Think soccer is boring? Never much of a soccer fan myself, for the 3rd time in 2 years our women’s Olympic team will have me on the edge of my seat for 2 hours (today).
At 2:45pm eastern time today, the U.S. women will be playing Japan in the gold medal match for women’s soccer. Few things in sports are guaranteed, but I’m confident of one thing: it will be a thrilling match. One year ago, the Japanese women defeated the Americans in the World Cup final, a see-saw game in which the Americans eventually lost after extra time, on penalty kicks (the game tied at 2-2, the Japanese made 3 penalty kicks to the American’s 1. For video highlights, click here). Most of both teams are made up of the same players this year.
If you saw the semi-final match between the U.S. and Canada, you know how wonderful this American team can be to watch. Back and forth went the game, eventually ending in regulation at 3-3. Then, in extra time, with 30 seconds left in extra-time, Alex Morgan used a header to launch a shot just over the Canadian goalie’s outstretched arms to put the Americans in the final. It was jump-up-and-down-in-the-living-room time. (for video highlights, click here).
If you watch today, take note of the athletic ability and conditioning of the women on both teams. They will be on the field for at least 90 minutes, covering a field larger than that for football, almost never stopping from start to finish. You will also see how physical this game has become. Expect to see wrenching player collisions, sliding tackles, injuries, and gravity-defying dives. Also, expect to see 22 players draining every ounce of energy and will they have by the end of the game. Most of all, be prepared to scream if we win, and cry if we lose, because you cannot watch these women play as hard as they do and not get completely caught up in their joy or sorrow in the end.
And for you men who are like I once was, a skeptic of the sport, a warning. Be prepared to fall in love with this American team. No, not that kind of love (my crush on Alex Morgan and Hope Solo notwithstanding). I’m talking about the affection you feel for Eli Manning, or Mariano Rivera, or Michael Phelps. Watch these women play and you will not see them as women playing what was once a man’s sport. You will see them as incredible athletes doing heroic things under extreme physical duress.
2:45pm today. If it’s not on your local NBC or MSNBC channel, you can catch the game streaming live at http://www.nbcolympics.com. Go U.S.A!