A Review and Preview of Current Tournament Action

A recurring midsummer night’s dream.

More like a nightmare for the USWNT. Monday’s group stage match against Japan played out in eerily similar fashion to that of the World Cup final. The U.S. adapted a more direct style of play and had plenty of chances to put the game on ice. Towards the second half, the match looked likely to end in the U.S.’s favor. But the breakthrough goal never came. The U.S. failed to get the better of goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto and a restrained Japanese backline. Japan remained faithful to its patient, possession-oriented style of play.  The Nadeshiko’s decisive goal predictably came from a late header off a set piece. The U.S. was undone by Japan’s disciplined, resourceful, precise play once again. (Highlights)

The USWNT will have a third crack at Japan before a possible reunion in London. Both teams are set to meet on Sunday, April 1 at the Kirin Cup in Sendai, Japan which is said to be all but sold out. Good thing ESPN scooped up the broadcasting rights as the match might be even more meaningful now.


Knocked out by the champions of the world.

“They should be role models for the world, the way they play.” Pia Sundhage did not let the sting of defeat diminish her praise for the world champions. As Kevin points out below, the loss set more dubious records for the U.S. The snapped shutout record is something worth lamenting over. The team had previously gone 57 matches without failing to score a goal. The U.S. now looks to claim third place in the tournament for the first time in eight years. They’ll have to get by Sweden, who has had the better of the USWNT in the last three meetings between the two sides.


Germany flattens Sweden en route to Algarve Cup final.

Sundhage’s anxiety (if she ever feels such a thing) should be put to rest if the U.S. faces the same Swedish side that got absolutely thrashed by Germany 4-0 on Monday (highlights). It was the most lopsided scoreline the series has ever produced since both teams first faced off back in 1991. (It was Sweden that ran out 4-0 winners that day.) So was Germany frighteningly good or was Sweden simply abject? Thomas Dennerby’s team was more inventive in the second half, but the team’s defense looked out of sorts. Sweden failed to contain Germany’s unrelenting waves of attacks. Celia Okoyino da Mbabi was practically unplayable on the day, claiming her first hat-trick at international level. It was Germany’s most cohesive performance of the tournament. The side will meet Japan on Wednesday in white hot form. Silvia Neid will undoubtedly be pleased.


Redemption at stake versus Japan.

This is the Germany many were expecting to win a third straight World Cup on home soil. It’s a new-look side on two counts: Neid has called upon new (and in some cases old) faces to replace retirees and current squad members nursing injuries. But this Germany side is also devoid of the self-conscious play that blighted it last summer. Germany now has the chance to do what the U.S. couldn’t. The team can begin to exorcise its demons by getting one back against Japan. With no major tournament until Euro 2013, Wednesday’s match could be a long-lasting benchmark for Germany.


Splendid goalkeeping, spare goals in Panama City.

Canada earned a 1-0 win over Mexico to win Group A in CONCACAF U-20 Women’s World Cup qualifying (highlights). Both sides advance to the semifinals, although the win means Canada will likely avoid the U.S. The parsimonious score line is directly down to brilliant performances by the team’s respective goalkeepers. Cecilia Santiago opened eyes after her fine stints in goal for Mexico in Germany, and was just as inspiring tonight. Sabrina D’Angelo was equally – if not more – impressive. The 18 year old improved as the match wore on, and Mexico’s attack livened up. Should she continue to develop during her time in South Carolina, D’Angelo will be a can’t-miss option for Canada come the 2015 World Cup.


USWNT U-20’s set to close out group play with a bang on Tuesday.

The U.S. is back in action against hosts Panama beginning 7:30 PM ET tomorrow. The U-20’s are coming off back-to-back 6-0 victories that featured seven different goal scorers. U.S. Soccer has more details here.


Can Big Red get one over Les Bleues?

Canada silenced both the Azzurre and Oranje to qualify for a fifth consecutive Cyprus Cup final. Will John Herdman’s side make it three-for-three against teams with chromatic-themed nicknames? The team also has a chance to win its third straight Cyprus Cup title. Barring any Eternal Sunshine of the Spotlight Mind-like shenanigans, few Big Red fans will be able to forget the team’s demoralizing 4-0 defeat against France last summer.  The team was torn apart by France’s pace; a problem Herdman admits must be redressed on Tuesday. It’s one of Canada’s final tune-up’s before the World Cup Olympics. They will look to make it count.

5 thoughts on “A Review and Preview of Current Tournament Action

  1. sec

    Respectfully, Jenna, the loss today had a much more convincing feel — it does not sit in the same category as the WWC result to Japan last July. Yes, several blown chances by the US (again), and yes, Japan (again) hung around and found a way to pounce late. Yet, the US never seemed to really control the match today; whereas last July, particularly in the 1st half, the US had much more control and was dangerous. The overall impression now is that Japan are at a clear level above the U.S. The U.S. was outclassed, even if Japan didn’t have a ton of great chances.

    One common post-match reaction from players, Pia, and many fans, is that it is “better to lose and learn now, than during the Olympics.” But I don’t see it quite that way. That assumes that the only changes needed are not fundamental, but mere tweaks, different positioning, more composure, etc. etc. I think real changes are required, and sadly, it has all been left too late for that. Pia has ridden the same core group for so long; she is now stuck with the same parts of her own repetitive, conservative choosing. And with a few exceptions, that familiar collection of 20-or-so players appears not to have the requisite array of technical skills, sophistication, and spacing/movement (at least against a top team). So, not sure what can be done now.

    It is telling that Pia hasn’t given out a new cap for more than an entire year. (The last was to Engen at this very tournament, and she, ironically, hasn’t even seen the pitch during this tournament). So, Pia has her stable of experienced horses. And as we are nearing the homestretch to London, I guess she’s hoping the Baby Horse will race ahead to save the day. (Yes, I made that stupid pun). For all her talent, even BH doesn’t seem like a very safe bet against a full side of technical, sophisticated players, like a Japan or France.

  2. maureen

    USWNT played much better against Japan in the WWC final. That was an ugly game to watch yesterday, although I was very glad to actually watch it via Japanese web stream). Buehler has to go. Cheney needs to be in the middle.

  3. Joshua

    I think ” It’s one of Canada’s final tune-up’s before the World Cup.” should read “It’s one of Canada’s final tune-up’s before the Olympics.”

    The result of Sweden vs Germany is the real surprise. Sweden’s consolation is that they are going to the Olympics and Germany is not.

    As for Canada, at least they can say the result against France was better this time.
    Doesn’t look like Canada is going to do any better at the Olympics that they did at the WWC. This is going to start raising doubts about Herdman.

  4. WNTfan

    Looking forward to see how Germany handles Japan. Hopefully someone solves this puzzle before the Olympics.

  5. Batfink

    USA shouldn’t be so concerned about Japan. The one team they need to be focused on is France. They have steadily continued to improve since the WWC, and you can bet the Olympics will see them do something impressive versus one of the other elite sides on show on British soil.

    If a Sawa-less pre season Japan can perform better than they did during the WWC final versus USA, the last thing the U.S. need to do is go into another game versus Japan, this time in Japan, playing the same system they normally do hoping to set things right. If they do this and lose or draw again, you can forget the mental edge come the Olympics.

    This time around Japan had no fear of the U.S. mid-field, and shut off all routes to their biggest worry, and the USA’s biggest threat, which of course was Wambach’s head. If the U.S. don’t adapt their approach, Japan could have the U.S. absolutely figured come the Olympics and beyond.


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