Women’s World Cup – Things We Learned: Day 5

It was the best of the women’s game, but it was also the worst of the women’s game Thursday at the Women’s World Cup.

We saw France pick what appeared to be a more athletic Canada side apart with better ball control, more precise passing, looking like the “Barcelona of the women’s game” (although, as a few people have pointed out, just because a team can string four passes together doesn’t mean they should be compared to Barcelona), in an absolute rout.

Then we saw Nigeria, with a great deal of success, try to bully their way to a result against heavily favored Germany, in a match that will be remembered more for the number of injuries and fouls (and a little bit of curious officiating) than for the actual play on the field.

But you have to take the good with the bad when you cover a tournament, and I’ll try to make sense of the Thursday proceedings here.

And so, without further ado, here are the 10 things we learned in Day 5 of Germany 2011.

1) France’s win could reverberate further than just today

We’ve heard rumblings that the game is gettign more technical, that the days of just physically beating an opponent into submission (see: Norway in the 90s) were dead. I’ve read from Anson Dorrance and Even Pellerud on how the women’s game may never really evolve that way, and that athleticism will always win out (Dorrance has changed his tune slightly, Pellerud – who admittedly has had great success – really hasn’t).
For the first 15 minutes, Canada was buzzing, but once France settled down, they did circles around the Canadians, they were better passers, better dribblers, just played the game better, and there was little Canada could do to stop it.
Can France go all the way this way? Possibly, but…

2) Maybe the physicality thing is not quite dead yet

I’m torn with Nigeria’s performance against Germany. Part of me wants to congratulate their organization, and the fact that they’ve come a long way since an 8-0 drubbing in a friendly just six months ago. They battled, clawed, and made things difficult for Germany at every turn.
However, saying it was an ugly match would be generous. It set a Women’s World Cup record for fouls, saw more bodies on the ground than in the previous nine games combined seemingly, and saw very few movements that resembled anything beautiful like France was putting together.
The age old question, of course, is what are the Nigerians to do? Take a beating and smile? They did what they thought was best to try to win the game. It’s up to Germany (and the officials) to break them down. And today they couldn’t.

3) Scorelines don’t necessarily dictate how one-sided a game was

No one is debating that Canada deserved to get a result or anything, but if Canada could have stuck one in (and they were physically dominating the French in the first 15 minutes), who knows? Diana Matheson had a great chance in the 15th minute, it went begging, France was on the board 10 minutes later, and they never looked back from there. But if that first one goes in.

4) Ironically, France’s first goal came off a strong tackle

Canadian holding midfielder Sophie Schmidt was off to a good start in the match, took a touch in the 24th minute and thought she had time to clear. But her counterpart Elise Bussaglia came in with a hard (and clean) tackle, played a quick 1-2 with Louisa Necib, and Gaetane Thiney was at the far post to put France in front, and – as I stated before – it was all France after that.
Even Thiney’s second goal could be attributed to pressure. This time Emily Zurrer thought she had more time, Marie-Laure Delie got in the way of the clearance, and Thiney’s blast from outside the box was perfect. But it doesn’t happen without the pressure.

5) France looked much more comfortable with a formation tweak

Bruno Bini was in a little bit of a bind, as he pulled captain Sandrine Soubeyrand at halftime of the opener against Nigeria in his 4-5-1 to get more on the attack, moving Elise Bussaglia – whom he started wide – into that role.
Many thought he would make that switch permanent against Canada, but he wanted his veteran captain on the field, so he went to a 4-2-3-1 with Bussaglia and Soubeyrand holding. It allowed Louisa Necib to play in front of them and have more of the ball, and it worked very well after the first few minutes.
Whether France will have that same kind of success against Germany, or in the knockout stages, remains to be seen.

6) It was a sad end for Christine Sinclair and Canada

Under Pellerud eight years ago, Canada actually had the lead in the semifinals against Sweden before two late goals killed their dream. But the goal scorer in that game typifies Canada, Kara Lang was 16 when she scored. Eight years later, Lang is retired due to persistent knee injuries. Christine Latham, who also had some big goals in that tournament having just turned 22, but isn’t around anymore, either. Brittany Timko and Diana Matheson, both teenage starters during that World Cup, never developed into stars.
Which leaves Christine Sinclair, who should be around at 32 when Canada hosts the World Cup in 2015, but the current crop doesn’t look as promising as 2003.
But four years is a long time, Canada did win the Gold Cup in the winter, and Jonelle Filigno (20) looks like a potential star, so we’ll see.

7) You can bash Nigeria, but Germany wasn’t good today, either

The ball just moved too slow, and you wonder how much offense Silvia Neid is going to be able to generate with Kim Kulig and Simone Laudehr both as holding midfielers (although, as she did on the goal, Laudehr did get forward a bit today). Birgit Prinz was not a happy camper, and Neid has to make a tough decision and soon, to cut her loose (sit her) and go with Alexandra Popp, or stick with her. A very, very tough one indeed.

8) I’m not sure what we wanted Nigeria to do

Ngozi Uche (and her German staff) know if they come out and play a wide open game, they may get run over. So they turn to the style which they played today. It was borderline hideous and fairly gruesome to watch. But it gave them the best chance to win, didn’t it? That is the object, no?
Holding midfielder Rita Chekwelu has had two very good games and it’s a shame to see her wrapped up with the rest. But, unless someone changes the rules, that’s the way it’s going to go, we saw plenty of it at the Men’s World Cup last summer as well.

9) It may not be worth it to win Group A

It may be slightly embarrassing for the Germans not to win their group when they’re hosting the World Cup, but I take a long look at sitting some people and getting them a rest if I’m Neid and Bini in the last group match.
The likely road to the Cup for the winners of Group A: England, United States, Brazil.
The likely road for second place: Japan, Brazil, United States.
I don’t see enough difference to make this game huge, especially because you’re playing so many games in a short period, some of them in intense heat. But we’ll see.

10) Refs need to show cards sometimes

Cha Sung Mi, the South Korean referee of the second game today, never really had control of the game, and – despite the fact that people decry them as not having control (irony) – probably needed to show some cards early in the match.
When you do that, the Nigerians have to think twice about hacking people because they may get sent off.


French women better than men

The last time the French men won a World Cup game by three goals or more? July 12, 1998. Of course, that happened to be in a World Cup final and over Brazil, too, but hey, one step at a time.

9 thoughts on “Women’s World Cup – Things We Learned: Day 5

  1. Sol Muser

    For all the complaints about diving, thuggish tactics bother me a whole lot more. Given that Nigeria only allowed two goals, it works, but they’ve been like that in the past and have gotten murdered despite it. So I wonder if perhaps maybe they’ll get to the point where they don’t need to use it. I also am not sure it was the best way to win, given that they had almost no shots on goal. If anything it was the best way to eke out a 0-0 draw.

    Will Canada start Christine Sinclair against Nigeria? It just seems sort of risky, given the fact that even with the mask her nose is still in danger (witness today.) What about Carolina Morace? Is she out because of this result or does she have until the Olympics?

    I was very sad about Canada, but what a performance from France. I was amazed at how good they were. If nothing else, it allowed me to title a blog post “French Fry Canadian Bacon.”

  2. Batfink

    Your bang on about the beauty and ugly side of football being on show tonight.

    I really hoped the overly cynical play of men’s WC football would take a while longer before infecting the women’s game. This however is clearly no longer the case. Has increased professionalism really made the Nigeria we now see in 2011, compared to the free flowing side from 07?

    Nigeria invited France for a brawl, and France said no thanks were better than that. Nigeria then offered a supposedly classy Germany the same offer for a brawl, and Germany stupidly took the bait and said yes, over and over again for a solid 90 mins.

    Tonight’s ref allowed the game to turn into MMA farce. Nigeria after 20 mins knew the line could never be crossed, and kept pushing for every inch. If the ref clamps down on the negative play straight away though, it could have salvaged something worth watching.

    Let’s hope we don’t see any more games like Germany vs Nigeria throughout the rest of the tournament. On the other hand it was great to see France pull a Brazil, in overcoming a nation that previously beat them on pure athleticism.

    We saw another batch of negative and positive moments in the progression of the women’s game tonight. Let’s hope for more of the positive from now on though.

    1. Ray Curren Post author

      Very well said. I think the Nigerian coaches were even more desperate today than they were against France and that led to even more physical play (and the ref didn’t help).

  3. TC

    Question: France, and Japan for that matter, had players in the WPS a couple of years ago and now I don’t believe they do. Did their Assoc tell them to play in domestic leagues prior to this WC?

    1. Jenna Pel

      Not sure if it was a decree from the associations, but both Abily and Bompastor cited the World Cup as major factors in their decisions.

      1. Jao

        Also, some players simply don’t want to or need to, for that matter, go to the United States. For example, Louisa Necib. She’s among several players on professional terms at Lyon and doesn’t feel the need to go across the Atlantic. Abily has confirmed that she will go back though.

        Also, Jenna, the French women hate being compared to the men.

      2. StarCityFan

        I talked with Sonia near the end of the season last year, and she said she was staying close to home for two reasons: the World Cup (and the transAtlantic travel she’d have had to endure had she stuck with WPS), and Olympique Lyonnaise hiring a new coach that she really liked.

        1. random

          StarCityFan is right all the quotes I’ve seen on why players went back home involved being closer to home for the world cup and avoiding constant transatlantic travel as well as playing with some of their expected national team mates on the club level to improve play.

  4. cow pasture alum

    I also recall Bompastor being quoted as saying that she had recently turned 30 (she is now 31), that after she hangs up her boots she plans to live the rest of her days in the country of her birth, and that she might as well get started on that now.


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