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France 1 – 3 USA; USA to face Japan in the World Cup Final

[ 23 ] July 13, 2011 |

We watched France v USA at a friend’s house this morning, and while not quite the dramatic classic that was Brazil v USA, it did have its moments.  Our main concern was stamina; while both France and the USA played full 120 minute matches plus penalty shootouts, France had the advantage of an extra day of rest.  We were hoping that the Americans’ superior fitness training would pay off, but it didn’t.

The US seemed to control the match for the first 15 minutes.  France was incapable of retaining their shape, which gave the US the odd opening.  After the first goal at nine minutes, the Americans pulled back; I’m not sure if this was a tactical decision or simple tiredness, but France spent the next 60 minutes firmly in control, superior in technique, passing accuracy, and critically, possession.  Where the French failed was in peppering Hope Solo’s goal from range, but eventually something was going to sneak through.  I don’t fault the American keeper for the equalizer.  Bompastor’s nice cross was directed towards Thiney, hence Solo had to concentrate on the direct threat Thiney provided.  Whether Thiney missed, or as I believe, cleverly feinted, Solo couldn’t be expected to protect the far post; that’s what defenders are for in this situation.  None was there, and the goal was scored.  Around this point ESPN had flashed a shots on goal stat, and it was something like 26 for France to 4 for the USA, and tellingly the last American shot on goal was the Cheney goal at 9 minutes.

The US would find its way eventually, and this was a result of substitutions and a change in tactics.  While Carli Lloyd’s lovely back flick to Heather O’Reilly allowed the latter to feed Cheney for the first goal, that was Lloyd’s only decent touch of the game.  Replacing her with Megan Rapinoe at the 65th minute (provider of that sublime cross to Wambach against Brazil), placing Rapinoe on the left wing thus allowing Cheney to move inside along Boxx subtly changed the American’s shape and ability to go forward.  Combined with forward Alex Morgan’s substitution of the perennially invisible Amy Rodriguez, suddenly the US looked like team capable of finding the opposition final third of the pitch again, even, possibly, scoring (and that they did, twice, at 80 and 82 minutes).

To my mind, Cheney and Boxx work together in central midfield than do Lloyd and Boxx; starting Rapinoe on the left wing in the final seems the wise move.  Of course, she was largely invisible in the match against Sweden, and it’s plausible that the spark she added in both the Brazil and France matches was illusory, coming on as a substitute around the 60th minute against a backdrop of 21 other tired players can’t hurt, but the central midfield combination of Lloyd and Boxx doesn’t work, and their inability to retain possession and thwart the opposition did as much to make France look technically superior as the French.  Something also has to be done about Amy Rodriguez.  It’s not a talent, but a confidence issue, but I wouldn’t want her to start the final.  Alex Morgan looked good indeed, and perhaps that’s the player who should start the final.  In reality, this was probably going to be the injured Lindsay Tarpley’s role.

And what about Japan in the final?  They looked very strong against the Sweden side that defeated the USA in the final group stage match, winning 3-1 (with something like 65% of possession).  They finished second in their group to England, to whom they lost 0-2, but beat Mexico 4-0, and impressively, Germany 1-0 in the quarter finals.  They’re ranked fourth according to FIFA.  Japan have only made it out of the group stage in one World Cup (1995), losing to the US 4-0 in the quarter finals.  Their Olympics record is slightly better, finishing fourth in 2008.  In 2008, the US knocked Japan out in the semi finals by a score of 4-2.  Two months ago, the USA and Japan played two friendlies in the US, both of which were won by the US 2-0.

While their run has been impressive (and the Americans’ uneven), I have to go with the USA to win over Japan in the final on Sunday.  Note, this is not patriotic wishful thinking; in my preview of the World Cup on June 23, I predicted a Germany v Brazil final.  However, I like our chances against Japan, chances that could be improved if both Rapinoe and Morgan start in place of Lloyd and Rodriguez.

Comments (23)

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  1. Walter the Penniless says:

    Rapinoe actually looked poor in Brazil until The Cross, so maybe that has to be factored in. I don’t know if any wants to see Rodriguez out there.

  2. Stag Party Palin says:

    There you go again, Dave, putting the spoiler in the headline. How about, “Postmortem: Women’s World Cup Semifinals”? Eh?

    • Patrick says:

      I just completely unplugged from blogs/news sites yesterday. You can’t trust them. And I physically ran from the room with my hands over my ears when my wife turned on the evening news before I had a chance to watch the game.

      In case other people here haven’t seen it, ESPN3.com actually has a pretty decent setup for watching games delayed – so long as your ISP has paid up or you can get a spare email address/PW from a friend who’s ISP has.

  3. Karl Radek says:

    The French controlled much of the game because they’re the superior footballing side.Fatigue or adopting a defensive posture had nothing to do with why for the vast majority of the match the US were made to look ordinary.

    I believe any one watching, not knowing the teams reputations, would come to this conclusion.

    The winning goal was a combination goalkeeper error and the Amazons physical superiority over the French defender.After… the Americans posed a danger because the French had to go for broke.

    • Stag Party Palin says:

      The French controlled much of the game because they’re the superior footballing side.

      Ah – that explains why France is ranked 7th in the world and the American side 1st. Couldn’t you just have said the French outplayed the Americans most of the game instead of giving yourself an Olympic Gold in Conclusion Jumping?

      The winning goal was a combination goalkeeper error and the Amazons physical superiority over the French defender.After… the Americans posed a danger because the French had to go for broke.

      Oh, my apologies. This is definite proof that the French are the “superior footballing side”: bad goalkeeping, physical inferiority and the inability to play from behind.

      • Anonymous says:

        Ah – that explains why France is ranked 7th in the world and the American side 1st.

        Don’t know much about that. My inexpert eyeballs told me the French were pretty dominant for the first 60-odd minutes. But dominating the last 20 isn’t insignificant, is it?

      • Thlayli says:

        This is definite proof that the French are the “superior footballing side”: bad goalkeeping, physical inferiority and the inability to play from behind.

        Mr. Radek must be an Arsenal fan.

      • Leeds man says:

        Ah – that explains why France is ranked 7th in the world and the American side 1st.

        Canada was ranked 6th.

        I think this is one of those “separated by a common language” thingies. You don’t understand the nuance of the phrase “footballing side”.

        Japan is a far superior footballing side to the Americans. It doesn’t mean they will win.

  4. Dave3544 says:

    Agree with Stag. Since when is ability to score off set pieces not part of the game? The US always threaten with Wambach and a great cross. It’s our strenghth. Our weakness is s complete lack if ability to control the midfield. Which will win out? That’s the excitement.

  5. BKN in Canadia says:

    At all levels of football, you can still win games with a combination of size, heart, and the long ball. But Spanish-style ball-control football is the future of football.

  6. John Protevi says:

    But Spanish-style ball-control football is the future of football.

    Which the Japanese play quite well. Should be a very interesting final.

  7. actor212 says:

    We were hoping that the Americans’ superior fitness training would pay off, but it didn’t.

    I’m sorry….did I miss where the US DIDN’T score two goals in the second half? Late in the second half? After the French had pretty much had their way in possession? And nearly took a player off the field with an injury?

    I agree, they were lackluster up until the injury (tempted to say it was Carly Lloyd but I’m not sure) but like Saturday’s game against Brazil, early in the game they were sleeping and once their backs were against the wall they turned up the heat.

  8. skidmarx says:

    It’s a funny old game.

    Perhaps the US team should be offered honorary English citizenship for their penalty taking prowess.

    • Leeds man says:

      They’ll have to go down a notch before that can happen. The last time England went out on penalties (IIRC) was the 2006 World Cup. It was 1-3, but the only England player to score was Canadian – Hargreaves.

  9. [...] on possession was 50 / 50.  And we dominated.  Starting Rapinoe on the left wing was ideal, as I suggested in my post following the France match.  Alex Morgan didn’t start, and even though Morgan was [...]

  10. [...] through the knock-out rounds at the 2011 World Cup, where they barely got past Brazil on penalties, struggled against France in the semi final, and ultimately lost to Japan on penalties. Hence, take the above with een korreltje [...]

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