Are You Going To Be Able To Root For The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team In The World Cup Final Against Japan?
If you’ve been following the 2011 women’s World Cup—and cheering on Abby Wambach and the rest of the lovely ladies who’ve helped lead the U.S. squad to the finals courtesy of a miracle win over Brazil on Sunday and an impressive showing over France yesterday—then you already know that you’re going to have quite the decision on your hands on Sunday when the U.S. takes on Japan in the World Cup final.
On paper, the choice is simple. The U.S. team is obviously a great source of pride in America right now when you consider that both the NFL and the NBA are locked out and not much else is going on in the world of sports. So a World Cup victory would do a lot to help boost the spirits of those American sports fans looking for a pick-me-up in the middle of the summer of 2011. The U.S. is also the favorite in the match-up against Japan—a team that just about no one picked to make it this far in the tournament. And with Wambach as well as U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo leading the charge, this U.S. team has earned a place in the hearts of American sports fans just like the men’s squad did last year during its’ World Cup run with their determined and inspired play on the pitch.
However, there’s going to be more at play here than just patriotism on Sunday. Because unlike the matches against Brazil and France, the U.S. is not just playing against a team looking to keep their pride intact. They’re playing against a team that is literally carrying their country through one of its’ toughest times by providing entertainment and giving its’ residents a chance to think about something other than the tragic earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan back in March and has left much of the country reeling.
The stories out of this year’s World Cup in Germany aren’t just about soccer, especially when it comes to the Japanese team. They’re about the hundreds of thousands of displaced people who are using the Japanese team’s World Cup run as a source of inspiration as they try and rebuild everything that was destroyed by the ‘quake. They’re about the men working tirelessly to clean up toxic nuclear sites who are using the World Cup to help them find the energy to finish their jobs. They’re about a resilient team that’s representing their country well against all odds.
It makes it rather difficult to root against the Japanese team, even if you’re a diehard American soccer fan. Which is why I’m personally hoping that this year’s women’s World Cup final is a doozy. Ideally, I’d like to see each team get a couple of goals and take the game into extra time and, eventually, a shootout where, win or lose, both teams can be proud of all that they’re accomplished during the World Cup. I’d like to see both teams demonstrate sportsmanship during the game and play the World Cup final the way it’s supposed to be played. I’d like to see the U.S. bring home the World Cup—but I wouldn’t be too broken up if Japan managed to eke out a victory.
Bottom line: No one thought the U.S. and Japan would be playing in the World Cup final, so I’d like to see both teams make the most of the opportunity and do whatever it takes to make this game legendary. Millions of people all over the world will be watching, and they’ll all be cheering for one side or another. But here in the U.S., we have the distinct advantage of cheering for both teams to some degree. At the end of this game, there will be no loser—just two teams who fought tirelessly to get here to get a win for their country. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what the World Cup is really all about?
I never thought I’d say this, but I can’t wait for the women’s World Cup final on Sunday. I know it’ll be tough to decide who to root for—but that’s one decision that I’ll gladly accept.