It took a week, but we had our first day that you can consider “meh” in the Women’s World Cup.
Unfortunately, North Korea is probably never going to be terribly entertaining, while Sweden is set up to defend first, and its strikers didn’t help matters by being fairly inept in front of goal.
Elsewhere, while it was fun to watch the United States knock the ball around against Colombia, and it’s always nice to see creative goal celebrations: a) we shouldn’t have been surprised at the result; and b) Colombia looked like they were almost treating the match as a scrimmage, making a fairly ludicrous five changes off a good performance against Sweden.
But there are always things to learn, and here are the 10 things we learned in Day 7 of Germany 2011.
1) Being able to strike the ball is an underrated skill
John Ellinger may have been a mediocre MLS coach (OK, he was probably worse than that), but he’s been very good at the youth level, and I refer to his “Five things that make a successful player” with my young kids, and two stand out as things we probably don’t do enough, for different reasons.
One is being able to head the ball, which is tough with younger players, and the other is “the ability to strike a ball cleanly”.
All three goals for the U.S. today were definitely cleanly struck balls, and although Carli Lloyd’s goal should have been saved, there are very few women in the world that can hit a ball as cleanly as Lloyd. Sometimes it’s a skill that gets overlooked when you’re talking about players, but it’s certainly a weakness for Amy Rodriguez, and a reason her days of starting in this tournament may be gone. Until she pulls a Megan Rapinoe, at least.
Sometimes that ability can be used as a decoy, if a team knows you can strike the ball from distance, they have to stretch their defense, and that might open up some other things in different places.
But it’s not – as even I tend to treat it as sometimes – a periphrial skill, it’s an essential one.
2) The U.S. looked very sharp today
They were able to “ping” the ball around, a lot of one and two touch stuff that kept the ball moving and the Colombians chasing. That type of play allows the team to stay sharp, and showed that they should be able to keep the ball a decent amount no matter who they’re playing and what round it is, but …
3) At some point, the U.S. may have to be able to go at people a little more
This comment is mostly about the first half, once Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath came on the field, they went at people and I thought that part of the game improved. However, the Colombians seemed to be giving space in the middle, and Lloyd and Lori Lindsey (or Shannon Boxx, for that matter) didn’t have the confidence to run at them with the ball, although Lloyd’s goal is kind of an example of what I’m talking about.
Unfortunately, that’s not likely to change in this tournament, so I guess I should just let it go.
4) Colombia is not good
Having seen everyone twice (almost), I think we can say Colombia is the worst team in the tournament, so you’d expect the U.S. to do what they did today.
On top of it, Ricardo Rozo made five changes, even taking Yoreli Rincon out, presumably to become a little more defensive, but it was always going to be an uphill climb.
Of course, it’s one thing to expect it and another to do it, so they should be happy. But the harder work is yet to come, and I think everyone knows it.
5) The U.S. might be vulnerable to speed, but we may not know it in the group stage
There were a couple of times where it looked like Colombia might have had Christie Rampone and Rachel Buehler split. Would a team with better strikers have been able to take advantage of that? Problem is, it’s not like Sweden seems to have strikers that the U.S. has to be overly concerned about right now, either, so it may be an open question into the knockout stage, and no one likes open questions in the knockout stage, which leads us to…
6) The win the group vs. rest argument
The format for this tournament is asking a lot of the players, the U.S. quarterfinal game will be next Sunday, with the semifinal three days after and the final four days after that, so it would seem to be a good time to give some tired legs a rest as Pia Sundhage did with Shannon Boxx against Colombia.
The U.S. needs a draw to win the group, and probably play Norway or Australia instead of Brazil. Can the U.S., which is ridulously deep, get a draw against a Caroline Seger-less Sweden squad with a lot of changes? I think they can.
And, who’s to say Thomas Dennerby and Sweden aren’t thinking the same thing? It looks like second in Group C will get Brazil, but that’s not a certainty after they struggled in their first game, either. Finishing second allows you to avoid Germany until the final.
Just thinking out loud, we’ll see how it develops.
7) There are better ways to get yourself on the field than complaining
For instance, scoring a magnificent goal four minutes after coming on, as Megan Rapinoe did. Her first touch was nearly perfect and her second touch was, an unstoppable blast that was taken quickly. Rapinoe did lose the ball a couple of times and had some interesting tackles, but it’s hard to argue that the team’s best attacking team doesn’t include her in it after the goal she scored, and I think Sundhage has to give her the start against Sweden.
8) You have to have a little but of fun, too
An early goal obviously helps the nerves, too, but the (quite brilliant) celebrations show that there might not be as many nerves on the inside as there are on the outside, and a team that’s playing loose is usually a team that’s playing with confidence as well.
9) Most people aren’t worried about you, Abby
It is a little annoying for Abby Wambach not to have scored a goal in this World Cup, but the U.S. hasn’t needed her, she’s scored 118 goals in her career, and it’s not like she’s playing poorly, it just seems to be a bout of unluckiness more than anything else.
I’d be more worried about the card situation, another one in the last group match sees her suspended for the quarterfinals, so I think Sundhage will give a lot of thought on whether to give Wambach a rest or not in the Sweden match.
10) Despite their offensive woes, Sweden might still be a threat
Two goals in two games is far from impressive, but two things Sweden can hang their collective hats on (boy, that’s a horrible cliche): a) North Korea had less chances to score than they did against the United States, and b) they are creating some good chances even if they are not finishing them, so if they ever do start finishing, look out.
Colombia vs. Columbia
Colombia is the country is South America, Columbia is a university in New York City and some cities around the United States (and is the spelling for the District of Columbia).
But please don’t spell the country, Columbia.