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!!!