad game, altho you could make the case she should have had one of the shootout goals handled, but she had just been treated for a knee injury, but that she wasn’t magical, as she had been in other games.

        • Bill Murray

          it was Kurzleg to whom I was responding about the GK. I personally don’t think Japan was the better team, though.

          I don’t think the US women have ever played the possession game consistently

        • Kurzleg

          That knee injury looked pretty bad. She hurt it when she collided with another US player (not sure who) on the ball that Rampone cleared just before the 2nd Japanese goal. So I cut her some slack. Still, I thought the Japanese goalkeeper made some pretty nice saves, especially the ones in the shootout.

  • Boudleaux

    Another fundamental mistake I saw over and over: FOLLOW THE SHOT. Girls standing around outside the box when a shot is moving towards the goal.

    • dave3544


      • Boudleaux

        Yes. Women would know to follow the shot.

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