After 120 grueling minutes of play, the score remained tied at 2–2. The final match in the 2011 Women’s World Cup would come down to penalty kicks to decide the winner. A palpable tension filled the stadium as the US and Japanese soccer teams retreated to their benches to prepare for the shootout. Carli Lloyd and her American teammates felt the pressure building.
The US team had endured a difficult journey to get to the finals. They were nearly knocked out in a quarterfinals match against Brazil, surviving after tying the match in the 122nd minute and then winning on penalty kicks in one of most riveting games in the history of the Women’s World Cup.
It had been twelve years since the US Women’s National Team had reached the finals. Carli knew a single goal could make the difference. She had been benched during the early matches of the World Cup but she knew this was the perfect opportunity to solidify her spot on the team and become an instant legend.
Carli approached the penalty box, preparing for her shot.
“All these mixed emotions are going through your head,” she says. Does the goalkeeper know where you’re going? Do you hit it harder or softer?
Focused, Carli approached the ball hard and blasted a powerful shot toward the middle of the goal. The goalkeeper dove to her right, leaving an opening close to the top of the goal, exactly where Carli was aiming. For a moment, it looked like her shot would find net and Carli would be a hero.
Glancing up, however, Carli watched in horror as the ball soared high over the crossbar, badly missing its target. Carli stared ahead, almost in disbelief, cupped her mouth with her left hand, and quietly walked back to join her teammates. The US Women’s National Team had lost to Japan, extending their trophy drought.
For days, Carli was dejected and depressed.
“It was a really tough thing to go through,” she said. “I felt kind of like a failure, felt like I let the team down . . . I was pretty devastated.”
It was the lowest moment of Carli’s life, an experience that would have completely demoralized many players and even ended some careers.
Somehow, Carli would have to find a way to turn this major setback into something more positive.
Copyright © 2018 by Gregory Zuckerman with Elijah and Gabriel Zuckerman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.