U.S. Women Right Where They Thought They Would Be In World Cup Final

July 16, 2011

Anyone who is surprised that the U.S. women’s soccer team is in the World Cup Finals is most certainly not on the team. Anyone who is also surprised that the majority of the world is rooting for the team the United States will play on Sunday is most certainly not on the team either, and may have been living under a rock since March.

To the women on the United States national team, this journey has been the plan all along. Sure, maybe surviving by the skin of their teeth against Brazil was a cute little revision to the script, as every team that fulfills expectations needs a close encounter with failure. Maybe even that was planned, though, as the United States had to lose for the first time ever in group play to draw Brazil in the quarterfinals.

Regardless, here they are, the number one team in the world playing for the trophy given to the best women’s soccer team on the globe. That accomplishment is huge in itself, considering that the majority of the pressure on this team is created internally. It isn’t often during the past month that someone has said “well, they’re doing well, but they should be. They’re the number one team in the world.” Chances are, most Americans may not even know that the U.S. squad is ranked number one.

This isn’t a sport where the public piles on an unbearable amount of pressure, either. Women’s soccer increased in popularity after the success of the 1999 U.S. team, but part of that popularity spike was due to the fact that the tournament was held in the United States. It’s still soccer, and as the men’s national team can attest to, expectations from the public are still modest at best.

That does not take away from the accomplishments of this team, however. Self-imposed pressure is often times the most difficult kind of pressure to deal with. In addition to the pressure they have put on themselves to win, the American women will have to deal with something that many other U.S. teams have faced in global competitions: everyone but those from their home country rooting against them.

The U.S. women aren’t unlikable to the rest of the world. Rather, Japan’s national team has captured the hearts of everyone not in the United States. It’s hard to say that country’s national soccer team is playing for something bigger than themselves, as every national team is technically playing for their country. However, it’s a bit different for Japan, who represent a bright spot for a country that has experienced very few of them since the devastating earthquake in March.

Japan is going to be an extremely tough opponent for the United States, and not just because they have much more to play for then themselves. As U.S. goalie Hope Solo smartly pointed out on Pardon The Interruption on Friday, the United States have already beaten Japan three times in the past few months. “The odds are, that a team that good, on any given day can beat the other opponent,” Solo says.

Luckily for Solo, Abby Wambach, and the rest of the United States team, this added pressure should seem miniscule compared to the pressure that they put on themselves before this tournament began. They know they’re the number one team in the world, and they knew that the target on their backs is as big as anyone’s. They are their own biggest critic, and anything less than a chance to play for the title would have meant disappointing themselves more than anyone else.

As far as they’re concerned, they’re right where they thought they would be.

– K. Becks

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