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Women’s World Cup – For Those Just Tuning In……

Written by on July 11, 2011 | 11 Comments »
Posted in World Cups

Group Play

The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup was not a tournament that a great many football fans looked forward to.

The past history of the Women’s game suggested that this, like it’s predecessors, would be another exercise in fan patience:  Waiting quietly until the semi finals come and the games are actually competitive.

From the early group games, however, it was clear that most of us were dead wrong on that count.   Upsets and expected blowouts that turned into keenly fought contests became the norm.

As historically competitive sides like Norway & Canada discovered to their chagrin, the women’s game had comprehensively moved on.

More impressive than the general competitiveness of the tournament, however, was the quality and fairness of the play.

Unlike practically every Men’s tournament in the last couple of decades, there was little sign of diving or embellishment from the players.  Violent or reckless tackles were infrequent aberrations rather than standard fare.

As this tournament moved into the knockout stages some surprises were evident.  As mentioned, Canada and Norway failed to advance.

Perhaps the most impressive (and unexpected) performance  came from the French team.  Not considered a great power in Women’s football, France had invested heavily a program and that commitment showed in their performance.

They obliterated a highly regarded Canadian side and, but for a couple of bad bounces and an iffy red card, might even have beaten double defending champions Germany to win their group.

England’s association had also invested in its women’s program (reportedly some $10m) in preparation for the Olympics in London in 2012.

Meanwhile, some historic powers had experienced a difficult run up to the tournament.  Top ranked USA lost to Mexico in Concacaf qualifying and required playoff wins over Costa Rica & Italy to earn a place in the tournament at all.

1999 Finalists China did not make it out of the Asian qualifying group.

Shockingly, Denmark joined Italy in failing to earn one of the four UEFA places in the tournament despite an undefeated qualifying campaign in which they surrendered no goals in 8 games!

Unlike past years, the group stage did not display a vast difference in team performance.  The largest margins of victory were France’s 4-0 destruction of Canada and Japan’s 4-0 win over Mexico.

Nor could it be said that any of the elite teams eased up on their less fortunate opponents.  The group stage was also very well officiated across the board (barring an embarrassing gaffe on an obvious handball in the Equatorial Guinea v Australia match which fortunately did not affect the game result).

Overall, the women’s football community is to be applauded for the dramatic improvement in the organization, play and administration of this tournament.  The degree to which the women’s game has advanced since the 2007 tournament is truly remarkable.

At the end of a hard-fought group stage fans were left with the following quarterfinal matchups:

Germany v Japan        Sweden v Australia
France v England         Brazil v USA

Unlike recent men’s tournaments, only one looked a mismatch on paper.  Onward, then, to the knockout round…

Knock out stage summary to follow later today.

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11 responses to “Women’s World Cup – For Those Just Tuning In……”

  1. I wonder your predictions for the next round, I called France the winner of the tournament from the beginning to go to a final with Japan. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/8220825/wwc_semifinals_predictions.html?cat=9

  2. Soccerlogical says:

    Why is it so enjoyable listening to Women Soccer players like Judy Faudy, Mia and Brandi Chastaine comment on soccer matches and sooo darn painful to listen to blowhards like Lalas and Wynalda? Is it because the ladies attained more success and respect on the world stage and are confident in their soccer intelect and overall achievements?

  3. John Bladen says:

    It’s a tough one to predict, CH. I would have bet the house on Germany making the final… and even though Japan were full value for the win, it still feels like the world’s best team won’t even be in the semis.

    If pressed, I’d just pick Sweden over Japan. There are only three days to rest, and Sweden had a much easier QF than Japan did.

    USA/France is a toss up, but I’m hoping for France as I think they’ve played a more enjoyable brand of football. Their time at Clairefontaine was clearly not wasted. The US has hung around, needing last gasp efforts to advance/survive on several occasions. Eventually, their luck must run out.

    SL: A good question. Sometimes it seems like the male announcers maybe aren’t taking the women’s game seriously enough. If they would simply focus on the game & run of play rather than get drawn off on tangents, I don’t think it would make any difference. Frequently, though, they can’t.

  4. Gus Keri says:

    John:

    You said about the US team: “Eventually, their luck must run out.”

    I can’t disagree with you more.

    Luck actually abandoned the US team on many occasions during this tournament.

    Against Brazil, the PK call was very questionable and the first PK save by Solo should have stood. The second Brazil goal was an offside.

    Against Sweden, the winner came through a deflected free kick. And there were many opporunities to tie the game but luck was not on the US side.

    Actually, to be more accurate, luck has sided with the US opponents more than the US team.

    The fact that the German crowd were booing Brazil suggests that Brazil didn’t deserve to win the game. The German crowd is very knowledgeable and they know whom to support based on performances (and lack of luck for that matter).

    You also said: “there was little sign of diving or embellishment from the players”
    Although I agree with you in general, the brazil behavior during the US game contradicts your statement and it was disgusting and appalling.

  5. Erik says:

    The Final will be a rematch of a Group Stage game – but with a Different result. Sweden’s post match celebration over the USA won’t be forgotten – they will big time pay for that fluke win

    USA!
    USA!
    USA!

  6. John Bladen says:

    Hi Gus;

    The “little evidence of diving/embellishment comment refers to the group stage summary (which is what this article is about, I discussed the US/Brazil game elsewhere). As I said to Bobby the other day, that unfortunate practice did creep in in the knockout rounds, as it always does.

    That said, if you watched the full US/Brazil game, Wambach (and other US players) embellished also (as did England v France). Erika’s shameful fake collapse seemed to backfire on the Brazilians, don’t you think?

    She was carded (well done Ms. Melksham, though I would have preferred it if she kept Erika off the pitch longer) immediately and I can’t help thinking that less than 3 minutes might have been added if Erika hadn’t time wasted so obviously. That shameful act may have cost her team a place in the Semis.

    As for US luck? I note you didn’t mention the missed sending off offense in the group game against Sweden. Brazil did get the better of the calls Sunday, no question, but it hasn’t always been that way (US needed last chance wins over Costa Rica and Italy just to get here, as stated). That’s really what I was talking about re: ‘luck’, they seem to have left things ‘rather late’ in both the qualifying and tournament proper.

    There were plenty of US and Brazil fans in the stadium as well (not just Germans). Lots of catcalls and whistles during the regulation period also… for a game between two offensive powers, this one had long periods when neither side seemed interested in competing.

  7. Gus Keri says:

    John:

    “Wambach (and other US players) embellished also (as did England v France).”

    The US embellishment dwarfed in front of the Brazilians’

    ” (US needed last chance wins over Costa Rica and Italy just to get here, as stated). That’s really what I was talking about re: ‘luck’,”

    They beat Italy home and away (1-0) and beat Costa Rica (3-0). How is this luck?
    But if you are referring to the Loss to Mexico, then we might have to define what you mean with “luck” again.

    If you mean to say that the US would be very unlucky not to qualify to the finals, then I agree with you.

    But what you said is “Eventually, their luck must run out”, which indicates that the US is inferior team and they keep going forward because they are lucky, then you are definitely wrong.

  8. John Bladen says:

    So in your opinion (as a US fan, by the sound of it) the US embellishment was ok?

    At no time did I say “the US would be unlucky not to qualify for the finals” – and you know it. They were fortunate to make it to the tournament (given that they did not manage to qualify through the concacaf championships). They were fortunate to get a last minute header (fine effort though it was) from Wambach. Absent that, your team are out.

    They are a good team, but they have also had things fall right for them on a number of occasions. Any team that advances on penalties must be considered fortunate (Daiane’s effort was not a great one, but Solo still had to guess right to get it) We’ll see if that fortune continues v France.

  9. Gus Keri says:

    John:

    “At no time did I say “the US would be unlucky not to qualify for the finals” – and you know it”

    I didn’t say that you said it.

    You were trying to say that the USA was lucky to reach the finals because they lost to Mexico and needed two play-offs to qualify.

    Are you suggesting that any team that qualify through the play-off system is lucky?
    Tell that to Uruguay, New Zealand, France, Slovenia, Portugal and Greece which qualified to the 2010 WC through the play-off.

    Secondly, because they scored in the last minute of the game, they are lucky? How about what happened during the game?
    In the 120 minutes, the US was better than Brazil and went down on contravercial calls by the referee (regardless of what Bobby would like us to believe).

    So, to belittle their perfromance and thier hard fighting and call it luck, I have only one response to this and it’s “Fortune favors the brave”

    By the way, if every positive result comes out of scoring goals in the last minute called luck, then I have to call half of Man United titles won in the last few years as lucky because they scored so many vital goals in the last minutes. But I won’t.

  10. John Bladen says:

    Gus – I get that you disagree with me. That is your right, of course. There is a difference between disagreement and argument (I’ll stop short of launching into the Monty Python sketch about that, for both our sakes!), though.

    I don’t agree that the US was better than Brazil throughout the game. In fact, they were not ‘better’ than Brazil even over the first 65 minutes (full strength for both sides). Brazil failed to take the chances they created in the first half (which outnumbered the US’ greatly). In addition, the goal that put the US ahead was extremely fortunate.

    I’m pleased you mentioned Man U. You’ve no idea how many fans I know that thought they were ‘jammy sods’ for being where they were in early January. Sometimes the ball falls right for you and sometimes it doesn’t. Some of their injury time goals were sheer brilliance while others came off extremely fortunate bounces. It’s the nature of the game.

    Fortune favours the brave, indeed. Curious as to why you didn’t apply this comment to Sweden’s group win over the USA?

    The US was unlucky on the deflection. On the other hand, they were very lucky to finish with 11 players. The point is that one has to look at the ‘breaks’ on balance, not pick individual ones that either hinder or help one team.

  11. Gus Keri says:

    It’s amazing how many times the “Monty Python” stuff get mentioned here by all contributors.

    I have no idea who these people are. I saw on the intenet search that there was some kind of TV show but I have never watched it.

    So, for the sake of keeping the discussion friendly, not knowing where it might end up, I will stop here.

    Cheers

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