A Few More Notes from the Second Day of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup

New Zealand simply couldn’t go the full distance.

Last night Ray Curren pointed out the fact that Canada’s performance on Sunday would have made Blackpool manager Ian Holloway proud. And another dubious EPL comparison: did anyone catch New Zealand coach John Herdman tip his hat to Stoke City boss Tony Pulis post match? Herdman’s direct tactics were effective up to a point, but just as the midday sun began to scorch and Japan’s quality began to show, New Zealand hit a brick wall. Lack of full match fitness isn’t something that can be remedied by the time group play concludes. Perhaps Herdman will try a more aggressive approach against England on Friday and use the team’s height advantage bombard England’s wary center-back pairing with an early aerial assault.

At the risk of sounding horribly patronizing, New Zealand did well before their legs gave out. They even managed to score – something that hasn’t been done in a World Cup since November 21, 1991.


Japan are prepared, but not 100% precise.

Thanks to Aya Miyama’s peach of a free kick, Japan’s lack of finishing didn’t come back to bite them. It could become an issue though, as squandered several chances and Yuki Nagasota couldn’t get her shots on target after the first goal. Mana Iwabuchi had a dynamic cameo appearance in the second half, and injected life into the side. The precocious talent was the victim of poor first touches, heavily weighted balls, and wayward shots, however. Blame it on overexcitement maybe. On the other hand, Japan’s threat on set pieces was patently obvious. In dead ball situations, Japan’s preparedness resulted in the desired result and all three points.


Mexico doesn’t have to be in Cancun to be in control.

So the 4-5-1 formation Leo Cuellar used against the U.S. was a ruse. Well, kind of. Cuellar still used a five-woman midfield but in a hybrid 4-5-1/4-3-3 system with wingers. Mexico waited out England and began slowly throwing more numbers in the attack as the match wore on. Cuellar’s side kept countering and pressing until – boom – Monica Ocampo converted the long-range screamer [goal of the tournament]. From there, Mexico kept showing the swagger it used to befuddle the U.S. last November. Nayeli Rangel and Stephany Mayor ran England’s back four ragged. The team began to play with a higher line as well, and felt confident enough to initiate the attack from the back line, rather than only through counters. Mexico showed no signs of fatigue and England couldn’t turn the tide. The playacting got a little tiresome though.


England couldn’t adapt.

Hope Powell’s formation left little space in behind midfield. Mexico responded by parking the bus. Cuellar’s team conceded possession in midfield and opted to bunker in behind the ball and pack the defense. Cuellar’s tactics worked: England couldn’t make any headway in the final third and grew frustrated. Neither Kelly Smith – who did her best up to the 70th minute – in the center nor Karen Carney on the flank could sneak a ball into the center of England’s final third. When England managed to break through in the beginning of the second half, Eniola Aluko squandered the opportunities. England had no alternative. Carney was bizarrely pulled for Ellen White but by then, Mexico had all the momentum.


Amazing goal:

[vsw id=”Nqijz_dRO5E” source=”youtube” width=”500″ height=”450″ autoplay=”no”] 


A few more notes:

  • ESPN deserves some love for its unique use of exterior remote sets. The network earned universal praise for its coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. A stationary interior set was used for all the in-studio coverage, however. This arrangement is significantly less stuffy and gives the audience a street-level view of the host country.  Just hope it doesn’t rain.


  • The commentary continues to be insightful and enjoyable (in spite of Eniola Aluko’s apparent failure to understand Kate Markgraf’s sarcasm — she deleted the tweet in question, by the way), but the constant Barcelona comparisons must stop. Just because a team completes three passes doesn’t mean they’re Barcelona. It just means they’re good.


  • Is this the tournament of the towering header? This OptaJoe stat is pretty impressive.


  • SportsCenter’s Bob Holtzman is reporting that although it isn’t definitive, all indications suggest that Pia Sundhage will play Lauren Cheney in the midfield in place of Megan Rapinoe tomorrow. The rationale is that Cheney is a better crosser of the ball than Rapinoe and Abby Wambach is going to be the target woman. Jeffrey Carlisle’s preview also seems to confirm this.


  • Frankly, I’m too nervous about the match to genuinely think this through all the way. All I can think to say is, “Yes, folks have been clamoring for a system change for the past 12 months, but making one in the first World Cup group game? Hope it works.”

18 thoughts on “A Few More Notes from the Second Day of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup

  1. TC

    I’m worried. I’m always worried before big US games, but certain comments by a player as well as recent struggles make me think the players are putting a brave face on to cover some doubts with the system. I want to be wrong.

  2. Soccer

    Jenna I totally agree with the Barcelona comparison……I wanted to slap Albertin Montoya when he said we will play a Barcelona style of game when he was with the Pride……..ugh it’s sooooooo annoying. I can only say……Stanford Women’s team is the only semi-Barcelonaesque team I’ve seen.

    1. Sol Muser

      Oh my God, yes. By the fifth time Cat Whithill compared Japan to Barcelona, I was practically at the TV: “I watch Barcelona, Barcelona is my team. Japan is no Barcelona!”

  3. Soccer

    Jenna…..I have to ask…………don’t you think Bardsley should have had that shot??? She has long ass arms freakishly big hands……..It looked like it went thru her hands.

    1. Jenna Pel Post author

      Honestly, I can’t blame her. Bardsley is a remarkably good shot-stopper but the bend (and pace!) on that ball made it difficult for any keeper to save.

  4. Batfink

    I thought Asia would have a strong showing in Germany, and after seeing Japan finally play, I think I may be correct. Similar to Germany, Japan will only improve after that opening game. If it really clicks with them too, the 5-0 football lesson they put on Norway in the Olympics could happen again.

    England’s performance can be summarized in one word. ALUKO. I don’t know what England were doing in the pre WWC camp, but those DPR Korea/Australia defeats make sense now.

    The U.S. and Brazil are both going to have far more serious opening games than they imagine. One of these games will produce the tournaments first serious upset.

    1. Jenna Pel Post author

      Always good to hear from you, Batfink. So do you think Powell will give Aluko the nod over White again? It would be shocking if she does. England were put on the back foot and could simply never recover. It was pretty surprising. It looks like they can be had by a tricky and technical Japan team, particularly if Japan can retain possession in their half.

      1. Batfink

        Aluko being benched should be one of a few changes. Hope Powell is more likely to stick and fail though, before she would ever twist. The fact Aluko even started highlights this point. Aluko’s international goal scoring form is simply horrendous compared to E.White, and yet she still got the nod to start the big game.

        England were recently beaten comfortably in two pre WWC behind closed door games. Most people saw the U.S. and Sweden results though, and figured England would be a major force in Germany. Now that the coach can’t even tell what’s wrong on the field, it’s probably the performances we didn’t see that are the true reflection of England’s current status.

        Japan on the other hand out passed, and out maneuvered, their hardest physical test in the group. They even did it without losing their composure, displaying some true sequences of quality not yet seen in the tournament so far. I just don’t see Japan struggling to get past Mexico or England, when both teams lack the physical edge needed to harass the Japanese for 90 mins solid.

  5. Soccer

    Aluko is like a Marta without the tricks or shooting accuracy…meaning she gets a shit load of chances beause she’s so fast…and THAT’S IT!!!. Aluko’s misses in WPS are always jawdropping. I really liked that black girl, I think it was Jessica Clark for England…she tormented the US defense in their friendly match. I’d put Jessica in more over Aluko from what little I’ve seen.

  6. boltgirl

    I was similarly baffled by Powell’s substitutions. Aluko pretty clearly pulled up with a hamstring issue after a missed chance in the 58th minute or so, and after that either failed to run on to the ball before the defender or touchline took it away, or, if she did, she gave it away immediately with a bad touch. Watching Williams lose possession time and again on an underweighted or flat-out ill-advised pass was also pretty frustrating. England were gassed by the 70th anyway. I’m afraid Japan will give them fits.

    Speaking of fits, the persistence of the Lloyd-Boxx midfield GIVES ME THEM.

  7. TDK

    That’s an interesting Mexico side. Up to that screamer of a goal they were a bit tentative, not sure what everyone else was going to do. They gained confidence after that, with fewer giveaways and miscommunications and more incisive motion. They were also very tentative in the friendly loss to the US, pulling out of 50-50 balls and giving us too much respect. Maybe Cuellar ripped into them after that loss. Or maybe that’s the key to playing this Mexico side: don’t let them in the game or you’re in for a long afternoon. Keep possession, and keep pressing. England’s long balls over the top and into the corner helped Mexico more than England.

    Never been so uncertain before a USWNT match. Really I’m more concerned with the central midfield than the wings, so Cheney for Rapinoe looks more like rearranging deck chairs to me. And Wambach as the focal point of the attack is just Way. Too. Predictable.

  8. Quick as a Flash

    NZ v. Japan

    The kiwis are as fit as any team in the tournament. However with Japan having so much possession and given the heat of the day it was inevitable that the task of defending would get really tough at the end.

    The next 2 games are late games so that should help.

    Percival used to play right defender. I would rather see Percival and Riley rotating for stretches. This would make it harder for England to solve the puzzle. The Kiwis will be feeling pretty good about their next game after watching England v. Mexico.

  9. Beau Dure

    Funny coincidence alert — I rode the tram from the stadium back to the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) with Percival and apparently a few family members.

  10. e

    “Adapt” should be the key word for this entire WWC. Mexico had a great second half.
    I have my fingers crossed and all of my voodoo dolls lined up that the US has been practicing some sort of secret line-up these past few weeks to throw everyone off their feet.

  11. e

    Also-there is some article in the NY Times (that I cannot find) about how slow everyone was about getting WWC merch out there. A few websites/shops have scrambled to get it out there and are now making millions. Thanks US Soccer and
    Nike for being on top of things…sarcasm. If anyone can find it can you pass along the link? Thanks Jenna for all of the hardwork!

  12. random

    I think CiCi Santiago should be added to your player to watch list. I was impressed with her when they played the US and she once again looked good, especially considering her age (16).

  13. b

    Not sure where to put this, but… has anyone found a good wallchart/PDF that shows all the groups and fixtures and also allows you to write in the teams for the knockout stages?

    Thanks, looked around for a while and couldn’t find anything… definitely one of my favorite things to do for any major tournament.


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