Reliving the roller coaster
Don't we all wish we were in Germany, among the face-painted fanatics, waving, cheering and experiencing the 2011 Women's World Cup fanfare firsthand? For those not in Deutschland, espnW will provide the full fan experience. Every Monday and Friday throughout the three-week tournament, The Kick will give you a multimedia overview of the tournament so you can feel like you're a part of history in the making.
For most soccer fans, this weekend was the biggest emotional roller coaster of their soccer fandom career, filled with devastation and elation. Ten hours of quarterfinals play with three matches running into overtime and ending in penalty shootouts. The favorites fell to underdogs and passion overcame reputation.
The biggest uplift in women's soccer
Certainly nobody expected the Americans to prevail after losing Rachel Buehler to a red card, recovering from a saved PK which was retaken and converted by Marta, playing 55 minutes down a player and trailing by one in the first overtime. But then Abby Wambach slammed an equalizer into the back of the net with seconds to spare. Hope Solo came through big in the shootout, making a tremendous save (her second on the night) that would inevitably also save her team from elimination.
Recognized as a game of epic proportions -- in men's or women's sports anywhere in the world -- the match told a thrilling tale of an underdog relentlessly fighting until the final whistle. It couldn't have been scripted any better.
@RobertDiFabio: Congrats #USWNT. Riveting game of #WWC football. Controversy, tension, drama, theatrics & goals galore. Superb endorsement for women's game.
@JoshElliottABC: To feel the unfettered, unapologetically jingoistic joy of rooting for one's country, against the odds, no less. #whysoccerisgreat
@jessmendoza: So proud to be an American. And a female athlete. What a soccer game. Dog piled at our @profastpitch gm! #bestcomebackever #gousa #wwc2011
@emmahayes1 (former Chicago Red Stars head coach): This is why I love the USA. After living there for ten years I know why they separate themselves. They never die. It's contagious
@miketirico: From all the dads w soccer playing daughters. Thanks #USWNT. #funtobeamericaninUK
@PcarrESPN: How fascinating that the American spirit can be expressed so clearly in what is often decried as the most un-American of sports.
Can't get enough of the U.S. women's national team? Check out their player profiles to learn more.
Marta, Marta, Marta
The five-time FIFA Player of the Year scored both of her team's goals in Sunday's matchup with the United States, but the crowd was not pleased with the one-time fan favorite. The stadium booed Marta every time she touched the ball, feeling betrayed by her unsportsmanlike behavior on the pitch. Often referred to as the bridesmaids and never the bride, the Brazilians pulled all the stops to recover a victory but they left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth.
A true Cinderella story"Any time you mix patriotism and miraculous comebacks and appealing athletes who play for the purity of the sport -- and the winning, of course, always the winning -- well, you've got something that could blow up." -- Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl.
Just as the seconds began to wane and the fans bowed their heads in disbelief, declaring, "USA left it all on the field -- it was an unfortunate go of it," Megan Rapinoe calmly trotted down the left wing and struck a long ball to the best header in the women's game, for Wambach to equalize and make us appreciate the heart and soul of this American side. Wambach's score was the latest goal in the tournament's history, putting her team through to the semis in an unprecedented six WWC editions, that's every single one in existence.
"That's a perfect example of what this country is about. What the history of this team has always meant. Never give up. We never gave up. Brazil is a great team. I don't really have many words for this. It's unbelievable," said Wambach, like a true champion.
July 10th = Women's soccer dayTwelve years ago Sunday, the United States played in its only other WWC shootout and won the 1999 Women's World Cup, an event most remembered for Brandi Chastain's iconic sports bra celebration. What a way to commemorate the biggest moment in women's soccer history with, what some may say, is an even bigger moment.
"July 10 Will Be Go Down As US Women's Soccer History Day." -- Brandi Chastain. For more of her thoughts, visit her website.
Catch "Summer of '99" on "SportsCenter" to hear what the veterans, like Briana Scurry, Kristine Lilly and Brandi Chastain, have to say 12 years after winning the 1999 Women's World Cup in Pasadena, Calif.
@CarliLloyd: We just made history. Still can't believe that game. Amazing but we still have unfinished business to take care. We r goin to get it done!
Continued in another tweet: Just hard being compared to the 99 team all the time. We r writing our own story!
Wambach and defender Heather Mitts were both on the 1998 national championship team at the University of Florida and both would be proud the Gator Chomp made live TV, as Mitts celebrated the team's victory with a few chomps toward the crowd.
Wambach and Sinclair
Speaking of crowd favorites, two of the best strikers in the world, American Wambach and Canadian Christine Sinclair, come together in a game of similarities and differences, revealing that they share more than just their love for hitting the back netting. Although archival footage, it is still pretty cool to see big "rivals" respect one another off the pitch.
The biggest upset in women's soccer
No one expected host Germany to fall so handily to Japan in the semifinals. Nobody expected France to make its first semifinals appearance by topping hopeful England, or Australia to offer so many scoring opportunities for the Swedes to finish.
The odds and hype were in Germany's favor as the two-time defending champions and second-ranked team in the world. But it appeared the Birgit Prinz controversy, Kim Kulig's injury and the pressure of being the host nation was too much for the German side to handle, especially against such an eager, capable and composed Japanese one.
The general response was not cheers of excitement or cries of disappointment, but complete and utter silence, and the occasional "WOW, just WOW." Football fans from around the globe were left speechless.
Since UEFA does not fund its own qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games, the Women's World Cup determines which European countries will compete in the 2012 Olympics in London. Because of Germany's early exit and Sweden's victory over Australia, Germany will not compete in next summer's competition.
Gutted, absolutely gutted
All bets were on England but France managed to dominate run of play, although not enough to avoid the dreaded overtime. Though plagued with fatigue and injury, England seemed like the favorite going into the shootout. England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley came up big making a vital save, but captain Faye White was unable to convert her PK to put her country through to the semis. Although devastating, the English side banded together through its tough moment.
@AlexScott2: I am gutted to be leaving Germany and going Home!! A BIG THANK YOU to all the support shown. This world cup has been truly special!! x
@JillScott12: Thanku 4 all the support and msgs during this World Cup!Girls r gutted we never progressed but we will stay positive!
@Karenjcarney: can honestly say i have had a blast with the whole team, we stuck together from start to finish, gutted we are going home, but proud
@faye_white: Team showed great character & spirit not to give up.We didn't play our best against a good French team but am honoured 2 b part of this team
Not only a member of the Matildas' World Cup squad, 20-year-old Australia defender Ellyse Perry competed in the Cricket World Cup, becoming the first Australian woman to represent her country in two senior events in two different sports. She was also the first woman to play in the Men's Sydney Grade Competition, a 108-year-old event. Perry scored Australia's lone goal in the quarters against Sweden, but it was not enough to carry her team through to the next round of play.
The next big thing
A fairly unknown player prior to her appearance in the 2011 Women's World Cup, Louisa Necib, also known as Zidanette, came out of the woodwork to shock the world with her talent. She has fallen into the limelight and she won't be stepping out anytime soon.
The French wave
The French add a new twist to the Mexican wave. While waiting for the rest of the team and staff to arrive on the bus, players took turns crowd surfing through the aisle, riding the excitement from their Women's World Cup success.
Josefine Oqvist traded her jersey, and a kiss, with a fan after the Korea DPR match in group play. The Swedish are really friendly, and I'm sure that fan won't be washing that anytime soon.
Face paint, flags and fansDespite Germany's early exit, the German fans still enjoyed good football and dressed for matches in spirited costume.