Whether or not you're a sports fan; whether or not you like soccer, if you have a heartbeat and/or any sort of national pride, you probably know that the U.S. women are vying for the FIFA World Cup championship this weekend.
America's road to the final match wasn't easy. In fact it's a bit of a Cinderella story. National team forward Abby Wambach headed in a last-second goal against Brazil in the Women's World Cup quarterfinals in Germany to set the team up for penalty kicks and ultimate victory. They moved onto the semis against France and are going to be playing against Japan this Sunday for the title.
Wambach and her teammates showed such heart and hustle, such grit and determination, such athleticism and passion that they've wowed a whole new generation of women' soccer fans. For those of us that remember, or were in attendance at, the 1999 Women's World Cup title game - U.S vs China in the Rose Bowl - it's great to see the current women's national team get such deserved recognition.
It's not just soccer fans who are paying attention. Political commentator Rachel Maddow of MSNBC had this to say about the semi-final game between the US and France:
This year, in a nation that does not care about the game of soccer; this year in a nation still trying to convince itself it doesn't care about women's sports of any kind; this year the amazing spectacle that is the US World Cup team made bleak Wednesday a great sports day after all.
After the U.S. team beat Brazil on Sunday, today we had to get through France...on the slowest day of every sports year, that's when the Best New Thing In The World happens...Abby Wambach again, who had the beautiful goal on Sunday, she does it again.
Maddow was commenting on why the US women's national team was the Best New Thing In The World on Wednesday, which she described as "the sleepiest sports day of the year...so vacant that ESPN puts on its made-up awards show on this day, modern life's surest sign of a vacant vapid lack of consequence."
After defeating France 3-1 and clinching the team's spot in the final game, Coach Pia Sundhage pointed to her players' "heart" as the decisive factor in the victory. Heart, spirit and a heroic team effort.
So whether you know the difference between a sweeper or a striker, a penalty from a post or a keeper from Cabbage Patch kid, you'll want to tune in on Sunday for the championship game between the U.S. and Japan. Gather your friends. Stomp your feet. Throw a viewing party.
Scheduled to start at 8:45 p.m. in Frankfurt, the World Cup will go live locally at 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m PT Sunday on ESPN.
For those in the Bay Area - the Bay Area Women's Sports Initiative (BAWSI) is holding a viewing party. Game coverage begins at 11:00 am at Neto's Market & Grill: 1313 Franklin St, Santa Clara, CA 95050. All are welcome.
Anyone in New York City can join other fans in Times Square where the game will be broadcast on giant screens.
Even if you're a rookie, you can probably figure out what GOOAAL means. But if you want to really be in the know, here are some other terms you should understand when watching Sunday's game.
Pitch: A British term for the playing field.
Cap: a recognition earned by a player for each appearance in an international game for his country (They used to get an actual cap for each game).
Taking a Dive or Flopping: Faking illegal contact to draw a penalty.
Corner Kick: a type of restart where the ball is kicked from the corner arc in an attempt to score; awarded to an attacking team when the ball crosses the goal line last touched by a defender.
Red Card: a card that a referee holds up to signal violent behavior or multiple rule infractions and a player's removal from the game; the player's team must then play the rest of the game down a player.
Yellow Card: (two yellow cards equal a red card)
Golden Boot: Trophy awarded to the tournament’s top scorer.
Golden Ball: Trophy given to the World Cup’s top player.
Fun FIFA Fact
Unlike the men's Cup (of which there is only one), the winning women’s team gets to keep its trophy. The original stays with FIFA, but a new replica is created for every tournament.
To read comprehensive coverage of the Women's World Cup event from start to finish, read the WTS story thread.
Credit Image: Mika Volkman/DPA/ZumaPRESS.com
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