Friday, July 3, 2015

Vinko Bogataj, Forever Man

At 5:00 EDT on Sunday, the Women's National Team of the United States shall play the Women's National Team of Japan, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the Final of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.  This Sunday's match is, of course, a rematch of the 2011 World Cup Final in which Japan defeated the United States in a penalty kick shootout, a method for resolving the outcome of an evenly contested sporting event that has always struck me as asinine (even when the team for which I am cheering triumphs).  

The United States vanquished the world's top-ranked team, Germany, in its semi-final match on Tuesday night.  The 2-0 victory marked the fifth consecutive game in which the United States posted a "clean sheet", which is soccer-speak for "a shutout".  Through three games in Group play, its Round of Sixteen match against Colombia, its quarter-final match against China, and Tuesday's semi-final match against Germany, the USWNT has allowed a single goal.  

Should the American side win the World Cup on Sunday and do so while posting its sixth consecutive clean sheet, then Lisa De Vanna may very well end up being the answer to a trivia question:  Who was the only opponent to score a goal against the USWNT during the 2015 World Cup?  De Vanna, captain of the Australian team, scored in the twenty-seventh minute of the Cup opener, which goal tied the score.  Since then, the ball has not found its way into the American net - not even off of a penalty kick.    

I shall watch the game on Sunday evening and shall root enthusiastically for the USWNT.  And while I hope that the 2015 World Cup Final is not decided by penalty kicks as the 2011 World Cup Final was decided, I hope that its outcome is not decided in a way similar to the Japan vs. England semi-final was, which game was played on Wednesday night in Edmonton.  With approximately forty seconds remaining in the match and two fifteen-minute overtime halves beckoning, Laura Bassett of England - while attempting to break up a pass into the penalty box - inadvertently redirected the ball into her own team's net.   It was one of the most heartbreaking ends to a sporting event I have ever seen - and Kara and I were in Giants Stadium on a cold, rainy Sunday a lifetime ago and watched the Giants fumble away a victory to the Eagles in that game's final seconds. 

Victory's thrill.  Defeat's agony.  Flip sides of the same coin.  


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