Venturini-Hoch: 'This loss will make you better and stronger'

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tish Venturini-Hoch was a member of the U.S. women’s soccer team that won the first gold medal in the sport at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. She was also a member of the U.S. team that won the World Cup in 1999. She is a Costa Mesa resident.

I must say congratulations to Japan on its first World Cup title and for an incredible tournament. 

The Japan team played with such skill, heart and class, and most importantly gave its country hope and something to cheer for in such tough times.

I must say thank you to our U.S. team for such an inspiring, entertaining, dramatic team effort in this World Cup. The Americans never gave up and fought so hard to make it to the final game. They showed such amazing heart and perseverance throughout this tournament. They played with great pride for our country and captured the hearts of millions of Americans.

We should all be very proud of their effort and the way they represented all Americans. I hope we embrace them when they come home and give them the credit and attention they deserve. These women are great role models for our children. They work hard, they play fair, they are good people, they are humble and they are gracious in victory and in defeat.

Of course they are devastated that they didn't win but I hope they realize how much inspiration they provided for millions of young people across this nation.

I thought the U.S. played its best soccer of the entire tournament in the final against Japan, especially in the first half. Team USA possessed the ball well, made very few mistake and created a ton of chances.

Unfortunately, the U.S. women were unable to take advantage of the scoring opportunities they had. When you get to the final of the World Cup you must put the ball in the net or at least on the frame of the goal when you get your chances.  The U.S. was just unable to do that, and that was the difference.

I know firsthand how these ladies feel. How disappointed they are. I played on the 1995 World Cup team that came in third in Sweden.

To train most of your life to play in the biggest soccer tournament in the world, on the biggest stage in the world and come up short … is agony.

These players won't forget this feeling, and it will inspire them: to run two extra sprints when they think they couldn't possibly do one, to do one more set of pull-ups when they just want to stop, to get out of bed before the sun rises, to get a workout in before they travel.

Our team in 1995 never forgot losing to Norway in the semifinals of the World Cup. We hung a picture of the Norway women celebrating their win in our locker room. We saw it every day for a year as we trained for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Just so happens we played Norway in the semifinals of the Olympics … not a good day to be Norwegian. We went on to win the first-ever Olympic gold medal in women's soccer. We also managed to win back the World Cup trophy in 1999.

To this U.S. team I say: Keep your heads up girls, this loss will make you better and stronger. You will be back!

The World Cup is such an amazing, exciting three weeks for the players and the fans. Being a member of the U.S. World Cup team in 1999 was the most magical time in my life.

Playing for the U.S. in the U.S. was so wild. Thousands of fans would come out to cheer at our training sessions. We sold out every major stadium we played in. Everywhere you looked was red, white and blue, and kids with their faces painted. The stands were packed with families with young children waving American flags. It was a unique experience that I will never forget! I was so lucky to have been a part of that team.

During this World Cup I watched as a "soccer mom" and as a fan like millions of others but every time our national anthem played I got butterflies and felt that little bit of "magic" from 1999.

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