Amy LePeilbet Exclusive Interview: Pride And Disappointment Of World Cup Final Defeat

The U.S. lost the World Cup Final to Japan in penalty kicks after twice giving up leads.

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Amy LePeilbet Exclusive Interview: Shares Pride And Disappointment Of World Cup Final Defeat

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team captured the hearts of the American sporting public with their fantastic run through the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany. But, of course, this team and these athletes didn't just appear from scratch. They've been playing the beautiful game for a long time and that includes former ASU Sun Devil star defender Amy LePeilbet who honed her craft in Tempe from 2003-05.

LePeilbet, who is from Crystal Lake, IL and plays pro ball for the Boston Breakers of the WPS, started all six games for the USWNT in the 2011 World Cup and played 533 of a possible 600 minutes. She provided a steady presence on the back line and marked up against many of the best forwards in the world.

Amy spoke with us via phone and answer questions about that fateful final game against Japan, the state of play in women's soccer and her future plans.

What happened in that final game against Japan?

"I think our team, we played a great match. We're really proud of the soccer we played in that game. We displayed what our team's about and what soccer level we can play at.

"The first goal, they got a good cross in which I felt we did a good job to block that first touch. But you know, it just took a bad hop and ended up in the six-yard box and they jumped on it and put it away. That's a little unlucky but that's soccer for you.

"Sometimes you're just caught in a tough spot and your clearance isn't maybe as good as you'd like it to be and then it didn't get out and they happened to jump on that and were able to finish it.

"The second goal they just made such a precise cornerkick. Aya Miyama put it right on Sawa's foot and Sawa did an incredible job just to flick that right into the net. There's not much you can do when they hit it with such precision. I felt we marked up really well, we were tight there, but it went right to her foot and she did great job with it to put it in the back of the net."

After the late goal to tie the game against Brazil it seemed all the momentum went to the U.S. side going into penalty kicks. Did the opposite happen after Japan scored to tie the game in extra time?

"It was tough that second goal. It hurt because we all thought when Abby (Wambach) scored in extra time that, 'OK we have this.' So that second goal definitely hurt but I think we responded well to it and I think we created a chance or two after that. Alex Morgan got down across the box so I really felt like we thought we could get another goal so I think we started to swing the momentum back our way even though it ended in that 2-2 tie.

"We go into PKs and everyone's confident. And sometimes, they just don't go your way. It wasn't our day."

With time now to reflect on the outcome, how are you and your teammates feeling about your World Cup Final performance?

"I think it was one of our best games overall in the tournament. I thought we played great soccer, we were really proud of that.

"Coming home we were definitely disappointed. We went into that tournament wanting to win and coming in second was tough for us. Now, once we arrived home, everyone's been unbelievably supportive and sharing how proud of us they are. That's been really helpful for us in reflecting on what we did in the tournament, kind of taking that step back and recognizing that we really achieved a lot. We did a great job while we were over there. We really can't regret anything, we can only be proud of the tournament that we played."

Japan was a sentimental favorite for many in the final, did that effect how you played against them?

"All we thought about and prepared for was to win. That's what we wanted to do. Up until that time, myself watching the games, I thought Japan was playing wonderful. They were an inspired team. I was excited for them. But when we knew we were going to face them, the focus was on winning. That's what we were preparing for.

"We wanted to win the World Championship even though it was Japan. They've had so much heartache, you care so much about their country and you know how inspiring (their team) is to their country but when you step on the field your goal is to win that championship."

How would you describe the level of play in this tournament?

"I think just the overall level of every team has raised. I think that was one of the great things about this tournament that made it so exciting was every game was challenge. There weren't any blowout games. Anyone you faced you had to completely prepare and be ready for them to come at you."

Is your goal to be a starter for the Olympic team in 2012?

"I definitely have a goal set to make that roster. I think that's the first step. I can't focus on if I'm going to start or not. My number one goal needs to be making that team first. If I'm a starter, wonderful. If I'm on the bench, that's wonderful too. I would just be proud to be on that team."

Will we see you back in Arizona or is your time here over?

"I get back every once in awhile. I trained back there this past winter actually. I probably won't be living there ever again but I love Arizona. It definitely has a place in my heart from my time there. I always love coming back to Phoenix."

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY - JULY 13: Camille Abily (R) of France and Amy Lepeilbet (#6) of USA battle for the ball during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 Semi Final match between France and USA at Borussia-Park on July 13, 2011 in Moenchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

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USA Vs. Japan, 2011 Women's World Cup Final: Japan Prevails On Penalty Kicks, 3-1

It wasn't to be for the USWNT. For the first time in the history of the Women's World Cup, the United States has ended their tournament with a loss. In all prior tournaments they have finished in either first or third place, but they will have to settle for second tonight, as Japan are champions of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup after winning 3-1 on penalty kicks after extra time finished with the game locked in a 2-2 draw. All three of the first three penalty takers for the USA women's soccer team missed their penalty kicks.

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United States vs. Japan Women's World Cup Final: TV Schedule, Preview And Guest Expert Analysis

The United States will face Japan in the finals of 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup on Sunday. The game kicks off at 2:00 ET / 11:00 PT on ESPN with live online streaming available at ESPN3. The U.S. women's soccer team is seeking their third World Cup title and their first since 1999. Japan is making their first World Cup finals appearance and is 0-22-3 against Team USA.

Despite their head-to-head record, Japan is anything but a pushover for the U.S. team which seems to have a bit of destiny attached to its championship run. The Japanese upset the top seed and host, Germany, in decisive fashion and rolled 3-1 over a Swedish team that handed the United States their only loss of the tournament.

Resident soccer expert and WNBA star Diana Taurasi shared her thoughts on the game.

"You know, Japan looks good. Every time I say it's kind of a Cinderella story, but you know, they're a solid football team. They hold the ball well. They use space really well and they pressure the ball. I think at the end, U.S. is just too big and strong so they'll find a way to win."

Asked about the attention given the U.S. women's team, Taurasi smiled and used the same tone she uses when answering a question about the officials in game in which the calls didn't go her way.

"I think it's great. USA's always loved soccer."

There was some sarcasm in the answer but it's not entirely clear why. Perhaps there's a small bit of resentment for the lack of attention payed to Taurasi's many Team USA basketball victories in Olympic and FIBA World Championship play.

Taurasi's point about the U.S. physical advantage is certainly well within the mainstream of soccer analysis. Abby Wambach's two powerful header goals in the last two matches prove that and Hope Solo's play in goal and the U.S. fitness versus Brazil were undeniable factors.

Sports Illustrated's soccer guru, Grant Wahl, sees it a slightly different way. 

Lauren Cheney and Megan Rapinoe may be key to U.S. title hopes - Grant Wahl - SI.com
[...] But if the Americans are going to beat a highly-skilled Japan in Sunday's final, the biggest game of their lives, they're going to need another standout performance from their two most creative players: midfielders Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Cheney.

Wahl argues that Megan Rapinoe should start at left mid, citing the impact she had off the bench in both the Brazil and France matches. Personally, I love her coming off the bench in a tie game or if the U.S. is down but she can be sloppy with the ball at times and waste possessions with her aggressiveness. Rapinoe is a weapon for sure, but the U.S. hasn't missed her in the starting lineup so it's not clear why coach Pia Sundhage would make that change now. 

You could also make the case that Alex Morgan should start up top in place of Amy Rodriguez despite her youth. Morgan is clearly the future and is a highly talented goal-scorer, but in a match of this magnitude most coaches would understandably hesitate making a change like that.

Team USA will once again have the services of starting central defender Rachel Buehler who is back after serving her one-game suspension for the red card she received against Brazil. Becky Sauerbrunn played surprising well in her place against France but it's good to get Buehler back. 

ASU's Amy LePeilbet will almost certainly remain in the starting lineup in her position on the left side of the back line. LePeilbet has played well, especially in the past few games.

Prediction: U.S. wins 2-0.

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U.S. Advances To First Final Since '99 With 3-1 Win Over France

Goals from Lauren Cheney, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan have secured the USWNT's spot in the Women's World Cup final, where they will face the winner of Sweden-Japan...

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U.S. Women's World Cup Semifinal Match Vs. France: TV Schedule And Online Streaming Info

Just a few short days after the amazing comeback win by Team USA to defeat Brazil in penalty kicks on Sunday, the Americans will be back on the field for their FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal match against France. The event was moving along with about as much coverage and interest as you might expect in the United States for a women's soccer tournament until Abby Wambach and Hope Solo led their team in a transcendental victory

Next up for the gritty American team is France on Wednesday, July 13. The contest kicks off at 12:00 p.m. ET / 9:00 a.m. PT on ESPN. Live online streaming is available at ESPN3 and at other less official corners of the Internet.

France arrives in the semifinals having defeated England in a match that was also decided after 30 minutes of extra time in penalty kicks. Both sides will be somewhat tired but the French had an extra full day of recovery. Team USA was also forced to play the final 55 minutes of their quarterfinal against Brazil with only 10 players on the field. Fortunately, fitness is a strength of the American side. 

Keeping up with and disrupting the French 4-2-3-1 formation and midfield possession game will be key according to Sports Illustrated's Georgina Turner, "With five in midfield -- all of them comfortable on the ball and passing in tight, impenetrable triangles -- France could overwhelm the U.S. in the center."

The U.S. will be without starting central defender Rachel Buehler who will miss the semifinals due to the controversial red card that she was given for a tackle in the box against Brazilian star, Marta.

Coach Pia Sundhage announced that Becky Sauerbrunn would start in place of Buehler despite being just one of two position players who's not seen any action yet in the World Cup. An alternative to Sauerbrunn would have been to move Arizona State graduate Amy LePeilbet to central defense and start Stephanie Cox on the left side. 

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USA Women's Soccer World Cup Win Over Brazil Thrills Diana Taurasi

WNBA superstar Diana Taurasi is a huge soccer fan. She grew up playing the sport along with basketball which isn't surprising given her Argentinian heritage. Taurasi and Australian teammate Penny Taylor both were up Sunday morning watching Team USA in their quarterfinal match against Brazil despite having a game of their own that afternoon (they won 102-63).

Taurasi, a world-class athlete and incredible competitor herself, appreciated both the drama of the game along with spirit the American side showed.

"That's pretty unbelievable what they were able to accomplish when things were kind of stacked up against them, to find a way to grind through it. They showed a lot of pride," Taurasi said of Abby Wambach's last second goal to tie the game and send it to penalty kicks.

The victory coming against Brazil made it all the more satisfying for Taurasi, "I'm from Argentina so (Brazil is) the antichrist for us."

Taurasi said she doesn't have any relationships with the players on the current USA Women's National Soccer Team but it's hard to believe she doesn't have a lot in common with Wambach, Megan Rapinoe or Hope Solo who's one save during the penalty kick phase secured the win for her country.

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US Women's Soccer Defeats Brazil In World Cup Thriller

If you happened to let your bias against soccer, women's sports, or women's soccer keep you away from Sunday's World Cup quarterfinal match between Team USA and Brazil than you missed a classic. Your loss.

If you happened to see this game you were treated to a crazy own goal by Brazil in the opening seconds and an incredible equalizer by Amy Wambach in the closing seconds of stoppage time at the end of extra time which sent the game to the most agonizing ending to any sporting event, penalty kicks. Drama!

Full Story Here

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