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Monday, July 18, 2011
It was a great final and a memorable trip

By Sydney from Seattle

I found the breath to blow my vuvuzela again by using the same strategy to sneak it into a game. My parents surprised me with tickets to the U.S.-Japan final game! They bought them last-minute on eBay because we came to Germany for the World Cup, and we were still nearby in Munich. We just couldn't miss this game. I was super excited and couldn't sleep the night before the game.

At the Frankfurt train station, we stepped out the door of the train and got stampeded by U.S. and Japanese fans. I was speechless, and it made me feel excited and prepared for the game. There was a face-painting station at the train station, but the lines were impressively long, and we had to get to the game, so we didn't wait for that.

The game was sold out, and we saw a lot of U.S., Japanese and German fans heading into the stadium. The German fans looked bummed because they had bought those tickets expecting Germany to be in the final.

Before the game there was a ceremony with kids in colored shirts doing the wave, and flags from every country competing in the World Cup were on the field. U.S., Japan and German flags led the way. We saw the trophy on the side of the field with its personal bodyguards. I wondered whether it might get knocked over during the game because it was so close to the field.

I think every game is exciting, but in this game they saved all the action for the second half. After Alex Morgan scored the first goal, I felt better, but I still wanted two more goals to feel safe. Looking back, our team really needed that third goal.

As the shootout started, I felt pretty confident about our chances after what I'd seen in the Brazil game. It wasn't their shootout day. I haven't seen many shootouts, but I don't think three misses in a row happens often. I couldn't believe it. This felt like a repeat of the U.S.-Brazil game, but the ending didn't go our way.

We cheered for the U.S. the whole game, even by lending Japanese fans our U.S. flags to wave. We made friends with the Japanese fans sitting around us.

You can't always win, but it's still great being the second-best women's team in the world. Congratulations to Japan on a fair win. The referees did a good job for once and were cheered, not booed, at the end of the game.

Marta won an award, and the whole stadium burst into boos. The U.S. and Japanese players also got awards. During the awards ceremony there were shiny soccer disco balls on the field, loud music, fireworks and thousands of gold streamers falling from the ceiling.

I feel encouraged and pumped up for my next big tournament. I had a great trip, seeing some great games, visiting family and testing the pretzels and gelato in every city.

Canada 2015 ... see you there!

July 11: A day I'll never forget

I don't know what was better -- playing pickup soccer on the street with Brandi Chastain or watching the most heart-stopping game of my life!

We started Sunday with my mom forcing me to go sightseeing through Dresden, and we stumbled upon the ESPN truck almost as soon as we started. Brandi Chastain was kicking the ball around with two girls from Florida, Danielle and Reece, so we joined in. It was awesome meeting and talking to Brandi because she's one of my idols.

She decided to start a 2 versus 2 plus 1 game, but she couldn't find cones inside the ESPN truck, so she grabbed four packs of Pringles for goals! She played with us for a long time but then had to go inside for the Australia versus Sweden quarterfinal game. In front of the ESPN truck, some people came up to me and recognized me from this blog!

My brother and I sneaked our vuvuzelas into the USA-Brazil quarterfinal game by wrapping our sweatshirts around them and pretending to swing them. Before the game, we were totally decked out in USA gear and stood in front of the stadium handing out USA tattoos. We ran into Julie Foudy and got a picture with her, too! From our seats we saw her announcing the game, and she wouldn't sit down. I thought that she might have been too nervous to sit down.

The game started with Brazil scoring for the United States almost right away! Later, Marta got fouled in the box by Rachel Buehler, who got a red card. Brazil took the penalty kick, and Hope Solo made the most amazing save. It seemed like the whole stadium cheered until the very unpopular referee called it back for a player running into the box before the shot was taken, then gave Hope a yellow card for arguing. Marta took the redo, and then the game was tied.

In the beginning of overtime, a U.S. defender took her eyes off Marta for just a second and Marta scored, putting Brazil up 2-1. I was really bummed, and I was so mad at Brazil for faking injuries, killing time and being so unsportsmanlike. Toward the end of the game, a Brazilian player (Erika) was carried off on a stretcher, and after a few steps she jumped off the stretcher and ran onto the field and was right away awarded a yellow card!

I used to respect Marta with all her skill, but when I saw her play and scream at her own team, I wasn't impressed. Even Brazil fans seemed to be booing her by the end of the game.

The U.S. team was the opposite. As the game was wrapping up and got down into the final minutes, Abby Wambach and Hope wouldn't let anyone give up, and we could see them pumping up the team. They wouldn't accept a loss!

Megan Rapinoe's cross to Wambach, who headed it in for the tying goal in the 122nd minute, was the most amazing goal I will ever see! The crowd went bonkers, crying, yelling and screaming in disbelief! They proved that you can never give up! It felt like the whole stadium turned to the U.S. side at that point. We didn't care about security and blew our vuvuzelas like mad!

I knew going into penalty kicks that with Hope Solo, we couldn't lose. Before Hope's save (on Brazil's third penalty kick), I turned to my mom and told her Hope would save this one, and I was right! After the game, the team came over to celebrate with the fans. Everyone was shocked and proud of the incredible team! We'll never see a game like that again!

July 7: A dream matchup, inflatable kangaroos & a vuvuzela plan

I can't believe our luck. We bought tickets last August to a random Women's World Cup quarterfinal game and now it happens to be this colossal matchup between the United States and Brazil. I'll get to see my favorite players from each team at the same time -- Heather O'Reilly for the U.S. and Marta from Brazil! Good thing we went shopping for Fourth of July party gear before coming to Germany! We will be decked out!

Another red, white and blue flag captured our attention Wednesday. After going to the Germany-France game with the tame fans, we found a more exciting crowd at the Australia-Norway game in Leverkusen. We purchased an Aussie flag and grouped in with the Australian fans. The game started off with confusion over defending sides -- both teams thought they were starting on the same side!

There were many great shots on goal. After Elise Thorsnes passed Australian goalie Melissa Barbieri and scored for Norway in the 56th minute, I started to get worried. But No. 17, Kyah Simon, raised my hopes in the 57th minute by persisting and scoring right away! She then scored again and sealed the deal in the 87th minute to award Australia a titanic 2-1 win.

There were many more Australian fans than Norwegian fans among the 18,474 people attending the game. Australian fans really did chant, wave flags and held up inflatable kangaroos! By winning this game, Australia also walloped Norway's hopes of making it to the 2012 Olympics, because of European qualifying rules. The Australian players ran over and thanked their fans after this mammoth win! This was also the first time Norway was eliminated this early in the World Cup.

The stadium in Leverkusen was still pretty empty and was smaller than the stadium in Monchengladbach. All these people are missing out on great soccer! I loved how all the fans hopped up like they were synchronized when the ball reached the back of the net. One thing I really didn't like was how so many people went out to smoke at halftime because smoking isn't allowed in the stadium.

After the game, we raced back to Cologne to an American restaurant to watch the USA-Sweden game on a huge projector TV. When we got there, Sweden was already ahead 1-0. We begged the waiter to turn off the music and turn on the sound of the game, because everyone in the restaurant was rooting for the United States. I was of course still rooting for the U.S., but I knew if the American women lost this game, we'd get to see them face Brazil in a quarterfinal match in Dresden.

And yes, we did get our vuvuzela back the other day after the game. Now we're planning our next move to sneak it into the U.S. game. I'm also hoping to run into Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy or Brandi Chastain in Dresden!!

(Shout out to my teacher, Mrs. Romano, and my Banish Boring Words book! Also, good luck to my Crossfire buddies this weekend!)

July 6: Put your hands up and move away from the vuvuzela

Our vuvuzela was at least one of 50 in the vuvuzela jail -- immediately confiscated by stadium security.

Just like Canada and Nigeria, which made quick exits at the Women's World Cup, our vuvuzela was gone, too.

Tuesday, I went to my first World Cup game in Monchengladbach. Germany beat France 4-2, but both teams will advance to the quarterfinals. The game was very intense, full of high energy and aggressive. Five yellow cards and one red card were awarded to players between the 17th and 82nd minutes of the game.

French goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz was ejected with 25 minutes left in the game after tripping German forward Fatmire Bajramaj. I've never seen a goalie get a red card from such a bad foul! It's hard to play on with a substitute goalie, and Germany scored twice after Sapowicz was kicked out. I was impressed by how many of the goals were scored by headers -- four of the six! I'd better work on my heading skills.

The crowd wasn't quite as I expected. The fans were quieter than the Seattle Sounders fans, who are always jumping and chanting. The stadium was sold out at 45,867 fans, but it didn't sound like it. The German fans were sitting down most of the time, waiting for a good play. The first group of people to stand up and cheer other than for a goal did that in the 38th minute!

When I watched the men's World Cup in South Africa on TV last year, I saw many crazy, cheering fans dressed up in weird costumes. I was expecting more from the women's fans in Germany. We saw only three crazy-looking fans, although most people were wearing Germany shirts or jerseys. I'm disappointed that fans don't get as excited about women's soccer compared to men's. I do!

The day after we got to Germany, we were in the little town of Bacharach, which is along the Rhine River about two hours by train from Frankfurt. We must have looked in at least 10 places to find a restaurant that would even turn on the Brazil-Norway game for us. We were desperate! Most people didn't even know what we were talking about.

We finally found a small restaurant that turned it on just for us. That was a very skillful game, a 3-0 Brazil victory. I was very impressed by Marta's play against the defenders with her footwork, swooping tackles and attempts to reach the back of the net.

Off next to Leverkusen to cheer on Australia against Norway on Wednesday! Good luck USA versus Sweden!!

June 29: Her Cup runneth over

Last year, I didn't have a choice. My dad cheered so loud at the TV at 4 a.m. when the German men's national team played its World Cup Games, there was no way I could sleep in.

Our family watched all of the World Cup games on TV live from South Africa. We even got a couple complaints from the neighbors.

Our family will cheer as loud as we want over the next few weeks. Brazil 2014? What real soccer fan can wait that long? We're off to Germany to watch the game that has taken over our lives so much that even our kitten is named FIFA.

I am 10 years old and live near Seattle. This is my first World Cup that I'll get to see in person, and I'm very excited and thankful I have the opportunity to go to Europe with my family. We have many relatives in Germany and I've been there before. This time, it will be crowded with crazy soccer fans cheering on their countries' superstars.

Someday, I hope to be one of them and play in the Women's World Cup. I've played soccer for six years and currently compete for a "premier" team that travels all over Washington and occasionally out of state.

I love soccer for its stiff competition and because I get to play year-round. I play mostly as a midfielder but will play anywhere on the field to help out the team and to just get to play.

For me, soccer is a fun, great way to get active and make friends who share my passion for the sport. I also like how there is only one break a game, so you can just keep playing.

I play soccer as much as I can -- before school, during school and after school. Now that it's summer, I'm outside as much as possible with a ball at my feet.

We leave soon, and I can't wait to see our first game -- Germany versus France -- in Monchengladbach on July 5. The next day, we'll see Australia take on Norway in Leverkusen. Our final game at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup will be a quarterfinal match July 10 in Dresden between the top team from Group D and the No. 2 team from Group C.

Vuvuzelas have been banned at soccer games in Europe, but I still expect to hear the annoying, buzzing sound soon, especially on our train rides between games. I have mine packed.