Well, here we are again, the end of another major women’s tournament, and time again for the AWK All-Curren Team. I call it that not out of a massive ego, but to indicate that it is indeed my choices and opinions. I point that out up front because for some reason choosing the best team from the Olympics was even tougher than the World Cup, even though there were fewer teams.
As with the World Cup, I sought to put together a real squad, one that could actually play (as opposed to starting nine forwards where we could score at will, but might end up playing Marta and Alex Morgan at outside back) a legitimate match.
And as always, feel free to put your choices in the Comments. Just remember, if you put someone in, someone has to come out and vice versa.
Among the players who barely missed the cut:
Portia Modise (South Africa), who had the goal of the tournament, and was very active in midfield for South Africa, who had their moments. Not enough moments for her to make the 18, though.
Renata Costa (Brazil) had a very good tournament defensively despite her team’s lack of organization.
Ali Riley and Ria Percival (New Zealand) might have cancelled each other out, as the entire New Zealand defense, including Jenny Bindon and Katie Hoyle, had a great tournament.
Two players who barely missed the cut at the World Cup did so again here in Louisa Necib (France), who got off to a good start, but held the ball a little too long in some key spots for my taste, and Yukari Kinga (Japan), who was just edged out.
Lotta Schelin (Sweden), who probably suffered from a lack of support more than her failings.
And, perhaps the last cut, Yuki Ogimi (Japan), who scored three times in the tournament, including in the final, but in a tournament loaded with attacking players, we just couldn’t find a spot for her this time around. Next time.
Ironically, I got home today from camp and flipping through HBO, came across “Bend It Like Beckham”. I’m going to guess most of you have seen it, I happened to come in at the scene where a match is going on and some young men in the crowd are making fun of women playing soccer, “Can’t you just see them as proper footballers?,” one of them tries to interject before laughter erupts from the others.
Believe it or not, that movie came out a decade ago. Since then, women’s soccer in Britain has grown in the number of teams, but the prevailing attitude still seemed to be a little different than it is in more accepting countries, at least overtly, as much of the discussion seemed to revolve around how the U.S. looked more than how they played.
A couple of weeks later, at the hallowed ground of Wembley Stadium, more than 70,000 people packed the place to cheer Great Britain to a 1-0 win over Brazil, and a new era has been born. Well, we’re not that naïve, are we? But still a run to the gold medal game would certainly do wonders for the sport in the birthplace of the game, and with more structure for a professional league in place, could it be a watershed moment? And all they have to do is get by ….. the United States in the semifinals. Gulp. Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it:
Probably not too surprisingly under a British coach and with a young, athletic team that might not quite add up talent-wise with some of the best in the world, New Zealand under Tony Readings came out with a high-pressing, direct style that gave hosts Great Britain a lot of trouble at times in the Olympic opener. But as it was at the World Cup last year, the Ferns came up a little bit short, thanks to Stephanie Houghton’s free kick in the 64th minute. With eight teams out of 12 instead of eight of 16, New Zealand still has a decent chance to advance. Here’s what we learned: