The U.S. women's 'heartbreaking' World Cup collapse

Team USA dominated soccer's World Cup final, but not enough to beat a resilient Japan. Just how bad was this disappointing loss?

Abby Wambach of the U.S. women's soccer team after their World Cup loss to Japan: The American squad's dramatic tournament run ended in heartbreak Sunday.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)

The video: After improbably slipping by the Brazilians in the quarterfinals, then trouncing the French, the U.S. women's soccer team suffered a "heartbreaking" loss in the World Cup final to a weaker-looking Japanese squad on Sunday. The Americans dominated for most of the game, but missed several close shots, and made clumsy defensive errors that allowed Japan to score. After overtime ended in a 2-2 tie, Japan beat the U.S. in penalty shots — its first-ever win against the U.S. (Watch the highlights below.) The Japanese players dedicated their first women's World Cup to their disaster-ravaged nation. "If any other country was to win this, then I'm really happy and proud for Japan," said U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd.

The reaction: "Given everything that Japan has been through," it's hard to begrudge them their win in this "enthralling" match, says Jeff Carlisle at ESPN. But this is a game "the U.S. will rue for years to come." If only the Americans had been a tiny bit "more clinical in front of the goal," this nail-biter of a final would have been a "rout." Instead, it was both "thrilling and deeply weird," because Team USA dominated by playing like Japan, and Japan won "by out-USAing America," says Brian Phillips at Slate. And while the loss stings, it might be "the best thing that could happen to American women's soccer." There is no way the U.S. squad could "rival the feel-good story of the Japanese," but the team won America's respect and attention just for being a great team, and "kicking ass, as dramatically and unpredictably as possible." Watch the key moments from Sunday's game:

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