The position of goalkeeper is widely regarded as the loneliest of all. Typically hard on themselves, theirs can be a cursed lot. While goalscorers often find themselves bathed in glory and adulation after a win, the players at the other end of the pitch fall under the spotlight most often after a costly error.
The good ones, though, are resilient and bounce back - and USA's Hope Solo falls squarely in that category. After allowing a simple-looking shot from Kil Son-Hui to slip though her fingers in the rain-soaked opener with Korea DPR, the platinum blonde Washington native - who unseated long-time No1 Briana Scurry in the run-up to these finals - was visibly devastated.
Just eight minutes later, she conceded again and what was a lead
shortly before suddenly became a deficit. The lesser of her ilk
would have collapsed entirely. But not Solo. "I don't even
remember the mistake," said Abby Wambach, who was down the
tunnel receiving stitches when both Korean goals went in.
"What I remember most is a wicked volley that was headed for the side-netting that she dove away in stoppage time," she remarked about Ri Kum-Suk's fierce would-be winner. "It was going right in, I even dropped to my knees because I thought it was in for sure, but Hope dove it away. It was amazing."
"Goalkeepers are a lot like strikers in a lot of ways," Wambach added after Heather O'Reilly sealed the 2-2 draw. "They always remember what they did wrong and not what they did right. She (Solo) needed a little pumping up after the game, but she's tough and she shook it off."
If there were any lingering doubts in the 26-year-old Solo's mind, they did not show in the States' second game. Making save after save to thwart an early Swedish onslaught, she seemed to grow in confidence with every athletic dive and brave take en route to a clean sheet and a 2-0 win for her side.
"I was a little angry when that first goal against Korea slipped through, I'm not going to lie about it," Solo told FIFA.com after her impressive display against the typically free-scoring Scandinavians. "But in a tournament like this, there's really no time to get down and worry. You have to pick yourself up and get right back at it."
"It's just a day in the life of a goalkeeper," she added with a smile, icepacks strapped to both biceps after some bruising Swedish aerial challenges. "It's just part of this crazy position."
Up next for Solo and the Americans is a date with Nigeria on
Tuesday - and a match where a draw will be enough to assure their
passage to the knockout rounds from Group B. "We're
getting better with every game," Solo concluded, "and I
just want to keep doing my part."
Perpetua Nkwocha, Cynthia Uwak and the rest of the Nigerian attacking force can consider themselves warned: Solo is back and in no mood for more mistakes.