FRANKFURT, Germany – Hope Solo believes her refusal to resort to dirty tricks may have cost the United States the Women's World Cup.
The USA goalkeeper shunned the underhanded but commonly used soccer trick of exaggerating an injury during the final minutes of Sunday's dramatic loss to Japan, instead choosing to play on until the pain become too much to bear.
Four years ago, Solo believed she would have been the difference in the team's World Cup chances if she had not been benched for the semifinal. This time around she insisted that she, or at least her conscience, might be to blame for a stunning upset defeat.
[Photos: More images of U.S. goalie Hope Solo]
Solo injured her knee in a collision with Japan's Yukari Kinga early in the second period of extra-time with the Americans leading by a goal.
She opted not to receive treatment at the time, in stark contrast to the often-theatrical antics many players choose to adopt in such situations. During the USA's thrilling quarterfinal victory over Brazil, the Brazilian players continually feigned injury while leading late in the game in an attempt to kill clock.
But Solo's knee complaint worsened, and by the time there were only four minutes of extra time left she had no option but to call for the trainer and play was halted while she was treated on the field.
The break gave Japan time to compose its thoughts prior to a corner kick which immediately followed. From a corner, captain Homare Sawa produced one of the goals of the tournament, a superb flick with the outside of her right foot that flew past Solo and into the net.
"Part of me wishes I had never gone down to keep the team's confidence up," Solo said. "There was an option earlier on of going down and getting the trainer on and doing the antics. I wanted to get up, I didn't want to win that way. But I wonder now if I did the right thing."
Solo was one of the stars of the tournament as her goalkeeping ability, looks and no-nonsense attitude won over an army of new fans. She had little to do for long stretches during the final with the USA dominating most of the game only to be sunk when Japan equalized late in regulation time, again toward the end of extra-time, and then prevailed on penalties.
The 29-year-old saved from Yuki Nagasato in the shootout, but could not prevent Aya Miyama, Mizuho Sakaguchi and Saki Kumagai from converting the kicks that gave Japan the trophy for the first time.
Solo admitted that she felt stunned by the turnaround which denied the USA its first World Cup since 1999.
"I really felt like it was our tournament to win," she said. "It was a weird feeling tonight. It was just a strange game and it feels strange now to be here and getting ready to leave Germany – and we didn't win the World Cup."
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