Wrapping up the Women's World Cup
From Germany's 11-0 rout of Argentina to its 2-0 win over Brazil in the final and everywhere in between, it was a Women's World Cup that will be talked about for many years to come.There was the soap opera conclusion to the title hopes of the United States, the unbelievable goalkeeping blunders, and questionable calls from the referees. Most of all, the 2007 Women's World Cup should be remembered for the sport's biggest stars living up to the hype -- and, in one player's case, exceeding it.
D: Kerstin Steggemann, Germany
D: Faye White, England
D: Cheryl Salisbury, Australia
M: Formiga, Brazil
M: Renate Lingor, Germany
M: Kelly Smith, England
F: Ragnhild Gulbrandsen, Norway
F: Cristiane, Brazil
F: Brigit Prinz, Germany
F: Marta, Brazil
Substitute: Lisa De Vanna, Australia
Coach: Tom Sermanni, Australia
Honorable mention: Canada's Erin McLeod, USA's Abby Wambach and Germany's coach, Silvia Neid. Best Player Marta. She didn't get it done against Germany, but she was the top player in the tournament, no question. For those who had seen little of her since the 2004 Olympics, Marta was even better than advertised. Her performance against the United States is one that will be remembered forever. And the Chinese crowd loved her, chanting her name almost nonstop throughout the final. We're seeing a new era in women's soccer, with "Magic Marta" leading the way. I can't wait until the 2008 Olympics and the 2011 Women's World Cup, and I can't imagine Brazil being without a world title much longer. Best Goal I think we all know what this one is. Marta showing off her outrageous skill. Best Moment Cheryl Salisbury's game-tying goal against Canada in injury time to advance Australia to the quarterfinals. The Matildas fell behind late, but rallied to advance to the quarters. And you won't see a calmer finish than Salisbury's in stoppage time. Biggest Surprise Brazil's 4-0 win over the U.S. in the semifinals. I thought Brazil could beat the U.S., but not in that fashion. It was never close. Biggest Disappointments 1. Hope Solo -- Yes, the U.S. goalkeeper had the right to speak her mind. Yes, she was correct that coach Greg Ryan made the wrong decision in sitting her against Brazil in favor of Briana Scurry. But she still broke an unspoken team rule by criticizing the coach and, while I believe it wasn't her intent, throwing her teammate under the bus. If the team voted to keep her off the bench in the third-place game against Norway, it's their right. They didn't need the cameras finding her after every play Scurry made, good or bad. Solo will learn from this, just as she learned from her tough first games and practices with Team USA, but it's going to take time. 2. Greg Ryan -- And not just for what may be the worst coaching move in sports history. The U.S. coach blew it in the Brazil game, from the goalkeeper change to the substitutions and everywhere in between, but this isn't just about this game. His decision to play matchups against North Korea instead of just letting his team play its game almost gave the Americans an opening-round loss. His substitution patterns in group play and in a 3-0 win over England in the quarterfinals left his team looking fatigued, making the task of chasing Brazil even tougher. 3. Sweden -- Its World Cup was practically over before it started with all the injuries, yet Sweden was leading Nigeria late in their opening-round game. Then came a late mental lapse, and it was a 1-1 draw, leaving the 2003 runners-up with an uphill struggle to qualify for the second round (which they were unable to do). Best Celebration The Australian team piling on Cheryl Salisbury after her game-tying goal -- true joy in the tournament's most exciting moment. Honorable mention goes to England's Kelly Smith kissing the boots. I know coach Hope Powell disapproved of it, but I thought it was fantastic. Best Games Australia-Canada and Australia-Brazil. The Matildas had a knack for making things interesting and creating thrilling finishes. I was always watching whenever Tom Sermanni's crew was on the field. Most Clutch Play German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer's diving save of Rosana's free kick in the 67th minute of the final versus Brazil, just five minutes after stopping a penalty kick from Marta. Great News Just days after U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati depressed us all by expressing concern that the new women's professional league wouldn't be able to afford Marta, there are rumors that AEG is working on bringing her into the league to play for the Los Angeles team. The league needs her. She's a highlight reel waiting to happen every time she steps onto the field and could bring much-needed exposure to the league. More Good News Tonya Antonucci, CEO of the new women's league, has said she hopes to bring Australian coach Tom Sermanni, Lisa De Vanna, Cheryl Salisbury and several other Matildas to the league in 2009. All good ideas. Next to Marta, De Vanna was the most popular international in China, and Sermanni was a solid head coach for the New York Power in the now-defunct WUSA's final year. Jacqueline Purdy is an editor for espnradio.com. She also hosts the ESPN Women's Soccernet podcast on ESPN PodCenter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.