The Americans captured the 2012 FIFA U-20 World Cup on Saturday in Tokyo, defeating Germany 1-0 in the final.
Kealia Ohai scored in the 44th minute to give the U.S. a lead it would defend until the final whistle. The U.S. captured its third title at the U-20 level, adding the trophy to the ones it won in 2008 and 2002 (that tournament was a U-19 competition). In doing so, it displayed characteristics that are familiar to those who follow the senior U.S. Women’s National Team: a unified team spirit and a “never-say-die” attitude.
Germany, a power in the men’s and women’s game, was favored to win the contest. It looked like it was cruising to a successful defense of its title, having won all five games at the tournament without conceding a single goal. It also beat the U.S. 3-0 in a group stage game on August 27.
Ohai’s goal ended the Germans’ shutout streak at 610 minutes and dented their sense of superiority. Golden Ball winner Dzsenifer Marozsan led a German attack which took 19 shots, but neither she nor her teammates could tie the score.
U.S. head coach Steve Swanson told U.S. Soccer that his team won because it raised its level when facing its stiffest test.
“The thing you have to understand about American teams and American players is there’s nothing better for our players than to come up with a challenge,” he said. “We were beaten in that first game against Germany and I think our players had it in their minds to get after it this game. We knew that we played well against Germany but that the result didn’t go like we wanted. I think there were a lot of positives to be taken from that first game Germany game and to be able to play them again to have the mentality our players had made a big difference.”
The senior U.S. Women’s National Team is set for a course change, as head coach Pia Sundhage will step down later this month. Her successor will inherit a championship-caliber team, which has a future that is every bit as bright as its present. Current heroes like Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe must sustain their peak performance level, as the next wave of stars will be pushing them for spots on the national team in the very near future.