One side of Algarve Stadium with the Moon

A Bad Day at the Estádio Algarve

One side of Algarve Stadium with the Moon

Estádio Algarve: beautiful but deadly

The Estádio Algarve dropped from my list of favorite places even before the US lost to Japan (again) there. Now, from a distance it looks beautiful – stunning, even. Over the side bleachers are two canopies that can be seen for kilometers and make the stadium look as if it is about to take flight at any moment.

The details are another matter. We had to drive around Robin Hood’s barn to find parking. Then we had to walk around the barn again (well, actually, a remarkably large gully) to get to the bridge accessway. then take a roundabout route to the stadium entrance itself, where we got frisked and my Italian friend had to empty his backpack. (This was miles ahead of any security at any of the other venues, where pretty much anyone could just walk in unchallenged.) To top it all off, I had had a big breakfast and hadn’t bothered with lunch, expecting that I could get a snack at the stadium. However, there was no food available at all, the first venue of all the ones I’d visited – including the rather run-down stadium in Ferreiras where the team practiced – where this was the case.

Internet access wasn’t forthcoming, either: there was the official stadium wifi, which required a login, and some commercial wifi, which required I don’t know what because it was in Portuguese. However, toward the end of halftime I actually managed to hack into the stadium wifi by trying to guess the username-password combination. Given that username=estadio and password=algarve got me in, they weren’t too concerned about protecting their wifi account.

Okay, enough ranting. It was another beautiful day in the Algarve, and the attendance at this match was, not surprisingly, the best of any I’d been to, probably 800 or more. (I had originally thought more like 500, but my Italian friend counted 150 at the second match, and there were easily five times as many at US-Japan.)

The US seemed to have slightly the better of play in the first half, but couldn’t capitalize, which rather put me in mind of the World Cup Final. It was the Alex Morgan show throughout: She shot high in the tenth minute, had what looked like a goal shortly thereafter off a header from Abby Wambach but there was an offsides call. The best chance of the match for the US came in the 26th minute when Alex picked up a long ball and got just past her defender but sent her shot off the right post. Finally, there was a good back-and-forth between Alex and Abby in the box in the 45th minute, but the ball was cleared away from Abby right in front of goal before she could shoot.

The US made multiple substitutions at the half: Rapinoe for Cheney, Cox for O’Hara, and O’Reilly for Rodriguez. Previously in this tournament the second-half subs had galvanized the US, but it was less in evidence today. If anything, the match was more even in the second half than in the first, when the US had the better chances.

Around the 64th minute, Japan put in three substitutions and went to a more offensive format, presumably since they needed a win rather than a draw to make it to the championship.

Twenty minutes later, it pays off as sub Takase puts in a bullet header off a corner kick that looked to be too far out to be dangerous. Just like that, the Japanese team is filled with confidence, and the US is nervous bordering on desperate. The best remaining chance for the US is a header by Boxx that she nods down, but it bounces over the bar. Soon after, the whistle blows, and history is made in multiple respects: it’s the first time ever that the US has lost to Japan (the WWC Final is officially a draw), the first time since November 2008 that the US is shut out, and the first time since 2004 that the US isn’t in the Algarve Cup Final. It’s certainly harder to look upon the WWC Final as an upset now. But we’ll see what happens at the Olympics.

Portugal vs. Republic of Ireland

Since we were there already, we figured we’d stick around for the second half of the doubleheader, a Group C match with host Portugal facing the Republic of Ireland. It was nice in a way to just sit back and watch a match you don’t give a darn about. Portugal was somewhat the better team, largely on the strength of one player: Ana Borges. She’s lightning fast and was clearly the best player on either team. Ninety percent of Portugal’s offensive strategy was to send a long ball over the defense and hope Borges could run onto it. They sometimes led her by so much it was amazing she did manage to catch up to it, but she generally did. My Italian friend and I were not at all surprised to see her score and then score again – in fact, he told me shortly after the first goal, “She’s going to score another one.” The result was a 2-1 win for Portugal However, a win by Wales in the other match kept Portugal from topping Group C. You can see all three goals here and get some idea of what a greyhound Borges is.

The Final Day

Thanks to Aaron Heifetz of US Soccer, I have the schedule of the final matches. All of them are at 10:15 am except for the championship, which is at 1:10 pm in order to accommodate Japanese television.

Hungary-Ireland @ Loulé
Portugal-China @ Algarve Stadium
Wales-Norway @ Quarteira
Iceland-Denmark @ Ferreiras
Sweden-USA @ Parchal
Germany-Japan @ Algarve Stadium

I plan on attending the US match, of course. We’ll see about Germany-Japan.

12 thoughts on “A Bad Day at the Estádio Algarve

  1. WNTfan

    Sharp thinking on that wifi password.

    So Frankfurt wasn’t a fluke then, they really are just a better team. Was Sawa in the game?

    Man. I really hate them.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Parker Post author

      Sawa must be injured. My Italian friend (who was there as a supporter of Japan and was very, very happy at the end of the day) says she wasn’t even in the stadium. She is on the team’s roster for the Cup, though.

      Reply
  2. jen

    Boxx, Lloyd, Cheney, AmyL, Lindsey should stay home. Have I missed anyone?
    Wambach should be a second half starter only. She could barely run.
    HAO also a second half starter.

    Find 2 midfielders and a LB and a forward.

    Don’t be surprised if USWNT get knocked out early in London.
    And please for pete’s sake, do not bring Pia back after the Olympics.
    of course, with Sunil in charge, Pia will be back !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  3. Quick as a Flash

    A draw would have been an appropriate outcome today given the run of play and limited opportunities created by each team.

    Playing the 4-4-2, if Pia would keep three passing mid-fielders on the pitch at all times (and we have more then enough good options) we can beat Japan, even when the great Sawa returns.

    However if all we are able to do is send our mid-fielders up the line and lob the long ball over the defense we can be matched by any team with sufficient defensive speed to keep track of Morgan. I would still like one more defender with blazing speed but the player I have in mind seems to be tied to the bench.

    KO is getting more and more comfortable as a wide-back and should be given the green light to attack as much as possible.

    I know Abby has slowed but this is is her last big year and she is going to be a force when we get to the Olympics. Come 2013 we will be relying much more on youthful and speed.

    I am still betting on Abby holding up her gold medal but it will only be a modest bet.

    Reply
  4. gogogo

    Thanks for the report, Kevin. Funny about hacking the WiFi. Hope US/Pia can use this as a learning experience.

    Reply
    1. jen

      Yes, I missed her. She should stay home too but unfortunately Pia is too stubborn or arrogant that she has not capped many new players. The defense is very shaky at best from left to right.

      It is looking bad and could get ugly if they get knocked out early in London. Pia is adapting hockey tactics, just dump and let Morgan or Leroux chase it. Dump and chase all the time.

      Reply
      1. Roger

        Well that’s horribly unfair. Obviously she was knocked down and obviously she was never on the post to start. I agree her play is terribly inconsistent but you can’t put that goal on her.

        Reply

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