On Tuesday I attended the Women’s World Cup semifinal between the U.S. and Germany held at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. It was an amazing experience! The match was a good one, especially since the U.S. won 2-0.
There were over 51,000 people in attendance, and the large majority were rooting for the U.S. I have attended numerous sporting events (mostly baseball, but also football, hockey, and basketball, and a men’s World Cup qualifier which you can read about here), but never have I felt that the crowd affected the outcome of a game as much as it did in this match. It was a de facto home game for the U.S. both in terms of geographical setting and crowd support, and this helped the U.S. get off to an energetic start. However, the crowd made the most difference when Celia Sasic missed a penalty kick for Germany early in the second half. When the referee called the penalty, an anguished hush went over the crowd, but as Sasic prepared to take it the crowd began getting louder, cheering U.S. keeper Hope Solo on, and the fact that 50,000 people were all thinking “miss it, miss it” at the same time certainly helped to make it so. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s what happened. The crowd willed her to miss it, and she did. The cheer after the ball went wide was the loudest sound I have ever heard! It was nearly matched by the cheer when the U.S. was awarded a penalty soon afterward, and then surpassed after Carli Lloyd converted it. The cheer after the U.S. scored their second goal to seal the win was not nearly as loud or long (in part because there was a sense of peace after Lloyd’s goal that the U.S.’s defense would take care of the rest, so while the second goal was nice, the 1-0 lead had not felt especially precarious), and the cheer for Abby Wambach when she came on as a substitute nearly surpassed it, which illustrates how important Wambach still is for the fans even though her role on the team has lessened.
Aside from enjoying the match as a fan, I also had fun people-watching. The venue is terrible for soccer because of the shape of the stadium, the metal seats that must date from the stadium’s construction for the 1976 Summer Olympics are the most uncomfortable stadium seats I’ve ever sat in (they spring closed whenever their occupant stands up, so every time people got up for a better view of a U.S. scoring chance there would be loud clangs from the seats all around), and the restrooms are woefully inadequate (the men’s room near my section ran out of paper towels before the match even started; the only positive thing I can say about Olympic Stadium is that the french fries they serve there are excellent). But feeling the energy in the crowd and looking at all the different combinations of U.S. gear worn by the fans made these deficiencies inconsequential.
I have wanted to attend a World Cup match since my early teens, and having this dream come true in Montreal was everything I hoped it would be.