The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup was the best-ever by numerous measurements: fan support, atmosphere, media attention, TV ratings and of course the quality of play on the field. Germany put on a fantastic event in world class stadiums that showcased competitive, entertaining matches, which impressed fans around the globe.
The USA rebounded from a loss to Sweden in its final game of the opening round to defeat Brazil in an epic quarterfinal match that some say was the most exciting match in the history of the Women’s World Cup. The USA played more than an hour with just 10 players, equalized in the 122nd minute of overtime on Abby Wambach’s now famous header off a Megan Rapinoe cross before winning the ensuing penalty kick shootout.
“I launched it with all my might. There wasn’t a lot of technique behind it; I just put all I had into that cross,” said Rapinoe. “I didn’t see Abby when I first kicked it. I just knew she was going to be there. She’s always in the box.
“It happened so quickly and it was in the back of the net. I was running over there, but then I was so far away, that I stopped halfway because I just had to start celebrating. I was 50 yards away by the time she got all the way to the corner. So I had to stop and do these crazy fist pumps. I was yelling so loud and aggressively that I literally got light-headed. Then I ran over to Abby and nearly knocked her over because I jumped on her without decelerating at all. It was just one of those amazing sports moments. I don’t think I’ll have another moment like that in my career.”
Wambach’s equalizer still stands as the latest recorded goal in Women’s World Cup history.
“I just started making a run and put my hand up. [Rapinoe] just put this ball literally on my head. It took forever for the ball to get from her to me,” said Wambach. ‘Get over the defender’s head, get over the goalkeeper’s hands;’ that’s what I was thinking. It did and I was wide open and then I was thinking, ‘don’t miss this.’ It was close. Anything at that moment is possible. I didn’t see it hit the back of the net, but I knew it went in when I heard the crowd.”
The USA went on to defeat France 3-1 in a hard-fought semifinal and agonizingly fell to Japan in a shootout in the World Cup Final. Yet, the impact the tournament had on fans in the USA and around the world continues to produce positive effects on the game’s development in the lead up to the 2015 tournament in Canada.