First, apologies for an extended hiatus. Not one to be left out of the fun, following the recent lead of Scott L and Erik, I was married a week ago Saturday, ensuring a trifecta of LGM weddings in a two week span. As all but a few of our guests travelled in from out of town, there was considerable entertaining both pre and post, along with three nights of a honeymoon spent in Ashland, Oregon, taking in some plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Superlatives will be used to describe the Brazil v USA quarter-final match in the World Cup, and most will be accurate: it was a classic. You’ll also hear a lot about American exceptionalism, the indomitable American spirit, grit, a ‘can do’ ethic, etc. Ignore that.
If you’ve neither watched nor read about this match, read about it. Briefly, the US were one player down from the 65th minute, but still managed to hold onto a 1-1 draw after 90. Two 15 minute extra time periods followed, but Brazil scored to go ahead 2-1 early in extra time on a wonderful Marta goal. Some will argue that Brazil had a player offsides, and while I believe that to be true, the angle would have prevented the linesman from accurately observing this, and the American defence was horrible in allowing that goal anyway. At this point Brazil used every delaying tactic possible, receiving two yellow cards and an additional (and exceptional for a 15 minute extra time period) three minutes of stoppage for their trouble.
What followed was one of those rare, fleeting, dramatic sporting moments. Two minutes into stoppage time, meaning about a minute left in the match, Megan Rapinoe has the ball going down the left flank. Abby Wambach is running down the right towards the box, and while this didn’t get into any of the replays I saw, watching it live Wambach had her arm aloft for about 15 yards of her run clearly requesting the ball. Rapinoe delivers a perfect cross which Wambach heads in to level the score and send the match to penalties. I had confidence heading into penalties, as Hope Solo, the US keeper, is one of the best in the business, and she managed one save to Brazil’s nil, allowing the US to advance to the semi finals.
The quality of the refereeing was sporadic at best, and those of us watching were highly critical of the “contentious”, according to the BBC, US red card at the 65th minute. Buehler played the ball, not the opponent, and other accounts argue that it was shoulder-to-shoulder contact). It wasn’t a foul. Hope Solo saved the ensuing penalty, only for it to be called back for . . . what exactly? Accounts are unclear. Solo did not come off her line in the save, but she did earn her yellow card for dissent after the penalty was called back, and the retake was duly converted to make the match 1-1 and forcing the USA to ultimately enjoy 55 minutes down a player.
On June 23, I previewed the 2011 Women’s World Cup. Now that we’re down to the four semi-finalists, it’s a safe time to review my mediocre predictions. In the groups, I didn’t do horribly. Group A I correctly predicted Germany to top, but instead of Canada finishing second, it was France. I did say that France and Canada could go either way, but I really screwed up Canada as they finished fourth. Group B I nailed, which is a little surprising because I thought it a bit optimistic to predict England to top the group over Japan. In Group C I correctly predicted that both Sweden and the USA would progress, but I didn’t predict the USA losing to Sweden 2-1 allowing Sweden to top the group. In Group D I reversed Norway (who finished third) with Australia (second), which was surprising. I got six of the eight quarter finalists correct, only missing out on Australia and France.
My predictions for the semi finals are largely irrelevant now. I had Brazil over England and Germany over USA (with Germany beating Brazil for the final). Of those four, only the USA are in the semi finals (but at least all four did make the quarters). For the semi finals, I’ll predict the USA over France, and Sweden over Japan. While Sweden did defeat the USA in the group stage as well as in a friendly in January, against common opposition in the group (Colombia and North Korea) the United States performed better, so look for the USA to win the World Cup.
A prediction that is certain to go down well in both Japan and France considering my sketchy track record.