Women’s World Cup – Things We Learned: U.S. Semifinal Victory Edition

It was former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards who went on this rant in 2002, with the money quote, of course, being:
“You play to win the game.”
Less infamously, he continued, “You don’t play it to just play it. That’s the great thing about sports. You play to win.”
Edwards’ speech has – somewhat rightfully so, don’t get me wrong – been relegated to the comedy files, mostly because Edwards’ coaching career in the NFL was pretty forgettable (see: mostly mediocre).
But the message isn’t necessarily a bad one.
Yes, France was more technically sound than the United States today. Yes, Japan will probably be more technical in the final. Both can pass the ball better and probably had a better first touch overall than the U.S.
France clearly won the possession battle, and Japan probably will – by a wider margin – on Sunday.
Is that something we should strive for when we’re developing our players? Absolutely.
However, you play to win the game, and the United States has won in the quarterfinals and the semifinals.
They’ve done it through hard work, superior fitness, athleticism, better ability in the air, having the best goalkeeper in the world, and – yes – a little but of luck.
Those are the reasons why they’ll win in the finals as well.
You can say a lot of things, but you can’t say France was “better”, and neither was Brazil.
This isn’t a figure skating competition where we’re judging artistry, the rules are pretty simple: you score more goals than the other team and you advance.
(I’m not advocating cheating or gamesmanship, that’s a whole different element.)
Little known fact about Edwards and the 2002 Jets, they won seven of their next nine games, and pulled an upset in the playoffs before bowing out in the conference semifinals.
Maybe it’s the American attitude in me, maybe it’s because much of my playing career was spent against (and with) players that were probably better technically than me, but (and obviously not at younger ages, I understand) there is only one goal when you get to a World Cup and that is to bring home the trophy.
You play to win the game.
The United States only has to win one more.

Here are the 10 things we learned in Day 18 of Germany 2011.

1) Goalkeeping is the most important position on the field

We talked early on about goalkeeping being an issue at this World Cup, and the U.S. had a massive advantage again, and again put it to good use.
While none of the U.S. goals were complete goalkeeping calamities, you were never comfortable watching Berange Sapowicz in goal today, and that surely has an effect on the team.
Meanwhile, at the other end, you just sort of laughed when the French tried more than a few long-range shots.
Sorry, you’re not beating Hope Solo from there, France.
The first U.S. goal (which I’ll get to in a second) was a good example. It actually started with a Solo save on a pretty good Louisa Necib shot. Obviously, that resulted in a corner, Solo eventually got a hold of it, and less than 30 seconds later, the U.S. had a 1-0 lead.
There’s a lot in between, but it starts with the keeper.

2) France was better technically, but the U.S. had some good (and pivotal touches) as well

Back to the first goal, it was on a pseudo-counter, which helped the United States greatly in the end.
Carli Lloyd found herself on the left touchline, Shannon Boxx played her the ball, and Lloyd came up with a nifty backheel to find Heather O’Reilly (who had also popped up on the left momentarily).
Lloyd’s touch took right back Laure Lepailleur out of the play, center back Laura Georges had to come over and cover and that was a speed battle that O’Reilly was always going to win.
(Ironically, Georges probably should have known that. While Georges was ACC Defensive Player of the Year at Boston College in 2006, O’Reilly was also on the All-ACC First Team that season.)
Lauren Cheney’s deft touch finished the movement, and just like that a huge goal was scored.
But without Lloyd’s backheel, they probably get nothing.
Alex Morgan’s goal to seal it was also a very skillful touch as well that obviously led to another U.S. tally.

3) Don’t want to bring up Dawn Scott again, but…

You have to, don’t you? The U.S. fitness shined again in this match as just when it seemed they were getting tired of chasing France around the field, they seemed to get a second wind and took the game back in the last 20 minutes.
Again, I’m repeating myself, but you don’t know how hard it is to play as many minutes as these women have in the past few weeks and not get fatigued.
And it’s not like the U.S. is a young team, players like Boxx and Wambach have logged a lot of minutes in their careers and – those two particularly – looked strongest at the end of the game.
Of course, some credit goes to….

4) Pia Sundhage again seemed to press the right buttons

The Alex Morgan substitution made sense, but Megan Rapinoe for Lloyd in the 65th minute of a tie game? In retrospect, Lauren Cheney was in the middle most of the time anyway, and Rapinoe’s energy seemed to be contagious for the rest of the squad.
Leaving Amy Lepeilbet on the outside and inserting Becky Sauerbrunn worked as well.
Meanwhile, Bruno Bini’s move to take Marie-Laure Delie off in favor of Eugenie LeSommer at halftime seemed to be a good one, despite its awkwardness, but the U.S. scored twice in four minutes after he made an attacking sub with Elodie Thomis for captain Sandrine Soubeyrand in the 78th minute.
That wasn’t the main reason for the French collapse, but it probably didn’t help.

5) The France 4-2-3-1 did give the U.S. fits, but they couldn’t cash in

As we surmised, trying to matchup with a Necib the way the U.S. was set up proved to be a big problem. Early in the match, the strategy was to have one of the back four step up and pressure, which worked for a little while.
But once Necib found holes and/or Lloyd and Boxx gave the ball away in dangerous positions, Necib has her space.
At that point, though, the U.S. defense did well. They didn’t dive in, held their ground, and forced Necib to either shoot from outside the box or try to play a perfect pass to a teammate. Necib is great on the ball, but her decision-making wasn’t quite quick enough, and the U.S. was able to get back just in time on a few occasions.
(There were a couple of times that Necib was very close. In the 29th minute, Necib played a through ball to Gaetane Thiney, but Solo was there to save the day.)
That will be the next step for France or what Japan will look to do on Sunday, can they quickly take advantage of an exposed U.S. defense in the 4-4-2 before they recover.
We shall see.

6) France still should leave with their heads high, though

They easily could have won this game (they probably think they should have won) and certainly have to be in the discussion in the best teams in the world right now.
They’re not as young, though, as they were made out to be on the broadcast. This is probably the end for Soubeyrand and Bompastor, although you’d think everyone else will be around for Canada 2015.
You’d hope the French people support their team a little better. Reports from Monchengladbach were that there were very few French fans in attendance.

7) Becky Sauerbrunn was fine in a huge spot

You didn’t notice Sauerbrunn much in this match, and a good center back can often work like a good referee, the less you notice her, the better match she had.
Interesting note, Sauerbrunn (playing for Virginia) was also on the 2006 All-ACC Team with O’Reilly and Georges.
I still think Sundhage goes back to Rachel Buehler for the final, though, but we’ll see.

8) The winning goal was a disaster all around for France, but good hustle from the U.S. caused it

In the minutes before the goal, the subs Morgan and Rapinoe were using their energy to put pressure on the French, and the winning goal started with an awful clearance by Sapowicz that basically hit Rapinoe, and eventually became a corner kick.
It was 5-foot-7 Lepailleur who was picked to mark Wambach (would it have been Delie if she was still in the game?), and that went horribly wrong quickly.
As I would tell my players, “She’s going to the goal eventually, isn’t she?” But Wambach was two steps ahead of Lepailleur early, there was no one on the back post, Sapowicz couldn’t get there, and the rest is history.
(By the way, what Wambach did on that play was as brilliant as anything else in this game. The way she shook her mark, used her body as a shield, and knew exactly where to go to finish? Those are skills you can’t really teach, at least the hunger part of that.)
You’d think if there was one player you wouldn’t want to beat you, it would be Wambach. And that’s what makes her so good.
(And, yes, for those of you that have read this throughout the World Cup, I’m fully aware that it was a man marking problem and not a zonal marking problem. That happens sometimes, too.)

9) It’s cold in Germany in the summer sometimes

Even here in the Northeast (U.S.), it gets pretty hot in July, but watching the game today, we saw plenty of winter coats in the stands (and on Bruno Bini).
That probably helped with the fitness of both teams.

10) So it’s Japan in the final

A great matchup, but one I tend to like for the United States, although I said the same with Germany and then picked Sweden to beat them in the semifinals, so what do I know?
The danger will be if Kozue Ando can find the room that Necib did today, but we’ll have plenty more on the matchup Friday night.
One thing I will say is that I’m very happy for the Japanese, who deserve everything they’ve gotten at the World Cup. Great story, and they seem like a class act all the way around.


Hopefully, Ali Krieger is OK

She finished the match, but never looked 100 percent after going down midway through the second half.
It’s obviously not serious, but the U.S. is going to need her at her best (and she’s been one of the best players in the tournament) for the final.

Double bonus:

Did a man buy the U.S. uniforms?

Not soccer related, but it seems like we guard against the “see-through effect” when we buy our uniforms for girls at our club (or for boys or girls when you have white shorts).
But at least Alex Morgan matches.

53 thoughts on “Women’s World Cup – Things We Learned: U.S. Semifinal Victory Edition

  1. Jenna Pel

    On that last point: to paraphrase (and censor) something someone said on Twitter, “why should I wear a hot pink bra under this translucent jersey? Well EFF YOU that’s why!”

  2. anna

    Team usa are never going to play the elegant fluid soccer seen by france and japan, or other teams. They play to their strenghts and need to accept that. Stop trying to pretend to be something you are not, and embrace what works for you.

    1. Jenna Pel

      Agreed. The U.S. are never going to play like those teams, but they have the heart to make up for it.

  3. Jao

    Actually France are pretty young and will probably be one of the favorites at the Olympics, Euros, and the next World Cup. Bompastor, Soubeyrand and maybe Viguier are the only senior players in the team and as great as they have been to French women’s football, they are replaceable in the national team fold. Bompastor will be replaced by Laure Boulleau, while Soubeyrand can be replaced by a slew of young up-and-coming talent like Kelly Gadea, Lea Rubio, Amelie Barbetta, and Amandine Henry to name a few. Personally, I thought Bini should of called up the latter given she was a regular with the team in qualifying. She could of easily jumped Soubeyrand as the starting DM if the Bini had presented her the opportunity, but he didn’t out of respect to the captain.

    1. Ray Curren Post author

      Yea, I should have said “not as young” as in not like Australia where a bunch of teenagers are out there. But – as you probably know better than me – there’s no denying that France will be around for a while (and a contender in London next year).
      Hopefully, they’ll put on a good show in the 3rd place game. I’m sure they will.

    2. Angie in OK

      For France to become a real challenger, they need better goalkeeping. I do not know the exact reasons why their supposed number one keeper was not picked up by Bini(we have heard something from the announcers about “team chemistry”). If any position can have a bit of a personality, it’s the goalkeeper. The US have shown that as Solo has unquestionbly been a difference maker.

      1. Paul Thomas

        Switch the two keepers and I’m pretty sure this match ends up 3-1 France.

        At least Sapowicz can console herself that she had a better day than Julio Cesar…

      2. Phoenix

        The announcers seems to believe that Sapowicz is new to the team, but she was the N°1 for all the qualifying phase of the WWC, and would have been in the euros to if she did not get an injury …

  4. CW in LA

    I was more worried about Sweden going into the second semi-final because the beat the US last week. But Japan made them look silly. Have they been this good all along or did they hit their stride in an incredibly big way?

    I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that having Solo and Wambach will make the difference Sunday like it has the last couple of games.

    1. cow pasture alum

      Japan did not look very impressive in losing two friendlies to the USA a couple of months ago. Based on those results, how many people would have predicted that the two teams would next meet in a WWC championship match? Perhaps they are hitting their stride.

      1. StarCityFan

        The announcers were saying that Japan’s training grounds were affected by the tsunami, which limited what they could do going into those games.

        However, I think it’s still fair to say that they are hitting their stride. The US is going to have a tough day on Sunday but should still pull through.

    2. Ramon

      Solo and Wambach may well make a difference. But note that the Japanese were able to neutralize Lotta Scheling–who gave the US fits–mostly by starving service to her. Can they do the same to Wambach? The model for this final is probably the Germany v. Japan quarterfinal. The Germans also have strong, tall (Garefrekes), physical and even technical (Da Mbabi) attacking players, and a GK every bit as good as Solo, backstopping a defense that is arguably better than the US defense. The Japanese had much more trouble with them than with Sweden, and it could have gone either way. In the end their possession game, backed by their fitness and cool heads, made a difference.

      BTW while everyone is focusing on Solo and Wambach, the wildcard on that team is Rapinoe. Her brilliance got the US to the semis. Her insertion in the 65th minute of the semifinal seemed to turn the tide. Because of the Japanese possession game in the midfield her presence, probably more than the other two, could be the difference maker.

  5. Kim

    If the jersey is that transparent, it seems like you might as well wear a pink bra–because it will be visible anyway! Might as well be pretty!

    I don’t know if it’s these new “high tech” sports fabrics or what. Real Madrid’s kits, for one, are just as see-through, but I was rewatching the 2002 CL final and they were opaque as anything.

  6. Toni from Germany

    I don’t think the US team depends on fitness and athleticism alone. Their game doesn’t evolve around ball posession but they have a good shape, can switch from defense to offense in an instant and have great finishing. Pace without precision isn’t worth anything and I think they have both.
    For me the question for the final will be, if Japan will allow them the space they need for their counter attacks.

  7. Ramon

    Japan will be a tougher nut to crack than you think. Will and fitness and physical play may take you there, but then again it may not be enough in this case. The Japanese women are just as fit. They are disciplined, and they have two major scalps to their name.

    About Megan Rapinoe. I don’t understand the doubts about her. She is one of the few genuinely dangerous players the US has. Every time she gets the ball she seems to be looking to poke a dagger in the other team. We need more of that.

  8. random

    It seems that this new fabric Nike has come up with for these USWNT uniforms is especially see through, but hey they are all fit women and they have sports bras to cover the important stuff so they probably don’t care as long as the shirts are light weight and breathable.

  9. John

    Dang I miss the Washington Freedom-Wambach, Sauerbrunn, Bompastor, Sawa, Krieger, Lindsay, and oh so close to Necib. Hey, that’s not all fit and fight folks. O’Reilly’s ball to Cheney was spot on and set up by a brillant backheel that broke France’s defense. Cheney’s corner was perfectly flighted. When the US feels it there is some pretty darn good soccer going on. Even Llyod who may not always make the best choice gets in those spots w/ some very nice moves and control.

    Lift the Cup!

  10. John R

    Hmm, I’m not convinced goalkeep is the most important position in soccer, the impact of the dodgy performance yesterday of the French keep notwithstanding. Of course, in any sport the goalie appears to be most important but that’s because we see a direct and immediate consequence of their mistakes. But in many soccer matches the keeper faces very few shots, so statistically they’re relatively unimportant. Also, especially in soccer due to the size of the goal, if an attacker clearly breaches the defense or the ball pin-balls around the goal area or its a penalty kick, the keeper is often irrelevant. Consider for example the difference between a penalty shot in soccer or hockey. At the elite level in soccer, these kicks are converted more than 80% of the time; failures being mostly a factor of the keeper guessing correctly which way to dive or the shooter missing the net. In hockey, the conversion rate is less than 40% because it’s a more balanced duel.

    You also state that the French weren’t going to beat Hope Solo from distance. Actually, they did. Their goal was from some distance but Solo just lost a 50/50 proposition on whether the ball would go through or Thiney would re-direct it, and the ball skipped low off the wet turf. Also, the French hit the cross bar from distance. Given the slick playing conditions, I thought the tactic of sending in long bombs was quite sensible. As others have noted, the French played very well, controlled a lot of the game and could have won.

    Solo is a great athlete but she was asleep on the ball headed out of her hands. Someone help me with this. Why wasn’t Solo penalized for taking down the French player who craftily headed the ball out of Solo’s hands and was heading to score? Did the ref blow the whistle because you’re not allowed to dislodge the ball from the keeper with your head (if so, this is a silly rule)? If not, it appears to me that Solo took down the French player in a scoring position, in which case a penalty kick should have been awarded (on which kick the keeper would have been virtually unimportant but for her guess 🙂 )

    Congrats to the U.S. and good luck against Japan. But let’s tone down the angle that the U.S. is some kind of Bad News Bears collection of modestly talented soccer underdogs who win over superior teams through sheer (apparently exclusively American) grit and good fitness. They’ve very talented if not as showy as, say, the Brazilians. They’re ranked #1 in the world for goodness sakes.

    1. Ramon

      Law 12 specifies that an indirect kick is awarded if a player “prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands.” In the section “Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees” it says, on this issue: “A player must be penalised for playing in a dangerous manner if he kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the
      process of releasing it.” (heading it counts the same as kicking it.)
      This is usually taken to mean that you can’t hang around too closely to the opposing keeper–let alone try to head the ball out of her hands–once she has possession; this is in the interest of getting the ball back into play quickly. The keeper has 6 (generously interpreted) seconds to release the ball, but that 6 seconds doesn’t start until she can safely do so.

      Agree on the “Bad News Bears” angle. It’s a bit tedious, considering the US has won this thing twice already. All accolades due the US team are doubly due to the Japanese, a more modestly ranked and less physically imposing team who have had to surmount some daunting obstacles to reach the final. Speaking of Solo and tedium I’d also love to quash the “She is the #1 keeper in the world” nonsense one hears on a regular basis on ESPN. There is no objective measure for this. She is clearly one of the best, probably tops along with Nadine Angerer. But that’s as far as I’d be willing to take it.

    2. grrljock

      In soccer, once the keeper has the ball she is pretty much sacrosanct. I agree that Solo was careless in that instance, and personally I would do what Thiney did. The worst thing that would happen is that the ref would blow the whistle to disallow it (taking the ball from the keeper), and the best thing would be a goal.

      Also, one could argue that precisely because the keeper faces few shots, a great (and/or lucky) athlete who can save most of those shots would change the outcome.

    3. Ray Curren Post author

      Probably should have said “Goalkeeper is the most important position at this World Cup”. There is just such a difference between Solo and everyone else that it makes it so big.
      You’re right, though, she was technically beaten from distance by Bompastor, although I think that was more a credit to the brilliance of the attempted cross rather than it being a shot. And it was Bompastor who did hit the crossbar on a perfect shot, so they did have that one, but mostly they seemed hopeful shots that didn’t have a chance of beating Solo.
      Others have pointed out that the goalkeeper has possession of the ball until they release it (in fact, they can actually bounce it and it can’t be taken from them if you look at the laws.)
      The Bad News Bears thing is a little overdone, yes, but the media likes to sell it that way, and the team does as well, the “nobody thinks we can do it” may have just been the motivation to take them over the edge. Who knows?

      1. Tim Donohoo

        You are not watching the same World Cup as me my friend! Solo was saved my Wambach or she would be playing in the USL W-League back in the states by now! Open your eyes and don’t be a homer!

  11. Hannah

    Yes, the ref called the French player for interfering with the keeper – once a keeper has established control of the ball, field players are supposed to allow her room for a kick and are not allowed to attempt to play the ball.

    More than the heading away, I was shocked to see Solo’s silly give away when she cleared the ball directly to a French forward. Solo said after the match that she was disappointed in her own play, but, as has been the theme of this team so far, they weren’t made to pay too much for their mistakes and were able to capitalize at key moments, including some great saves from Solo as well as the goals.

    Will be interesting to see A-Rod against the Japanese, traditionally a team she’s had a lot of success against. I don’t know enough about Japan to say if that will have been nullified by their elevated level of play this week or if she has some sort of kryptonite against their back line. Would be nice to see her show up for one of these games!

    1. Paul Thomas

      Surely Rodriguez cannot get another start at this point. Last game the team had to relegate her to an ersatz left-midfielder because she was doing so little as a forward.

      I find it kind of bizarre that Sundhage keeps getting credit from the media for her “genius” substitutions when, for the most part, the substitutions are just her finally putting the team on the field that should have been out there at the start of the game.

      1. Bruins Soccer

        @Paul Thomas I completely agree with you. If it were only one match throughout the WWC where the subs have made such a dramatic impact I would concur that it was a stroke of coaching genius. However, when you have 2/3 starters that are consistently outplayed by the subs there is an issue. When we win this thing I just hope that the nation doesn’t turn to the Pia phiolosophy as our new guide.

  12. cambridge_footie

    I am no fan of Solo. Half the time she opens her mouth or her iphone she comes across as quite self absorbed and whiny. But, even with yesterdays poor game, she is without a doubt the best keeper in the world (perhaps Angerer too but we didn’t get to see enough of her).

    I’d also dispute that the GK is not that relevant. Obviously they stop goals from happening and goal opportunities from arising, which is pretty important! But Solo is often a attacking force in the USA’s counter attack. Good with her feet. Good at reading the game.

    1. Tim Donohoo

      Angerer is far superior than Hans Solo! No comparison. Barnhardt is better than Solo. All advertising and overrated. Trying to sell tickets to WPS to keep it afloat.

  13. John R

    Thanks all for the responses to my query about the ball being headed out of the Solo’s hands. But if you’re all so smart, perhaps you can answer this:

    What exactly does Megan Rapinoe have to do win (back) a starting role?

    I guess one could argue that it’s precisely BECAUSE she comes on in replacement that she’s so effective. But barring evidence that she isn’t effective if she has to play 90, the “better-as-replacment” theory is just superstition. It seems to me to be illogical and counter-productive to leave such an asset on the bench for two-thirds of the game.

    1. cambridge_footie

      She can be quite wasteful. The few times the USA have good patient build up Rapinoe or Llyod will waste it by skying it over the bar from 35 yards (see the one start she got against Sweden). Since Llyod is the favored child she gets the start. I wouldn’t have a problem with moving Cheney in an putting ‘pinoe out wide but I will chew my own hand off if she and Carli are on the field together.

      1. Ramon

        Agree that Rapinoe can sometimes be wasteful, but she’s a more incisive player than Lloyd. I’d like to see her start, not come in late.

    2. TDK

      Pia Sundhage and Bob Bradley were maybe separated at birth. Starting Rapinoe puts our best LW on; moves IMO our best attacking playmaker Cheney inside, which is her natural position; and takes either Boxx or Lloyd off the pitch. Win – win – win. Start Morgan for A-Rod and that’s IMO our best lineup. I agree with cambridge footie, Rapinoe can have “interesting” shot selection at times, and she can be a bit lackadaisical tracking back, but we need her to start. But Sundhage won’t do it.

      As for France, such a joy to watch. It seems in this tournament experience is important, and perhaps it was a bit much to expect them to go from nonqualifier to finalist in one cycle. They’ll lose a couple of key players soon, but Clairefontaine is just getting into stride so hopefully they’ll have replacements coming up, and I’m already looking forward to seeing them in London next year. Hopefully they’ve won some support at home, too.

    3. random

      I wish there were pass completion statistics on Ussoccer’s website, I think if there was you would find that Rapinoe completes more passes as a sub than she does as a starter. I think the relegation to the sub’s bench has stoked the fire for her or maybe it is just the big game atmosphere. I think an argument on whether she should start could easily go round and round with good points on either side. I don’t think it is as lopsided as the A-Rod argument is.

  14. Tim Donohoo

    A very overrated U.S. team versus Japan in the finals. How depressing! Germany-Brasil would have been better. But the best teams don’t always win do they? Hope Solo is overrated. Barnhardt is better and Rodriguez should not even be on the pitch. Becky Sauerbrunn– are you kidding me? Sydney Leroux would have been my choice over Rodriguez. Overrated player. Has done nothing to help the cause. Wambach is the only reason the Americans are in the final. Look for Japan to win it all! Pearl Harbor style. 3- nill.

    1. TC

      I disagree. The best teams do always win, because that is the definition of “the best team” now isn’t it? Ray Curren has a rather good take on the topic. You should read. Scroll to the top of the article we’ve attached our comments to and read the beginning of the article where he spells out concept.

      1. Tim Donohoo

        The best team did win. JAPAN. Overrated American team. Hope Solo is maybe number 3 keeper in the tourney next to Angerer and the Japanese keeper. Over advertised Hope Solo. And those fake tears after the game. PLEASE. It is all about Solo an she just looks out for herself. Barnie should have been in goal. WAMBACH is a warrior. Tey will miss her next Cup. Her swan song takes place in London Olympics unless the U.S. and Pia screw up the player selection process like they did here. Rodriguez and Tobin Heath? Give me a break! Enough of Lionel Messi being crowned the god of soccer too. He will never win anything for Argentina. Too much of him for him and worrying about injury for club team Barcelona. He couldn’t hold Maradona or Pele’s athletic supporter. Hope Solo needs to stop marketing herself with stupid advertising also. PRESSURE is choking– like the USA. I guess that is why this country cannot balance the budget. To much about me and not enough about us. USA needs to put a team on the field that has a goalie with a team oriented heart under the jersey– not one that has a heart that fills emotions of herself.

  15. Daniel

    Thanks Ray för the initial paragraphs about what being good at this sport with about. Saying that the better team lost with like saying that the guy who finished 2nd in the let’s say high jump was the better one, because his jumps was technically better. “We’re gonna score one more than you” på the old english song goes.

    Also, nobody, and I want to stress nobody, outside the USA ever considered uswnt as an underdog or outsider.

    1. Paul Thomas


      Better teams regularly lose to worse teams. If Manchester United loses to West Ham, that does not make West Ham better than Manchester United, it just means they won one game. If your definition of “better” was correct, there’d be no point in ever playing a regular season in any sport. Just line everyone up and play single games, single-elimination, and you’ve got, by your definition, the “best” team.

      One can reduce this argument even further to absurdity: if I organize 64 people for a coin-flipping competition, and then have them flip coins for six rounds until I have a “winner”, does that make that person the “best” coin-flipper? That’s ludicrous. The person just got lucky.

      The better team is the team that would win the majority of encounters on a neutral pitch if they played a thousand times. (That is precisely the definition of skill– repeatability. It’s why the coin-flip experiment is ridiculous– the “winner” has no repeatable skill. He/she’s as likely to come in 64th next time as win it again.)

      1000-game series never happen, of course, so you have to guess at it (which is, among other things, why people invented game statistics– to make it easier to tell lucky wins from skillful ones).

      1. TC

        You have yet to convince me. There are no 1000 game seasons, although in baseball it sometimes seems like it, so in the real word how would you determine the best team? To take your logic they shouldn’t play the
        World Cup as a handful of single elimination games produces no meaningful result.

        1. Daniel

          My original post here was in reply to managers, players and fans, most recently Louisa Necib after the semifinal, who after losning says their team were the better. It was not, you lost.

          The only thing you have to be good at in football is scoring more goals than the other team. Everything else is means to reach that goal. When West Ham defeated Manchester United in the league cup last season it was because they were the better team in that match.

          All important leagues lets the championship, the best team, be decided by the results over a full season. The team that most consistently, match after match, manages to score more goals than they concede is also the best team. Deciding the the World Cup the same way would, as we all understand, not be feasible and not even desirable.

          1. Paul Thomas

            Your definition of “best team” is tautological. Why did they win? Because they were better. And they are better because they won.

            That’s not analysis, it’s the abdication of analysis.

            Serious analysis would indicate that if the USA continues to play games like this against France, they will likely lose most of them, and therefore some changes need to be made (most notably, starting the players who are better at soccer than the subs) in order to prevent that from happening. By contrast, France basically just needs to find a better goalkeeper…

        2. Paul Thomas

          The point of the World Cup is not to determine who the “best team” is. That’s what the ranking system is (at least nominally) for.

          The point of the World Cup (and similar competitions, eg. Champions League, March Madness, or the Super Bowl) is to have an exciting sporting event that entertains people, sells tickets and attracts attention. That has a tangential relationship, at best, to the “best team” winning it.

      2. random

        So Paul it seems that you are boiling down the “better” team to which is the most skillfull team? I think that is a poor argument as well. A team is defined by more than the individual skills they possess. There are many intangibles that go into creating a great team, to boil it down to superior skill is a poor definition of “better team”. On any given day/game the better team of the two playing does not win every time that is why the sport is played, because anyone can win.

        1. footfanatic


          It seems like you’re agreeing with Paul there. The reason why cup tournaments are exciting is because the better team doesn’t always win. An in-form team can play above their level for the month it takes to win the whole thing and a team that goes cold for a month will appear to be worse.
          In regular seasonal play how many times have there been years when the eventual champions looked like crap for a stretch and relegation/lottery teams played like champs? I know Americans like the playoff system but it is precisely because it’s less predictable that makes it a better spectacle but a worse indicator of quality. I’m not saying that the best team doesn’t win majority of the time but a knockout system leaves a lot of room for upsets to happen.

          None of this, of course, applies to the France match because the French were the underdogs coming in. The only reason the USWNT team is criticized is because of all their self-inflicted handicaps like starting A-Rod, Lloyd and bringing Mitts (who won’t even see the field it seems), etc. The US should still be dominating this tournament not making improbable come from behind wins.

  16. need more serious critique

    Who will the ref be for the final? Hope it isn’t like the Japan vs. Sweden game where Japan”s second and third goals were offside. Replay and it look — totally blown calls (2nd goal had an attacker in an offside position who interfered with play by obstructing the Swedish defender as Sawa’s header was going into the goal and on the third goal the attacker who collided with the keeper was a step offside). I saw both in real time and was shocked they weren’t whistled for offside. In the men’s game, they’d be replaying this footage and talking about the blown calls. But I’ve heard nobody say a word! We need Match of the Day for women’s soccer desperately.

    As a US fan, I would much rather play against Japan than Sweden in the final. I just think Sweden were robbed in that semi and somebody should address the serious things in the game as opposed to the ESPN feel good stories.

    1. StarCityFan

      I disagree with both evaluations. The attacker on the second goal was in an offside position, yes, but the defender wasn’t going to get to the ball whether she was there or not. Heck, she holds up when she’s still a couple yards from the post because the ball’s in already.

      I’ll admit the third goal was very close – it’s hard to tell for sure from a streamed replay – but saying that the attacker collided with the goalkeeper is highly inaccurate. There doesn’t appear to be any contact at all. Offside is still a potential issue, of course, because that’s the attacker that draws the goalkeeper out of position so the second attacker can score.

  17. Apeksha

    What i love about this US team is the fact that never quit at any moment. What an important lesson for all of us to learn. Both Japan and US will be fighting for a place in the history and set an example back in their home countries respectively. All in All, it will be a fun final to watch and its good to see so much of revived interest in a sport which has primarily been dominated by Men. That’s the way to go!


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