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“Sometimes, it’s frustrating for us. If we don’t smash every team or win every game, it’s like, `What’s wrong with U.S. Soccer? What’s wrong with the women’s side?’” Rapinoe said. “We see it as a good thing. I don’t want to beat every team five-nil. I would rather lose a few games and have the games be much more equal.”

At least the Americans made it to Germany.

China, a traditional powerhouse, failed to qualify for this World Cup. Italy, one of Europe’s strongest teams, went undefeated in winning its qualifying group and it still wasn’t good enough to get the Azzurre a trip to Germany. As for the Germans, not only did they bow out in the quarterfinals here, they won’t be going to next summer’s London Olympics.

Sweden, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist, got one of UEFA’s two spots. The other went to France, which has never appeared in an Olympic Games.

“The growth of soccer has been amazing,” said U.S. captain Christie Rampone, the lone holdover from the 1999 squad. “It’s just amazing to see Japan in the final and the growth of soccer and support behind it. All these teams putting more effort and time and training. … All these games are tight. You can see the pressure’s out there. There’s great goalkeepers, great attacking players, great defense.

“You don’t see blowouts, which is great for the sport.”