at least it's not just us?
The USWNT faces Canada in Vancouver in the final of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament. More for bragging rights and going out with a win, as both teams qualified for London by winning their semifinal matches.
TV: NBCS (fka Versus), 8PM ET
Streams: universalsports.com and concacaf.com
Universalsports.com also has full replays.
After knoshing on snacky cakes Dominican Republic (14-0 highlights) and Guatemala (13-0 highlights), the US got some payback against Mexica (4-0 highlights), which had put them into playoffs against Italy to qualify for the last World Cup.
Winning their group put them into the semis against Costa Rica, and facing a London-or-bust game, they looked a bit nervous. It took them till the 16' to score their first goal, and it wasn't until the 72' that they got their second. (3-0 highlights)
Notables: Amy Rodriguez scored five goals as a second-half sub against the Domincan Repbulic, tying the US game record shared by Brandi Chastain, Michelle Akers, Tiffeny Milbrett and Abby Wambach. Then against Guatemala, Sydney Leroux did the same thing. Carli Lloyd got a hat trick against Mexico.
14 goals against the Dominican Republic set the WNT record, and the first goal at 37 sec is probably the fastest in US history.
Unfortunately in that first game, right back Ali Krieger went down with a knee injury after a brutal tackle(torn ACL and MCL). She will likely miss the London Olympics, which starts in six months. Heather Mitts subbed for her in that game. Becky Sauerbrunn got the start the next two, and Kelley O'Hara against Costa Rica.
Edit: Was Sweden vs France Recap / USA vs Japan Sun @ 2:45PM EDT
3rd Place Game: Sweden 2, France 1. Bork? Bork!
Swedish captain, MF Caroline Seger misses another game due to a calf injury, and Nilla Fischer takes her place. French F Marie-Laure Delie is out with some injury, and Eugénie le Sommer is in.
A few minutes into the game, announcer Adrian Healey relays a quote that French coach Bruno Bini gave after the loss to the US: "It is better to lose with style and grace than to win in ugly fashion." It seems to me that can only be said by a LOSER! I'd rather win ugly and be in the finals, merci beaucoup.
5' - Foreshadowing. Goal kick from G Berangere Sapowicz goes almost to the center line, and MF Lisa Dahlkvist heads it back way upfield to F Lotta Schelin who's behind RCB Laura Georges. She chases it down and at the 18 hits a half volley past a charging Sapowicz. It rolls into the net, but the whistle has blown - offsides. WTF? Replay shows she's on, thanks to the LCB Wendie Renard. BOO asst ref! They have not been kind to offensive players even with the second-to-last-defender, erring in favor of the D.
14' - Dahlkvist takes a corner from the right and sends it far post. D Charlotte Rohlin heads it from the six at the goal, but also right at Sapowicz, who catches it.
22' - Fra working the ball up the field from the middle to the left, where LB Sonia Bompastor gets the ball and passes up to ? while starting to make an overlapping run. ? is challenged from behind and loses the ball, but it bounces right to Bompastor, who knocks it forward. She catches up to it just outside the box, 13 yds from the end line, and crosses. Too high for le Sommer in the middle, it goes over everybody and MF Camille Abily gets to it on the far side of the box. Before it goes over the end line she kicks a high arcing pass, over le Sommer, it bounces as two defenders miss it (it's over the head of the first, and the second is perhaps thrown off), and Bompastor winds up and blasts it from a few yards past the corner of the 6 yd box - right into a defender. Another Swede chases the ball down in the corner and clears it upfield. Appeals for a hand ball, and replay shows it did hit the player's arm, but she was shielding her face, not intentional, good no-call.
23' - Fra corner in the left, taken short. Cross is head-flicked on by le Sommer to Camille Abily at the right corner of the six, and she heads it down, but closer to her than the goal, and G Hedvig Lindahl easily grabs it off the bounce.
24' - MF Louisa Necib is wide on the left wing and gets a long cross from right-center. Her first touch is hard, and the ball bounces a few yards away from her. She goes to it as a D Annica Svensson closes. They collide, and Necib goes down, holding her right knee. Replay shows their knees hit. She gets up, limping.
29' - D Sara Larsson kicks a long ball from right of the circle a few yards on Swe side of center. It bounces to the left middle outside of the arc at the top of the box. Schelin is behind the D. As it comes down she hits a half-volley from 16 yds, past the charging Sapowicz, and it bounces inside the six and into the net. GOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLL!!! Sapowicz is down after, and replay shows her right foot catching Schelin's as she runs by, then twisting badly as she lands on it.
32' - Sacré bleu! Fra has to use two subs for injury, Céline deVille for Sapowicz, and Elodie Thomis for Necib. The latter is the bigger loss, Necib being one of the breakout stars of this tournament. Looks like Thomis goes to R attacking MF, and Abily moves to the top of the attacking MF triangle.
33' - Abily gets a pass from the D, settles and dribbles to her left and tries a shot from 30 yds. It gets blocked 24 yds out, but bounces right back to her. She passes left to LAMF Gaétan Thiney, who's into the box wide of the narrow Swe back line. Her first touch takes her more wide, but she is able to turn back to center and the Swe D has overcommitted. Thiney shoots a few yards outside the left corner of the six, but her shot is high and wide right.
35' - Through ball to Schelin on the left wing. Fra defender slides but misses the ball, Schelin keeps going and dribbles into the box. She centers to F Linda Forsberg, who shoots from 10 yds, but Bompastor slides and blocks it. Another Fra D clears.
36' - Fra left offensive third, Bompastor passes to Thiney, who turns and dribbles toward the box, drawing 2 Swe players. She passes back and center to MF Elise Bussaglia, who touches it forward and shoots from the arc, hitting the right post. Swe clears, but not far, and Fra regains possession. After a few more passes outside the box, Abily passes back to MF Sandrine Soubeyrand, who shoots from 30 yds. Easy save for Lindahl.
41' - Long ball to Thomis down the right wing. She settles the ball 6 yds from the end line, then, cut off by a defender, dribbles back to the right corner of the box, where she passes back to Bussaglia. She takes a dribble towards center to avoid a player, then shoots from 27 yds. It might have missed, but Lindahl dives over to grab it a couple yards in front of the left post.
43' - Sw corner from the right. Rohlin heads it too high.
45' +3 - Fra attacking left side, but Swe player intercepts a pass and boots it back to Fra side. Renard heads ball up to Soubeyrand, who's just on the Fra side of center. Instead of settling the ball she tries to one-time a back pass to RCB (Georges?). It's way off target, ~10 yds in front of her, and MF Therese Sjögran gets to it first. She dribbles forward as Georges gives ground. F Josefine Öqvist is making a run in right center, so Renard has to come over to cover. Soubeyrand should be full-out sprinting back to cover for Bompastor, who had pushed up during the attack. Renard having to move center leaves Schelin wide open on the right, and Sjögran gets the ball to her, with Souberand still 6 yds behind. Schelin cuts into the box, Renard comes over, forcing her vertical. She shoots just inside the corner of the six, and deVille, who's off her line to cut the angle, makes the point-blank reflex save. Georges gets the rebound and passes short to ?, and the whistle blows for halftime.
France has been able to get wide on Sweden's compact and narrow formation, but they haven't managed to get many shots in the box. Sweden's been able to get long balls behind the oft unorganized French back line, and Schelin's running onto them and giving them fits.
46' - Abily? passes from center to a wide open Thomis on the right. She gets to the box 10 yds from the end line and centers a low pass. One Fr player whiffs, and a Swe player slide tackles the ball away from another. It gets cleared to Fra left midfield. With LB Svensson? having to come so far from the center of the field, instead of passing, Thomis maybe could have cut left, letting Svensson's momentum carry her past, then cut upfield, inside the still central LCB, and and gotten a really good shot.
46' - After a few passes to work it up the left side, Bompastor crosses into the box from left wing. It gets headed out of the box by Swe, but Bussaglia is in the center of the field, settles the ball, and shoots from 25 yds out. It's dipping toward the left corner, but Lindahl is able to bend and grab it while keeping her feet.
56' - Thiney, back to goal in center of field 36 yds out, gets a pass, is challenged by the RB as she turns, keeps the ball and passes left to a wide open Thomis, whom the RB had left. Also the RCB had stepped up as Thiney made the turn, but her reaching foot didn't get to the pass. Thomis dribbles a bit centrally as she heads toward the box and shoots from 19 yds, just outside the arc. It's a low shot that beats Lindahl to the left corner. GOOOOOOOOLLLLLLL!! If you're going to leave your mark to challenge the ball, you better damn well make sure you stop it. Swe right side defenders both made mistakes and paid the price.
64' - Dahlkvist boots a long ball from Swe side of the circle. Öqvist is wide open and runs onto it. She was offcamera when the pass came, but who the hell is supposed to be marking her? She dribbles into the left-center side of the box and shoots from 10 yds and hits the far post!!! Lindahl pounces on the rebound. Replay shows LCB Renard is well behind the rest of the back line, keeping Öqvist onside. She shot with the inside of her left foot, curving the ball away from goal just enough to hit the post. Might have been better to try the outside of the left foot and curve it in. Especially if she had dribbled a bit more toward center.
64' - Back to the action after the replay and Abily gets a through ball to Thomis on the left. Not much defense going on for either back line. RCB holds her up a few yards outside the 6 yd box, but the speedy Thomis goes end line and shoots as she gets to the side of the 6 yd box. Lindahl has come out and knocks the ball out of bounds from just a couple yards away.
65' - Fra left corner is not very high going near post. Not sure if a bending le Sommer gets her head on it, but she must have as the next Swe player seems to be caught flatfooted and ineffectually tries to reach for the ball with her right foot. Thomis turns and shoots from 4 yds, but it's just wide left.
68' - Öqvist has the ball on the right wing. Renard pokes the ball away from her. Öqvist chases the ball down and just keeps it from crossing the touchline. She pokes the ball past Renard to her right and runs left around her. Bompastor winds up for a big clearance, but the ball bounces off a leaping Öqvist to the 18 MF Marie Hammarström, who just subbed in at 62' for Forsberg, settles and shoots from a few yards left of the arc. It's blocked and deflects upward toward the penalty spot. Schelin heads it from 10 yds, but Georges is challenging her, and it goes wide right.
During the play after the ball deflected off Öqvist, there was a big collision between them, and Bompastor fell down. She kicked out at Öqvist, who was falling down beside her, but missed. Öqvist retaliated with a kick to Bompastor's middle, and she rolled back, crying out in pain, and Öqvist got sent off. Rightfully so, but Bompastor should at least have gotten a yellow. Bompastor is seen getting treatment to her upper thigh. The rest of the game the crowd will jeer her any time she touches the ball.
82' - Schelin is dribbling up the left wing, challenged by Georges. The ball goes out of bounds and is called a corner. Replay shows Georges kicked it, but it deflected off Schelin's leg. Sjögran kicks it near post, and it's headed out of the box. Hammarström wins the ball in the air, poking it past le Sommer, then pokes it left past another Fra player, who's rushing to challenge. She shoots from 15 yds, and it's a rocket to the upper left corner. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLL!! Her first national team goal is a bronze medal winner.
France didn't manage to get any good shots the rest of the game.
France had 19 shots, 8 on goal, to Sweden's 10 and 4. Sweden led on corners 7 to 5, and France had 56% of possession.
If you have to lose someone in a tie game, for Sweden losing a forward (especially Öqvist) was the best. Schelin's speed makes her always dangerous (providing she's not slowed down by a cold), and they were able to keep their MF and back line intact, and while France was able to get wide, they could only capitalize once. Thomis is very fast, but lacks a finishing touch. She did get the one, but could have had at least one more. If she learns to slow down inside the box and get shots on frame, watch out. Tough breaks for France, losing the lovely, the talented Necib early in the game, and the refs missing the goal kick, giving Sweden a corner that led to the winning goal. I wasn't impressed with the defending on either side, and that weakness was why they were in the 3rd place game.
Sunday! SUNDAY!! SUNDAY!!!
USA vs Japan, 2:45 PM EDT, ESPN.
Parity showed up at this World Cup. Previous semifinalists had no losses on their record, and here both Japan and the US lost their last group stage game (England, Sweden), earning them tougher quarterfinal matchups (Germany, Brazil). And both triumphed in quarterfinal games that went past regulation, and then in the semifinals.
Japan has been playing inspired soccer, lifting the spirits of an earthquake- and tsunami-battered nation, and they have come far from the team we beat in May tune-ups. The US back line was exposed in group stage by speedy (and perhaps juiced) players, but they adapted (dropping back more quickly, sliding the faster Christie Rampone from RCB to LCB) and have shown an amazing will to win. I imagine Japan will have more possession, but I think they'll have trouble scoring if our D continues to play well, and of course we have the best goalie, Hope Solo, to back them up. Abby Wambach has her air mojo working again, and if service to her is good, I don't see how the short Nadeshiko can stop her.
Seeing a cross to Abby, who heads the ball into the net, is a beautiful thing. Dang, Bruno, I think I got something in my eye.
GO RED WHITE & BLUE!!!
Japan 1, Germany 0
Wolfsburg. OMGWTFVW?!?! Heilige Scheisse, Fledermausmann!!! SchadenfreudevollUndenkbarKatastrophe!!! Japan shocks Germany with a goal in the second extra time period, 108', latest goal in women's world cup. Kein Fussballvergnügen für Deutschland. This was the second game, but I'm putting it first.
2' - Jpn has a corner kick from the right, MF Aya Miyama crosses to near post. MF Homare Sawa heads from just inside the corner of the 6 yd box, but it's high and wide right.
4' - Ger left corner kick, far post ball for MF Kim Kulig, who heads it over the goal. She also goes down afterwards, holding her right knee in some pain. Replay doesn't show much, she appeared to land on both feet then go down. So innocuous, it makes me think ACL.
8'- Kulig is done, D Bianca Schmidt subs in, goes to RB. RB Linda Bresonik moves up to defensive RMF. (Ger plays with 2 defensive and 3 attacking MFs.) It's tough to have to sub so early, and in what turns out to be a 120' game, Coach Silvia Neid's substitution decisions will come under scrutiny.
13' - D Saki Kumagai fouls F Celia da Mbabi, going over the back on a header. Jpn showing a more physical style of play. Ger free kick at right of box, MF Melanie Behringer crosses it in, and Kumagai heads it out from a mass of players in front of the goal.
15' - MF Kozue Ando turns away from a couple defenders at midfield, centers to MF Mizuho Sakaguchi, who dribbles forward and shoots from 35 yds right at G Nadine Angerer. It dips as it comes in, so she goes to her knees to make the save off the short hop.
20' - Ger steals ball at midfield. MF Kerstin Garefrekes, wearing the captain's armband with Birgit Prinz on the bench, gets to the ball 10 yds to the left of the circle and passes up to da Mbabi in left center. She takes on the defender, continuing her run to the left and shoots from just outside the box, well wide right.
23' - Ger free kick from left MF, 37 yds from end line. Behringer sends it to the far post, where Garefrekes gets to the ball, but it's at a height that's too low for a header, too high for a kick. She has jumped, but catches the ball off her waist, so it's slow moving ball that's sort of heading to the left side of goal. It takes a bounce in the box, and Kumagai clears out. Subsequent corner goes over everybody, out the other sideline.
30' - Jpn free kick from left midfield, 38 yds from end line. Miyami passes to left wing, where F Shinobu Ohno is unmarked. Her cross gets blocked and cleared. Jpn works it up left side, cross is deflected by Ger head and drops in space in the center of the field. Jpn player chips it forward, D Saskia Bartusiak slides at it, but misses with her extended leg, sort of trapping the ball under it and against her other knee, and it goes to F Yuki Nagasato, deflecting forward off her foot into the box, and she shoots, well wide left. Glorious opportunity and the shot's not on frame.
31' - Ger works it up the right side, Garefrekes dribbling to end line but is forced to turn back. She passes back to the right corner of the box for Laudehr, who sends it back and center to Bresonik, who passes across to Behringer. She dribbles to center and shoots from 24 yds; the boucing shot is just wide left.
32' - Schmidt gets on an errant pass just on the Ger side of center to the right of the circle. She passes up the right to Garefrekes, who sends a through ball to da Mbabi to the box. Da Mbabi has gotten behind a defender and has a lot of space, but her first touch is too hard, making the ball shoot out in front of her. G Ayumi Kaihori is able to beat her to the ball at the 6.
44' - D Annike Krahn sends long ball from Ger side of right midfield to center. Off the bounce da Mbabi taps it with her head, lets it come down and chips a pass to her right, where Grings shoots off the halfvolley from 20 yds, very high.
45' +1 - Bartusiak dribbles ball up from Ger side to midfield, sends lovely through ball for F Inka Grings to run onto, but Kumagai gives her a bump so she's off balance and can't cut to the ball, which rolls into the box for Kaihori. No foul called, many jeering whistles. Hmmm, scoreless at the half. Jpn isn't a pushover.
46' - Jpn sub F Karina Maruyama for Nagasato.
48' - Pass from Ger side to Grings left of circle across center line. She passes up and center to da Mbabi, who passes right to Garefrekes, making a run from midfield. She dribbles upfield to 24 yds out, and, being doubled, splits the double team with a centering pass in the air. Grings is there 13 yds out, but her head ball is high over the bar.
57' - Ger free kick at right sideline 24 yds from end line. Behringer sends a high arcing ball that Simone Laudehr at the far post heads down from 5 yds, and D Yukari Kinga, coming back to the goal line, clears it away from near the right post.
57' - Sawa hand ball outside the box on the right. Free kick headed out by Kinga.
62' - Jpn pass from midfield up to Ando just inside the left corner of the box. She dribbles more left and passes back to Miyama, who shoots from a couple yards outside the corner, just high and wide of the upper left corner. Angerer was there, leaping for the corner, so no threat.
65' - Ger sub, curiously D Lena Goessling for Bresonik. Neid already had a defensive sub, you'd think a more offensive sub, perhaps MF Fatmire Bajramaj, would be warranted. Another injury issue?
66' - Jpn subs F Mana Iwabuchi for Ohno.
70' - Ger free kick at right midfield, 34 yds off end line, not well struck, low and well short of the far post where 3 Ger players are making their run. Sawa heads it out of the box.
72' - Sakaguchi gets a yellow for a bodycheck foul. Laudehr had a hold of Sakaguchi's shirt as they went down. Harsh card. Ger free kick at right, 20 yds from end line. Behringer crosses it in, but with too much loft. Garefrekes gets her head on it just outside the left corner of the six, but it's wide left. Can't really get anything on a header when it's a floater that drops in from high; it needs to be lower and with more pace.
75' - Jpn right corner kick. Headed out from near post, but only to the right of the penalty spot where Sakaguchi chests it and shoots almost waist high as the ball falls. It is blocked.
76' - Laudehr runs onto long ball down right side. As ball nears sideline she cuts it back inside of Sawa, who's marking. Sawa recovers and slides, poking the ball away to the right corner of the box. Jpn player? collides with a stumbling Laudehr, gets knocked back a bit and can't get to the ball, which Garefrekes jumps on. She dribbles deep into the box, then cuts left a couple yards from the end line. She crosses from just outside the six yd box to the near the top of the box, where Behringer shoots a high ball from 16 yds. Too hard of a pass - it had some air under it and some pace - and Behringer one-timed it off the half-volley. But there was an unmarked* player to the right of the penalty spot, which would have been an easier pass. (*She wouldn't have had much time to shoot as a couple Jpn players moved toward her, but there was a window. Garefrekes chose a more difficult option.)
81' - Announcer Julie Foudy remarks that Behringer is hobbling a bit, having trouble getting back as Jpn brings the ball up the right side. She missed the last game due to an ankle injury. Ger gains possession of the ball at the 18, but the attempted clear goes right into a Jpn player who dribbles inward then passes to Maruyama, whos in the arc. She dribbles left, then backheels to Miyama, who shoots from 24 yds out, over the goal. Nicely set up.
83' - Grings gets a pass at the top of the box and pushes the ball into the box past a sliding Jpn player. Kumagai cuts her off, bodying her, and she goes down pretty easily. Ref isn't buying it, no call.
85' - Kinga from Jpn right midfield sends long ball to Iwabuchi who's a few yds above the circle. She lays it off one-touch to Sawa, who dribbles a bit then passes left to Miyama, wide open. She dribbles forward and crosses from just outside the box. It's too far in front of Ando, who was making a far post run, but she was marked.
88' - Sawa gets yellow for late tackle at right sideline. Ger free kick 34 yds from end line. Behringer makes better cross to far post, headed by da Mbabi at the six, but across and away from goal. Jpn clears. Ger heads it back in, Jpn heads out, but not far. Ger player passes back, then it gets passed to da Mbabi on the left wing. She crosses in, and Babett Peter heads it from 12 yds. It goes wide right. Miyama shields it from Behringer, who points to the corner. Ref calls for goal kick. Jeering whistles - replay shows it did deflect off Miyama's waist, should have been a corner.
90' +3 - Long ball from left midfield, Garefrekes leaps to chest it near the penalty spot. She shields it from a Jpn defender as it bounces chest high, then turns and strikes as it comes down, but it's wide right. Not long before Garefrekes went down as a cross came in, no call. Foudy said the ref thought about it and brought the whistle up, but let it go. Wow, Jpn has lasted to extra time; Ger frustrated.
92' - Sawa goes down in serious pain, face down, kicking her feet, appears to be holding her groin. Replay shows Laudehr's heel/cleat caught her on the upswing. She gets carried off.
94' - Behringer passes to da Mbabi in the center of the box, back to goal. She traps the ball and turns clockwise as Sakaguchi runs at her in a way that would prevent her turning the other way. Da Mbabi gets a little space with her move and shoots, but wide left. Sawa comes back soon after.
101' - Ger through ball to left side of box gets cut off by defender, pass to RB Kinga who passes up & center to Sakaguchi who sends lazy back pass toward Jpn player who's deep in box. Grings picks it off a couple yards from the left corner of the box, dribbles inward and shoots wide right. Golden opportunity. Too tired to get it on target? 102' - F Grings out, F Alexandra Popp in. That's their third sub, no Bajramaj, no Prinz.
104' - Iwabuchi is on the right, gets pass from center, dribbles upfield. She passes rigth wing to Kinga, who has made the overlapping run. She crosses 8 yds from end line. Ando is there in the center and volleys? from 14 yds out. It deflects? off Ger player to Bartusiak, who heads it out.
105' - Iwabuchi in right midfield gets a pass from Jpn end, touches it past Peter as she crosses center. Peter bodies her before she gets too far, and Iwabuchi goes down. Foul called, Peter is literally hopping mad and gets a yellow. Seems similar to what Jpn has done, but Peter was behind her and made contact in Iwabuchi's back, and the yell and hop and swinging her arm earns the card. Jpn free kick 42 yds from end line. Miyama's kick drops into the 6 yd box, and for some reason Angerer misses the catch - maybe it drops short of where she thinks it's coming? - and the ball deflects past a Jpn player and out to the right, where Ger gets to it. Foudy thinks Angerer might have kicked it away after missing it with her hands.
Still scoreless after the first extra time period. Pressure getting to Germany? Angerer, one of the top two keepers in the world, just misplayed the ball. Couldn't see if she was the one who knocked the ball out of the six yd box, but Ger was lucky it got past the Jpn player who was right next to Angerer. Ger hasn't lost since 1999 quarters.
106' - Schmidt sends long ball from midfield. Jpn defender heads it at the top of the box in the arc while backpedaling, and it drops in there in space. Da Mbabi gets there and tries a bicycle kick, but her back isn't to the goal, and the ball goes high and well wide right. Guess she lost orientation. Good for Japan, bad for Germany as Garefrekes was just getting there - she might have had a good chance, but da Mbabi blocked her.
107' - Peter at left sideline sends through ball into the box to da Mbabi, marked by Kumagai. They slide and da Mbabi gets her foot on it 12 yds out. Shot rolls to Kaihori who falls on it just inside the six as Popp leaps over her.
108' - Ger throw-in from Schmidt flicked on by Garefrekes, but it eludes Popp. Sameshima? gets to it and passes back to Sakaguchi?, who passes right to Iwashimizu?, who chips it upfield. Iwabuchi, facing away from goal, taps it to her right to space. Sawa, 42 yds out, chips a long ball over the backline to the right, where Maruyama runs after it. She catches up to it just outside the corner of the six yd box and one-times it from 4 yds off the end line. Angerer dives near post, but the shot curves away from her, bounces once and hits the netting just inside the far post. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GoooOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooollllllllll!!!!!! GOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!! Did Angerer panic? She might have made the save if she had held her ground or come out a little more to cut the angle. Or did the shot look like it was going to the near post and then take a wicked bend?
109' - Ger works ball up from right, through center, pass up to da Mbabi, who has to slide but gets pass to Behringer on the left wing. She takes a touch then shoots from 22 yds. It's a hard shot which Kaihori tips up over the bar; ball lands on top of net. Corner is headed wide right by Laudehr.
111' - Laudehr sends long ball into box from right midfield. It bounces high in the center of the box, then Da Mbabi gets a head on it. It's a high arcing shot which Kaihori pushes over the bar.
112' - Behringer cross gets headed wide right by Schmidt. Ref awards Ger a corner kick, but it does them no good.
113' - Goessling sends high ball into box from right midfield, but Kaihori leaps up to grab it in the air. The book on her was that she's weak in the air, but she's stepped up in this game.
114' - Ger free kick on the right wing. Behringer sends high ball which Kaihori jumps up to grab at far post. Iwabuchi runs onto a long punt, getting to it at the left corner of the box. She wants to take it to the corner and shield it, but she fails to keep the ball in front of her as she slows, and a little bump from Schmidt has her stepping over and losing the ball. Schmidt sends a long ball upfield, and Popp draws a foul from Kumagai, who had an arm barring her path.
115' - Ger free kick 27 yds out, chipped in and headed wide left.
116' - Iwabuchi subs out, Rumi Utsugi in.
118' - Ger right corner kick, da Mbabi heads it high and wide left.
A couple more Ger crosses get into the box, and Kaihori grabs them. Jpn keeps Ger away otherwise.
Final Thoughts and Stats
Wow. Stunning upset. I would have expected Germany, who averages 4" taller than Japan, to be able to get some goals headed in. But Behringer, perhaps hampered by her ankle, didn't get good crosses in, and the ones Germany got to, they mostly couldn't head them on frame - those that were on were weak and saved by Kaihori or her defense. Japan was more physical than they were against England and benefited from some no calls and from Germany's inability to make them pay on set pieces. They amassed 20 fouls and 4 yellows to Ger 13 and 1. Also Kulig going down so early disrupted German flow and substitutions. Unless there was another injury, two defensive subs by Neid seem odd. Japan also played really well defensively, and their few letups were eased by sloppy German play.
Ger had 23 shots, but only 4 on goal, to Jpn 9 and 2. Ger 7 corners to Jpn 5. Jpn led with 54% of possession. Though they had some errant passes, their short passing game did keep the ball away at times, and Ger probably should have shown more urgency in pressing them earlier in the game. Perhaps all the media hype, expectations of winning a third World Cup at home, and some overconfidence in facing Japan did Germany in.
France 1, England 1, 4-3 on PKs
59' - Eng struck first with Jill Scott scoring from outside the box. She got a pass on the left from Rachel Yankey, a Fr defender rushed over to challenge, but overran the play, as the ball had some English on it and bounced Scott's way as she headed centrally. She shot from 21 yds out, over Celine de Ville, who was off her line at the six.
81' - Two defensive subs by Eng coach Hope Powell, hoping to hold onto the lead? 84' - MF Anita Asante for F Rachel Yankey. Now this is really a surprise, with MF Kelly Smith actually hobbling badly on the field. Eng playing with 10 effectives.
87' - Elise Bussaglia gets the equalizer. Fr cross from left midfield goes to a mass of players just inside the box, deflects down off Eng? Not sure who makes contact as Eng player and Fr player slide at the ball. It rolls out to the arc where Bussaglia strikes it from 21 yds, and it hits the upper left post and goes in.
Eng later has more players hobbling: Fara Williams in stoppage time, and Faye White as she tries to cut back and get in front of a shot. Neither as bad as Kelly Smith, who can be seen hopping with every other stride. They do manage to make it through extra time without giving up a goal.
PKs: France shoots first, with Abily striking a middling high ball to the left. Bardsley, who guessed correctly, makes the save. France not off to a good start, but no one else misses. Kelly Smith scores, then Bussaglia, then Carney, then Thinney, then Stoney, then Bompastor. Rafferty, with only 5 caps, misses a low shot to the right. Le Sommer makes, then Faye White hits the bar. France goes to the semis! Allons, bleues!
Final Thoughts and Stats
France dominated on shots 33, 11 on goal, to 7 and 3. They had 16 corners to 7 for Eng, and 51% possession. England was lucky to get the lead, but going defensive on subs ended up backfiring, as France equalized. With Kelly Smith really hampered by the sprained ankle she had suffered in the second game, then a couple others getting nicked, it's amazing France couldn't put them away before PKs. They did deserve the win, though.
Japan gets the winner of Sweden vs Australia, which is @ 7AM EDT today. France gets the winner of USA vs Brazil, @ 11:30 EDT today. Semis on Wednesday, France at noon, Japan at 2:45.
We've beaten Brazil in the last two Olympic gold medal games, but they beat us in the semis last World Cup. Hopefully we come out on top today. GO RED, WHITE & BLUE!!!
Edit: Subject changed to Day 10 Recap, which is below. Was Day 9 Recap.
The major games are between teams that haven't looked so good (England, Germany) and teams that have looked like machines (Japan, France). Will the former be able to find their forms? How will the latter do against better competition?
England 2, Japan 0
9' - Eng throw in from deep right sideline to head of Jill Scott, who flicks it on deeper into the box. Ellen White shoots from 4 yds, deflected wide right for corner.
15' - F Karen Carney sends a long ball from left midfield on Eng side of center up to White, who gets behind her defender. The ball bounces high about 30 yds out, and "Els Bells" hits it as it comes down, maybe waist-high+ and 24 yds out, before the left D can come over, lobbing it into the upper right, beyond the reach of a backpedaling, leaping Ayumi Kaihori. GOOOOOOOOLLLLLLL! First blood to England, and Japan is trailing for the first time in the tournament.
35' - Jpn free kick from 35 yds out, taken quickly as Eng is trying to organize a wall and a player is wide open on the right wing. She crosses from the side of the box 12 yds from the end line. MF Kozue Ando has position to the right of D Alex Scott, but Scott is able to jump over her and head the ball down parallel to the goal, and D Sophie Bradley is there to clear it out.
36' - Jpn wins ball at midfield, passes up to right wing, where ? dribbles in and shoots (crosses?) from just outside the box, 11 yds from the end line. One Jpn player, well marked, is making a run to the six; but the ball hits the outside of the net at the near post. Goal kick.
38' - F Jess Clarke sends a cross into the box from left midfield, 30 yds out. Els Bells takes a bicycle-type kick from 13 yds, and Kaihori has to step to the side and leap to get a hand on it. It hits the crossbar on the way up before landing on top of the net.
40' - Jpn pressure around the top of the box, partially relieved a couple times, but Jpn MFs find someone to pass it up to each time. Finally Ando, dribbling back out of the box in the center, finds MF Aya Miyama open on the left wing. She crosses it in, and a diving G Karen Bardsley pushes it out of the six yd box. It goes to D Yukari Kinga at the top of the box, but she boots a FG from 16 yds.
Mexico is doing what they can, getting 2 goals in the first half to 0 for NZ. But they need Japan's offense to get going in a major way, and Japan is 0-9-1 when trailing at the half.
US News: Heather O'Reilly still held out of training with a tight groin. Abby Wambach has her Achilles flare up again (bothered her earlier in the year), also sits out. Megan Rapinoe will get the start if O'Reilly can't go. Will Alex Morgan also get a start?
49' - Jpn free kick from right midfield, 38 yds out. Miyama crosses to center, it arcs over a defender in the middle of the box and amazingly drops in at the 6. F Yuki Nagasato gets behind Bradley, who has stepped away from the ball's path to shield a different (and the wrong) Jpn player (or perhaps she thought Nagasato was still behind her), reaches and gets a foot on it, but it's wide right.
58' - Jpn strings togethers 8 passes from their goalie, up the right side to Eng side, Nagasato? dribbles into center, passes left, and one more pass left to Miyama, open at the left of the box. She runs down near the end line at the side of the 6 yd box and crosses it in. D Casey Stoney slides and clears it out as Nagasato was making a near post run. WTF??? Ref calls it a goal kick. (Bet on England, did you?) Jeering whistles.
65' - Eng cross to high center of box, where F Rachel Yankey knocks it down & ahead to the left with a foot, past the defense, and has the speed to catch up to it. Kaihori comes out and dives for it, but Yankey pops it over her from the corner of the six. GOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLL!!!! 2-0 England.
Group B Final Thoughts
England continued the quality of play they had in the second half comeback against NZ and win the group. Japan had initial trouble with Eng defense, but managed to get pressure by getting a player behind the Eng midfield and in front of the back line, then passing around the box. They just couldn't finish, though. And that means DOOM. Jpn led in shots 14 to Eng 10, but shots on goal were 3 to 4. Jpn had 7 corners, Eng 3, Jpn had 55% possession.
Mexico 2, NZ 2
Mex got multiple goals for the first time, but then gave up two in the second half. Perhaps disheartened by hearing of Eng's lead? The Football Ferns were perhaps unlucky to have lost to Eng on a late goal, but they have improved, scoring four goals this tournament compared to one prior.
Germany 4, France 2
BOOM! Gebankt! (Bench'd!) I may have made that up, as mein klein Wörterbuch doesn't show a verb translation under "bench," so I took the noun and fudged the rest. Anyway, F Birgit Prinz sits, for the first time since 95.
25' - Ger free kick from left midfield, 45 yds out. Babett Peter sends it far post for Kerstin Garefrekes, who heads it from 7 yds to upper left. GOOOOOOLLLLLL! Poor marking by 6'2" D Wendie Renard, not even running hard with the 5'10" Garefrekes, who's so dangerous in the air. Renard actually has the height to do something about it, had she only kept up.
32' - Initial Ger attack turned back, ball cleared to midfield. MF Simone Laudehr gets the ball near the left sideline 36 yds out, dribbles in, then pushes the ball past the defender and runs down the left wing, crossing from 10 yds out. Grings is in the center of the box and heads it into the far side of the net from 8 yds. GOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLL!! Announcer Ian Darke thinks G Berangere Sapowicz should have had it (she reacts a little late, and the ball is past her outstretched hand). Poor marking again as the French D surrenders another goal.
46' - Camille Abily and Marie-Laure Delie sub in for France.
55' - Delie shoots right at G Nadine Angerer.
56' - Fr corner kick at right. Delie heads it in from the 6 at the near post. GOOOOOOOOLLLLL!!! Ger was zone defending, only man-marking the 6'2" Renard. D'ach!
59' - Renard makes a great slide tackle, but WTF yellow card?! She absolutely got the ball. Ref you suck!! Free kick from 22 yds, Grings drives a low shot to the left corner, which Sapowicz dives over to save.
65' - Pass comes to Grings, just inside the right corner of the box. Renard slides at it, but misses. Grings turns to face goal as another D comes over and passes to an open Bajramaj making a run. Sapowicz comes out, Bajramaj pokes ball to the right past the keeper as Sapowicz dives with her hands to the right (other side), and she can only trip Bajramaj with her leg. Fr D pokes ball away, as it was rolling towards the goal. Straight red card on Sapowicz (she'll miss the quarters, too).
68' - G Celine de Ville comes in for MF Eugenie le Sommer (as Fr must lose a player) and has to face a penalty shot right away. Grings puts it in the right side. GOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLL!!! 3-1 Germany.
Group A Final Thoughts
I thought it was game over, didn't watch the rest. France did get a goal off a corner in 72', but got no closer, with Germany getting the last goal in 89', which Grings assisted on. Analyst Tony DiCicco thought France's coach let them down by saying this game didn't matter. Yes, in the sense that they're in the quarters, but why would you say that? Your team is running on all cylinders, leads the group, and is about to face the defending world champs. Why not keep the momentum going? I say start Abily and Delie; France was flat in the first half and didn't get going till they subbed in at the half.
Germany had 14 shots, 9 on goal, to France's 9 and 5. Corners even at 5, and Germany had 54% of possession.
Nigeria 1, Canada 0
These teams were already eliminated, but at least Nigeria gets to go home with a win, while Canada lost all three games.
A & B Quaterfinal Match-ups
By winning their group England avoids Germany and gets France, Sat at noon EDT. If England continues to kick well-placed long balls and crosses, and France doesn't mark any better, they could reach the semis. France probably won't be affected by the goalie switch, as they didn't lose a star, and de Ville has 43 caps. It remains to be seen if France can turn their momentum around, but at least they won't be facing Germany for a while. By losing Japan now has to face Germany, Sat at 2:45 EDT, and I expect their tournament to be over.
Prinz didn't play at all, not even as a sub, and Germany won. Have we seen the last of her on the field? Grings got two goals and an assist, taking advantage of the PT.
Wednesday Group D & C Finals
Group D has the early (noon EDT) matches, with Australia vs Norway being key. I think the Matildas have been playing a bit better, so Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi! Group C games are at 2:45 EDT, with USA vs Sweden for the group. Win or tie to avoid Brazil, who should win D. Go Red White & Blue!!!
Edit2: Since this made it back to the front page, I'm hijacking it for my Day 8 Recap, below.
If you didn't see the clip of Rapinoe's goal celebration, I added it late to this post.
Edit: Subject changed to USA vs Columbia Open Thread
Lori Lindsey starts in place of Shannon Boxx at holding MF.
Originally Day 6 Recap (below)
Pregame: Clip of German captain Birgit Prinz visibly angry as she gets the hook not long into the second half. Bild.de says "Prinz war die Schwächste!" ("Prinz was the weakest!") with a pic of her on the ground, holding her leg while grimacing in pain (in her defense, she has just been kicked there by a Nigerian). Former Australian player Alicia Ferguson said, "Well, despite Birgit having her cranky pants on (Bob Ley chuckles) for being substituted from the game .. she's an example for the team, and she needs to remember that this is about the team, and it's a long World Cup, and sometimes players get sacrificed, no matter whether you're the captain or not."
Japan 4, Mexico 0
¡Ay caramba! ¡Catástofe! ¡Calamidad! BOOM! Banzai'd!
Much cooler day in Leverkusen at 55. Battle of the shortest teams (ave ht Jpn 5'4", Mex 5'3"). Announcer Cat Whitehill speculated that the air game could be important between two teams that usually keep it on the ground against taller opponents. Also, Mexico doesn't practice their set pieces. Can you say "DOOM"?
13' - Jpn free kick about 6 yds from the left corner of the penalty area. MF Aya Miyami bends a high ball towards the far post, and captain MF Homare Sawa, playing in her fifth World Cup, leaps over a defender and heads it home. GOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!! D Natalie Vinti complains about over the back, but she didn't even leave her feet, so nothin' doin'.
15' - Jpn works it up the right side with short passes, but turn it over and ball is cleared. D Azusa Iwashimizu sends it long to left center outside the box, where F Yuki Nagasato settles it and dribbles right with a defender closely marking her. She sends a short pass to the right where F Shinobu Ohno is making an unmarked run. She splits two defenders who try to close on her: the LB is slow to come over and cut her off, and the LCB is caught leaning as if she thinks Ohno is going to her left. Ohno pokes the ball right and has space to shoot, which she does from about 13 yds, beating G Cecilia Santiago with a shot to the upper right. GOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLL!!! (Ask not for whom the bell tolls ...)
25' - Announcer Beth Mullins says it's starting to rain, and the roof only covers the perimeter of the field. The wet field is going to make long balls skip, making it hard for Mexico to get back in the game.
28' - Mex loses the ball on Jpn side of field. Three passes get Jpn across center and over to the left, where a long through ball is sent to LB Aya Sameshima making an overlapping run down the left wing. The ball rolls almost 30 yds, and Sameshima crosses it in just a few yards from the end line. It curves out to the center of the box, where Sawa gets her head on it. But it's wide left. Still, Sawa is dangerous in the air.
37' - F Maribel Dominguez sends through ball send in the air past Jpn back line, and F Monica Ocampo looks like she's got a step on them, but the ball takes a long skip, and G Nozomi Yamago comes out and falls on it near the penalty spot. If the pitch were dry, might have been a different outcome.
39' - Jpn has corner from the left. MF Aya Miyama bends it near post, to where Sawa is making a run from the center of the box. D Alina Garcia Mendez is late to react and follows Sawa for only a few steps before inexplicably letting her go (kind of like she's playing zone). Sawa leaps and heads it down to left center of goal from 4 yds out, beating Santiago to her right. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!! D Luz del Rosario Saucedo didn't know Sawa was coming and was on the ground waiting for the ball to come to her; she makes a leap that looks like it would intercept the ball at a lower point, but Sawa got to it before then. Even if Garcia Mendez had stayed with Sawa, I don't think it would have mattered, as she wasn't running hard, body to body with Sawa. Game over, man. Game over!
80' - I would have stopped the recap, but I caught Bob Ley talking postgame about 14 passes leading to Japan's fourth goal, so I went back. It really was an amazing display of technical soccer. I'm guessing a bit on personnel, as Jpn D was shifted to the right, with LB Sameshima in the center of the field, then LCB Saki Kumagai, then RCB Iwashimizu closer to the right sideline, with RB Yukari Kinga further upfield on the right. A ball was sent deep down the right side for super sub Mana Iwabuchi, but Mexico wins possession and clears it from deep in the box.
(1) Kumagai, just on Jpn side of center, gets her foot out to knock the ball down and a few yards ahead to the right, where Iwashimizu gets to it just over the center line and (2) passes it back to Sameshima, who's below the circle. (3) She settles the ball, turns and sends it back right to Kumagai, who's dropped back in support. (4) Kumagai dribbles a step left to avoid pressure and passes to MF Mizuho Sakaguchi, who's moved to just below the circle, and (5) she sends it back to Sameshima, who's dropped deeper in center. (6) Sameshima sends it back to Sakaguchi, (7) who taps it to Kumagai, (8) who sends it over to Iwashimizu near the right sideline. (9) She sends a long ball 25 yds up the sideline to Kinga, who cuts to the center inside a Mexican player who's dropping back. (10) She dribbles to center and cuts a right angle pass upfield to F Yuki Nagasato, 6 yds outside the box. (11) Nagasato taps it back to Kinga, who's moved to the right of a defender, and (12) she sends it to Iwabuchi, just outside the right corner of the box and makes a run. (13) Iwabuchi sends it back to her deep in the penalty area, and (14) Kinga centers it from the right side of the 6 yd box to Sawa, all alone in the center of the penalty area 8 yds out (LCB went to Kinga and RCB was occupied with a Jpn player making a near post run; RB doesn't get over in time). She shoots it low to the left corner. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!! Hat trick, Sawa!
Game Final Thoughts
Another goal explosion. In a match between two short teams, it was Sawa's air game in set pieces doing damage for two goals against the flatfooted Mexican D. Jpn had 14 shots, 7 on goal, to Mex 9, 3 on goal; 56% of possession, and 7 corners to 1.
England 2, New Zealand 1
18' - NZ MF sends it back to D? who passes to D Rebecca Smith, who dribbles right, then turns and passes left to same D?, who passes a long roller up to Eng side, where MF? sends square ball to left sideline. She tries to send a ball over the top, but it looks like it deflects off the head of the nearby Eng player to the right of the back line, bounces just outside the left corner of the box and into the box, and it looks like the D Faye White can get there, but she's slow, and F Amber Hearn beats her to the ball and crosses from 5 yds off the end line.. Two Eng D, Casey Stoney and Rachel Unitt, are in the center of the box at the 6, but F Sarah Gregorious gets between them and gets a shot to the left corner. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!! First blood to the Football Ferns, only their third goal ever at the World Cup finals and first lead.
22' - MF Fara Williams of Eng takes a long shot from 30 yds, misses left. Didn't get around it enough, as it bends away from goal.
31' - Eng F Eniola Aluko has the ball at left center, 28 yds out. She crosses to F Rachel Yankey, who's open just outside the right corner of the box. She settles and, facing towards the center, dribbles to her right to avoid a NZ MF coming back, then left to avoid the NZ player at the 18, and shoots from 21 yds out. It's wide left.
34' - Eng MF Kelly Smith takes a pass on the NZ side of the center line, dribbles all the way up through right center, moves toward center as a NZ player moves to stop her and shoots from 26 yds, wide right.
37' - NZ free kick from 32 yds in center of field. D Anna Green takes the shot, but it's right to G Karen Bardsley, who catches it.
38' - NZ player sends ball behind the Eng D, where Gregorious has made a well-timed run and is onside. She doesn't push the ball out in front of her, so it lags a bit as she crosses the 18. Instead of gathering herself to shoot, she takes another touch and looks up..This enables Unitt to get back to slide and poke the ball away, and Bardsley corrals it.
43' - Aluko dribbles from left sideline towards center, sends a sharp right angle pass 20 yds upfield to Smith, making a run from center to left. She's behind the D, but didn't settle the ball and has to go a few yards more left. She shoots from a 45 degree angle 12 yds off the end line, or maybe it's a cross, but it deflects off the extended leg of a defender, then goes right to G Jenny Bindon, who falls on it. An Eng player is unmarked on a far post run, might have had a nice chance.
47' - Long ball sent from NZ end to midfield, headed over to MF Betsy Hassett, who dribbles 15 yds through right center then attempts a through ball. It gets deflected and rolls to the middle right side of the box. Gregorious tracks it down and crosses a yard or so from the end line. It's a high ball that falls to a leaping Hearn, 4 yds out, but it pops up and lands on the center top of the net. She had to jump a bit sideways and back to get to the ball, so couldn't get over it to power it down.
50' - Eng corner in left, headed out by NZ at near post. Smith is there at the top of the box and shoots from 21 yds over the net.
56' - NZ free kick at left midfield. It curves into the center of the box, where Eng D Faye White is all over Rebecca Smith's back, even has and arm over her shoulder almost around her neck, holding her down. No call, should have been a penalty.
63' - Eng working the ball up the left, dispossessed, ball cleared to midfield, where Eng gets it back, pass in to F Karen Carney, who switches fields going back to D Alex Scott. She dribbles forward, passes to F Ellen White at the right of the box. Short pass back and center to Kelly Smith?, who taps it back to Scott, who crosses it in. 5'10" MF Jill Scott is there, outjumps Rebecca Smith and heads it from just outside the 6 into the upper left corner. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLL!!! All tied up.
64' - Eng Carney, dribbling left to right across midfield, passes up to Alex Scott on the right. She crosses it into the left middle of the box where Jill Scott gets a head on it 13 yds out. She had to step back to get it, and it bloops into the air towards the goal where Bindon goes up for it 3 yds from goal with White pressuring. There's a bit of a collision, and Bindon drops the ball, but picks it right up. Announcer Kate Markgraf said in the first half that NZ keeps a narrow shape, so getting Alex Scott wide on the wing is just what Eng needed.
65' - Alex Scott passes from Eng side to Kelly Smith at the right sideline on NZ side. She dribbles diagonally up the field and with no one around her shoots from 26 yds. It's just wide right. Replay shows a little deflection off the leg of a NZ player, so it might have been a goal. Markgraf says somebody's got to step up on Smith, who shouldn't have so much space to look up and shoot.
67' - Kelly Smith sends a through ball up the right sideline to Ellen White, but it's called offsides. Announcer Adrian Healey says off camera the Eng bench is up in arms. And with good cause: replay shows White is even with the defender, and the asst ref is a step behind the play, so it looks like offsides when it's not. Markgraf says she's got to keep up with the play to make an accurate call.
72' - NZ Hearn shoots low from 30 yds out, it gets blocked at the 18 and bounces back and right. Eng player kicks it, but a charging Ali Riley is there almost at the same time, leaps up and gets a lucky bounce her way. She dribbles down the right side of the box and crosses from 5 yds off the end line, but it's just a bit behind F Rosie White, just subbed in and also 5 yds out, who lifts a leg behind her, deflecting the ball up, and it's headed out for a corner. White made her run too deep; if she had been outside the 6, probably a goal.
81' - Eng long ball from center line and Jill Scott is onside, catching up to the ball at the right of the box. She crosses from 10 yds off the end line, Eng player at the 6 flicks it back to the center where Ellen White shoots from 12 yds. It's in the air, though, and Bindon is able to palm it off to the (Eng) left side of goal. A NZ defender clears it out of the box, but it's still in play, and Eng player goes and gets it at the left sideline. She passes back to Unitt, who one-times a long cross into the box. Bindon comes out and with two Eng players nearby 7 yds out, gets a hand partially on it, and it deflects of Hassett's head and drops to Jill Scott in the right middle of the box. She catches it on her stomach off the bounce and, before it drops to the ground flicks it towards center past the onrushing defender, then taps a pass forward and left where super sub F Jess Clarke runs onto it unmarked and slams it into the upper left corner, past Bindon who was shuffling along the 6 yd line trying to keep up with the play. GOOOOOOLLLLLLLL!!! Bindon needed to punch that inital ball out of the box, but perhaps was impeded somewhat by Hassett and her defender being right there. Also the ball was curving away from her. Eng pulls victory from the jaws of, er, a draw?
Game Final Thoughts
NZ outplayed Eng in the first half, getting the lead and being in the new position of playing with the lead. But they didn't do a good job of cutting off Eng players from making long runs. In the second half Eng got Alex Scott wide with good results, and the winner came as they reacted better to a loose ball. Eng ended up with 16 shots, 5 on goal, to 9 for NZ, 4 on goal, and 54% of possession.
Group B Final Thoughts
Japan has the lead with two wins for six points, and probably keeps it, but England with four points can win the group by beating Japan. Japan should be able to get through balls past the slow-footed Eng D, but will they be able to avoid the set pieces against the taller Eng team? Eng may not get enough of those chances comapred to what Japan can generate. A tie puts Eng through in second, and likely a close loss will as well, so they won't want to take too many risks. Mexico is in a deep hole with a -4 GD and only 1 GF, when Eng has +1 GD and 3 GF. They're not mathematically eliminated, but really they're all but done: they have to win and have Eng lose by some combination totalling six (i.e., win by two, Eng loses by four), or tie in GD and beat Eng in GF (win 3-0, Eng loses 0-2), or win the draw of lots if tied in both GD and GF. NZ is an improved team, only lost by a goal to Japan, and Mexico hasn't shown they can score a bunch, so it looks like adios.
Saturday, Saturday, SATURDAY!
N Korea vs Sweden early, then Columbia vs USA (USA!! USA!!!). I hope to see us win by multiple goals to keep the GD advantage over Sweden. Or a win plus a Sweden not-win. Go Red, White and Blue!!!
Earlier today at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, the USWNT hosted Mexico in the last tuneup before the World Cup in 3 weeks. Here was an opportunity for payback for the November loss in Cancun.
It was a 1-0 victory for the US, but it wasn’t until the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the game that sub Lauren Cheney scored from ~30 yds out with a rising shot across the goal to the upper left corner.
The US controlled play throughout the game, but lacked that last quality touch, resulting in many shots that were not on frame. IIRC it was 13 shots in the first half, with only 3 on goal; 21 for the game, with 6 on goal. At times in the first half Abby Wambach had the ball up front, but midfield support was late arriving, and nothing happened.
The best US opportunity in the first half came about 37’ in when a long ball got Carli Lloyd behind the defense at the right side of the box. She crossed it in to the center, but Amy Rodriguez kicked a 12-yd field goal. A few minutes later Abby Wambach got the ball in some space just outside the top right of the box, and she crossed it back to the center, missing Megan Rapinoe, who was wide open on the middle left. Had the pass been a firm one going forward that she could have run onto, she would have been in alone on the goalie. As it was, Lloyd got to the ball but stumbled. She recovered and got a pass to Rapinoe, who shot it wide.
Mexico decided to give the start to their 16-yr old goalie Santiago (she does have U-17 and U-20 experience). She played pretty well, coming out aggressively to challenge on a few through balls that got past the defense. Though she didn’t always win the ball, her team, playing very defensively, was there to clean up. In the 41’ after a short corner, the cross went to the left (far) post, and Shannon Boxx got a strong header at the six. Santiago made the save, landed hard on her back and got up hobbling. After some attention from the trainers, she stayed in the game.
A few minutes into the second half, it got a bit more exciting. After a few passes in the offensive zone, Heather Mitts passed the ball down the right side to Heather O’Reilly, who crossed it in toward Wambach at the six. Santiago knocked it away from her, but Lloyd settled the ball near the top of the box, dribbled into the center and ripped a shot past Santiago, who had just gotten to her feet at the six. Unfortunately, a defender was back on the goal line covering and made the (hip?) save. Not long after that, the US had a corner from the right, and Wambach got her head on the ball, but it popped up in an arc going back to the near post, where a defender near the goal line headed it away from danger. The US was getting closer, but still no joy.
More pressure from the US, but with shots blocked, going wide or over. Then in the 70’ Wambach had the ball on the left side, passed back to Stephanie Cox, who saw Lloyd making a diagonal run from center to left, and got the ball to her. Lloyd pushed the ball past a defender and got a shot from just outside the left 6-yd box. It was a hard shot going short side, but Santiago knocked it out of bounds.
On the winning goal Cheney powered through a challenge at midfield, dribbled a few yards more, then ripped it from downtown and beat the goalie.
Early in the second half announcer Ian Darke noticed that the US seemed to have heavy legs. Julie Foudy said they had been training hard all week and said Coach Sundhage should have tapered off right before the game. She thought it would be better to go into the final pre-Cup game feeling good, rather than worn down. And it was a frustrating game with a ton of possession but nothing to show for it at that point.
Some thoughts: In the World Cup the US will need to finish on the chances it gets, especially since they might not get as many. Entry passes need to be more on the mark as well. Hopefully this was just an off game, with the team a bit tired from training hard. Neither Mexico nor Japan challenged the defense too much, so it’s a bit hard to judge where we’re at. At least everyone was healthy. Becky Sauerbrunn did get PT and played well when Christie Rampone was out. The competition at left back between Amy LePeilbet and Stephanie Cox should help. If this game is any indication, perhaps the more defensive LePeilbet has won the starting job. It might not be a bad thing to have Cox as a sub to bring more offense. With two shots and none on goal, Mexico didn’t challenge Hope Solo. At the half Brandy Chastain said even without much work, it was important for Solo to be vocal and organize the defense.
Ian Darke said the expectation is to win the whole f**king thing (#NotADirectQuote), and it would be disappointing not to make the final game. Another third place finish is right out. With Kristine Lilly retired, none of the current players have won a World Cup, so they want to make their mark.
G: Hope Solo
D: Ali Krieger, Rachel Buehler, Christie Rampone, Amy LePeilbet
M: Heather O’Reilly, Shannon Boxx (defending mid), Carli Lloyd (attacking mid), Megan Rapinoe
F: Abby Wambach, Amy Rodriguez
Captain Christie Rampone was back from a groin strain (she had played last week with her club). LePeilbet is a center back on her club team, but she did make some runs up the flank, showing she can adapt to being a left back.
Heather Mitts, who trained fully all week (had been out with a hamstring), subbed in at half for Krieger. Ian Darke said it was an audition to stay on the team, since she had been out so much. Mexico didn’t do much on offense, but on their most dangerous opportunity, a player made a run down the left. Mitts seemed to be able to run well enough to stay with her, but then she got beat to the inside. The Mexican got into the box and had the next defender leaning the wrong way, and I thought she had enough space to take a shot, but she tried to dribble in closer, held onto the ball too long, and another player tracked back to steal the ball. Not very well done on Mitts’ part, but Whitney Engen, who was called up to train with the team in case Mitts couldn’t go, only has two caps. Will Mitts’ experience win out?
Stephanie Cox subbed in at 61’ for LePeilbet, along with Lauren Cheney for Rodriguez. Lori Lindsay in at 71’ for Boxx. Alex Morgan in at 76’ for Rapinoe, which moved Cheney to midfield. Becky Sauerbrunn in at 84’ for Buehler.
Midfielder Kelley O'Hara was named to replace Lindsay Tarpley (ACL).
Next up: N Korea at noon ET on Tu 6/28. World Cup starts on Sun 6/26 with Nigeria vs France at 9AM ET, and Germany vs Canada at noon ET.
U-S-A! U-S-A!! U-S-A!!!
Kristine Lilly was honored before the game. She retired with 354 caps (world record) and 130 goals (2nd to Mia Hamm's 158).