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!!!