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Olympics – Matchday 3: What We Learned – France 1:0 Colombia

If you truly believe in France, your glass is half full heading into the quarterfinals. Sure, they had a meltdown against the United States, but they hadn’t faced an attack like that in forever and it was the first game of the tournament. They struggled against North Korea, but eventually buried them and would have done the same against Colombia if they could have finished one of their 612 (estimated) chances in the game.

However, if your glass is half empty, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, and crew exposed a relatively slow and quite average international defense. Their inability to really put away North Korea and Colombia also shows that while they’re obviously one of the most improved teams in the world in the last few years, they’re not ready to win a gold medal here at the Olympics, especially with a bracket that includes Sweden, Brazil, and Japan. Maybe in three years.

Where do I stand? Safe to say somewhere in the middle. How’s that for a cop-out?

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Women’s World Cup – Things We Learned: Day 7 – United States Edition

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.

Bonus:

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.
Thank you.

Women’s World Cup – Things We Learned: Day 6

You may have noticed that I picked France to go to the finals of the World Cup. Based primarily on Lyon’s Champions League run and the camaraderie (and skill on the ball) they have, that one seems like a fantastic pick, and makes me feel like I know what I’m talking about.

Hopefully you didn’t notice that I picked Japan to bow out of the World Cup a the group stage, primarily due to a lack of finishing ability and a lack of size in a group that included a couple of physical teams in New Zealand and England. That pick? Well, most certainly I look like an idiot and makes me feel like I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

I’m sure the truth is somewhere in the middle.

And so we trudge on, here are the 10 things we learned in Day 6 of Germany 2011:

1) Don’t foul Japan anywhere near your final third

On the surface, Japan – and their lack of height – would not be a dangerous team on set pieces. But Aya Miyama’s service has been more than excellent, it’s been nearly perfect, resulting directly in three goals in Japan’s first two games.
Someone brought up the fact that the men’s team was also pretty good on set pieces, and – to me, at least – it’s just a matter of having a person who can serve the ball well, for the Japan men it was Keisuke Honda, who continues to star in the Russian League with CSKA Moscow.

2) The last day of group action may not be terribly exciting

It’s possible that Mexico could beat New Zealand, but to make up the goal differential deficit they currently face is asking a bit too much, methinks.
So, basically, we have four teams already in the quarterfinals: Germany, France, Japan, and England. If the United States beats Colombia as expected and Sweden can top North Korea, those two teams will have qualified as well, which leaves Group D where Norway and Australia don’t meet until the third game, which may give us the only drama, at least as who will qualify.
There is still seeding to worry about.

3) Japan’s fourth goal should be shown at clinics everywhere

It gets a little bit of an asterisk because Mexico was chasing the game and was pretty tired by the 80th minute, but a 14-pass sequence that was primarily one and two touch and covering almost the entire field, finished off by an overlapping right back (Yukari Kinga), a dummy front-post run (Yuki Nagasato), and cut back pass to Homare Sawa for the nice finish?
Brilliant. Sadly, I forgot and erased the game off my DVR as soon as the match ended. D’oh.

4) Hat tricks are actually very rare at the Women’s World Cup

Sawa’s hat trick was only the 14th in World Cup history, with Norway’s Ragnhild Gulbrandsen getting the last one in 2007 against Ghana (in a 7-2 win) in the group stage.
The only other three hat tricks in 2007 all happened in the same game, as Germany throttled Argentina 11-0 behind three goals each from Birgit Prinz, Renate Lingor, and Sandra Smisek.
Japan actually had a hat trick in 2003 as well, Mio Otani came off the bench to also exploit Argentina 6-0 (in a game Sawa also had two goals.)
Amazingly, to find the last United States hat trick (and the only two in U.S. history) you have to go back to the first World Cup in 1991, in the semfinals, Carin Jennings (now a fine coach at Navy) did the trick in a 5-2 semifinal win over Germany. In the quarterfinal, Michelle Akers (who had a nice piece in Sports Illustrated this week) had five goals in a 7-0 win over Chinese Taipei. That’s it, just two.

5) Alina Garciamendez had a tough time dealing with Japan’s movement

Ironically, you may be able to point to this as a development problem for U.S. soccer. Garciamendez came up through U.S. youth clubs and played very well against England, but the movement and ability off the ball of the Japanese had her completely baffled.
Sadly, you just don’t see that kind of stuff at the college level (and Garciamendez is among the best at one of the best in Stanford), and maybe you should. So far we’ve seen it from France and Japan, certainly.

6) Jill Scott put England on her back

New Zealand accounted for Kelly Smith fairly well, and no matter who Hope Powell was trying on the outside, England wasn’t able to break through. But Jill Scott, whose build would seem better suited to a center back, took over the game, even before she got the equalizing goal. She was winning everything in the midfield, and that started to put a tiring New Zealand squad under more and more pressure.
Alex Scott’s cross in the 63rd minute was perfect, as was Jill’s header, and 20 minutes later, when New Zealand going for a winner, Jill Scott had the stamina to get into the box, and the composure to lay the ball off to substitute Jess Clarke for the winner. Women of the Match, for my money, fairly easily.

7) New Zealand gave it all they had

It wasn’t for a lack of trying that New Zealand didn’t pull this game out (and you could probably say the same for their first match), but the Ferns just didn’t quite have the skill to keep up: a few too many bad first touches and giveaways that eventually got them tired by chasing again. To their credit, they went for the winner when the game was tied, but it eventually cost them in the end.
But you can’t knock the effort and the energy they they showed, which was refreshing.

8) The referees are still letting them play

Christina Pedersen (Norway) and Therese Neguel (Cameroon) didn’t hand out a single yellow card, and seemed to let things go a lot more than you’d see in the average men’s game. It didn’t have as much of an effect as it did yesterday with Nigeria, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Also, through 12 games, there has yet to be a penalty kick awarded. Take it for what it’s worth.

9) England still has some holes, but don’t count them out

It’s easy to look at their first two performances and think that England will never beat Germany (or France), but their history in Euro 2009 in Finland is interesting.
England lost to Italy in their opener, got down to goals to Russia (neither of whom is even in the World Cup) before coming back in that game, sqeaking into the knockout stages and going all the way to the final before getting shellacked by Germany, 6-2. To be fair, their opponents in the quarterfinals (Finland) and semis (Netherlands, who beat France in the quarters on penalties) aren’t in the World Cup, either, but you never know.

10) Colombia may be falling apart a little bit

Word out of the Colombia camp is that Yoreli Rincon might not even start on Saturday, which is slightly shocking, but looking at Colombia’s remarkable run to the U-20 semifinals last year in Germany, Rincon had only one goal from the run of play in the tournament (in the quarterfinals against Sweden).
But if Rincon is on the bench, who do they have to replace her? If the U.S. an get an early goal or two, they may be able to put up a fairly big number and assure their advancement.

I also just wanted an excuse to get this good article from the New York Times in.

Bonus:

Culture difference

If you look at the Colombia-Nigeria semifinal game at the U-20 World Cup last year, as many as six Colombians who started that match will start for Colombia tomorrow (one of them being Rincon). Nigeria has a similar number.
But if you look at the U.S. roster, not a single one even made the final senior World Cup roster this. The only one playing in the World Cup? Teresa Noyola, who appeared for Mexico today.

Women’s World Cup – Day 3: Things We Learned – United States Edition

There were few people that pushed the panic button, but there seemed to be quite a few whose hands might have reached in that general direction as the United States sputtered to a halftime draw against North Korea Tuesday afternoon.

Thankfully, none of those people was named Pia Sundhage. She stayed calm, collected, made no substitutions, but tweaked the right things, and gave the right motivation. The result: a fairly shocking second half (at least in its complete and utter domination) as the U.S. rolled to a 2-0 win over usually stubborn North Korea that could have been double that.

There’s a long way to go, obviously, but certainly the U.S. looked like contenders for the title. Unless, of course, it was the lightning that got the North Koreans.

In the other match, well, let’s just say the Swedish finishing left much to be desired against Colombia.

Here are the 10 things we learned in Day 3 of Germany 2011.

1) Lauren Cheney needs to be on the field

You or I might switch up the formation to find a way to get her in, but Scandinavian coaches like Pia Sundhage (or Hans Backe in MLS for the Red Bulls, for instance) never seem to vary from that 4-4-2. Which is fine, to each their own, and – as we saw today – sometimes the formations can just be numbers. Cheney spent much of the day tucked in and acting as a third striker, in the process probably being the most dangerous player on the field today.
Now, doing that does leave some holes behind you, and that’s something the U.S. will have to address, but you have to give up something to get something, and the positives seemed to outweigh the negatives today, namely a threat to score every time Cheney touches the ball in the opponents’ third.

2) Abby Wambach has some skill, too

We know Wambach as the hard-charging, physical presence who gets most of her goals with her head, a job she has been remarkable in, scoring 118 times for her country in 157 appearances.
But it was the things she did off the ball and with the ball at her feet that helped the U.S. most today.
On the first goal, her run into a wide area opened space and a beautiful Carli Lloyd long ball found her on the left. Instead of just hitting it first time, though, she cut it off her left, sending the North Korean defender jumping, which opened up everything. Wambach’s cross found Cheney, and it was a pretty simple header back across goal.
That little touch, though, was the difference.

3) Who is Dawn Scott?

If you know before reading this, you are an A+ U.S. women’s fan, and – if I could – I’d send you on a plane to Germany and get you tickets.
Dawn Scott is the fitness coach for the U.S., and in a tournament full of cramping and other fatigue issues at the end of matches, the States showed none of it today. In fact, I can’t remember a single cramp.
Now, it was a little cooler in Dresden, and the U.S. kicked off a little later in the day, but it was still warmer than ideal, certainly.
Scott was hired last year, ironically from England, where she worked with Hope Powell for almost a decade.
Why ironic? Because England was one of the teams most affected by the conditions on Monday, completely wilting at the end of their match against Mexico. Appears to be a fantastic signing for U.S. soccer. Yea, Sunil Gulati.

4) Amy LePeilbet may need more help at left back

Sundhage knows that LePeilbet is slightly out of position, but it was exposed far too often in the first half by 16-year-old Su Gyong Kim down the North Korean right. A lot of coaches, especially with the game still scoreless would have pulled LePeilbet for Stephanie Cox, but Sundhage stuck to her guns and was rewarded, North Korea wasn’t nearly as dangerous in the second half.
In fact, LePeilbet got forward much more in the second half – more than I’ve ever seen her. Was that the tactical adjustment? Going forward, Sweden attacked mostly down the left through Therese Sjogran and Sara Thunebro today, and Colombia’s most dangerous player – Carmen Rodallega – was also on the left, so maybe that will help, at least through the group stages.

5) Carli Lloyd played well in a big spot

Lloyd had the secondary assist on the first goal, but – more importantly – had the engine to match North Korea and was still going strong at the end (I guess Scott gets a little credit for that, too, Lloyd looks as fit as she’s ever been in her career). She won plenty of balls and was a dominant force in the middle.
North Korea did, however, get a few shots in the middle of the field, and that’s the concern with a “flat” 4-4-2, we’ll see if it will get exposed by other opponents.

6) It’s OK to go direct sometimes

Some of the Twitter chatter at halftime was about how many teams are better technically than the U.S., and how embarrassing that is for U.S. soccer. I don’t disagree completely with that sentiment, but now is not the time to worry about things like that.
Sundhage has Abby Wambach, Lauren Cheney, and others, and I don’t mind using some direct play to go at some shaky defenses and goalkeepers.
That doesn’t mean just smacking the ball forward at every opportunity. Look at the first goal: Ali Kreiger had a little bit of a poor touch, but didn’t panic, laid it off to Christie Rampone, who hit Lloyd, and Lloyd delivered the long ball to Wambach. That works.

7) It would be shocking to see the U.S. not win the group now

More about Sweden-Colombia in a second, but Sweden had a chance to hang a few goals on what is sure to be the minnows of the group and didn’t do it, which should mean that the U.S. would have to lose to Sweden to not win Group C. I don’t see that happening. However, while that may help them avoid Brazil, Norway has been feisty of late as a potential quarterfinal opponent. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

8) Megan Rapinoe’s goal was correctly disallowed

FIFA’s Law 12, as it pertains to goalkeepers, states:
“A goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball: a) while the ball is between his (it says his, sorry) hands or between his hand and any surface (e.g. ground, own body); b) while holding the ball in his outstretched open hand; c) while in the act of bouncing it on the ground or tossing it into the air.
When a goalkeeper has gained possession of the ball with his hands, he cannot be challenged by an opponent.”
So the hand on the ball disallows the goal. It shouldn’t matter, I don’t see goal differential being an issue.

9) Sweden should have scored a few goals on Colombia today

I wasn’t impressed by Colombia today as I was with Mexico yesterday. Carmen Rodallega was pretty good on the ball, but Sweden – thanks to some dreadful finishing – really could have and should have had 4 or 5 goals by the end of the match. Colombia didn’t even look like they could get a goal kick further then 30 yards down the field (as Sweden took advantage of when it finally scored, it was a nice goal) and gave the ball away several times in their own end. I thought Colombia keeper Sandra Supulveda was decent, but Sweden barely even tested her. I think if the U.S. is a little more clinical, they can hang a crooked number and advance with ease on Saturday.

10) Where was Yoreli Rincon?

I hate to break it to Ricardo Rozo and young Yoreli, but you’re not going to replace Marta as Player of the Year from a holding midfield role. At least, you’re not going to replace her as a holding midfielder who has as little impact on the game as she did today. Rincon’s touches were decent, but she didn’t do anything to really make you notice her, which is a little bit of a shame after the hype she was given. We’ll see what happens against the United States.

Bonus:

Was Colombia talking trash in the pregame tunnel?

I probably wouldn’t try that on Saturday. Just saying.

Predictions: It’s Germany’s Show, But Look Out For France And, Yes, “Underdog” U.S.

With the World Cup fast approaching (so close you can almost touch it), we’re happy to announce that Ray Curren has rented a room in AWK’s summer timeshare. You might be familiar with Ray’s previous work for World Soccer Reader and Set Piece Analysts. He’ll be providing updates for us throughout the tournament. Here he gives his tournament predictions:

 

I guess it’s in vogue to say that the United States women’s soccer team is down these days. Everyone has caught up and passed them, the youth system needs to be changed, just as on the men’s side, we can’t develop players.

But a closer look at the 2011 World Cup sees an obvious favorite in Germany, who will have the crowd on their side, and may very well expose all of the negative things said about the U.S. above.

Other than that, folks, though, I’m not so sure anyone is better than the States.

You can say Brazil, they did trash the U.S. four years ago 4-0 in perhaps the darkest day for U.S. women’s soccer, and Marta is still around to torture opponents, but one person does not a squad make, and the rest of the team may not be quite as good.

Despite close scorelines, Japan really wasn’t much of a match for the U.S. in preliminary games. Australia is extremely young and banged up. Norway doesn’t have the technical skill to keep up. Canada certainly knows the U.S., but they’re on the other side of the bracket.

Also on the other side is the potential breakout team of this World Cup in France, meaning the U.S. can’t meet them until the semifinals. Unfortunately, if both teams win their group, Germany and the United States will meet in the semis, and that could be bad news for the U.S. Or it could mean a return to glory.

But they do have to get out of their group first.

Here are my quick predictions:

GROUP A

Quick Preview (in order of predicted finish):

Despite being heavy favorites, Germany didn’t exactly get an easy group to navigate, starting with an opener against Canada on Sunday. But it’s a machine Silvia Neid has put together. Not only have they won back-to-back World Cups, but this team is probably better than either of those, with veterans Inka Grings and Birgit Prinz pushing along youngsters like Alexandra Popp. They shouldn’t be stopped, at least in the group stage.

Until I did some actual research, I was skeptical about France. Of course, usually when I do research on teams, it turns out to be false anyway, but we’ll see. Most of us know about Sonia Bompastor, but Marie-Laure Delie (21 goals in 20 caps) and some others may be more well-known in a couple of weeks. With the already mentioned failings of others, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see a France-Brazil semifinal, or France in the final?

Canada is on the upswing after the whole Carolina Morace fiasco was ironed out, and Canada did win the 2010 Gold Cup remember (after Mexico beat the U.S. in the semis). Christine Sinclair and youngster Jonelle Filigno will be worth watching, but I think the Canadians just got stuck in the wrong group.

Speaking of the wrong group, Nigeria is in big, big trouble here. They have some players that do play in Europe (mostly Sweden), and Ngozi Uche has apparently brought some organization on board, but an 8-0 throttling at the hands of Germany in a friendly doesn’t bode well. I’m mostly interested to see if Uche brings back the sweeper that was Nigeria’s signature in the last two World Cups. It should be noted that Nigeria only conceded four times in the 2007 World Cup, including a 1-0 loss to the U.S. in which Lori Chalupny (remember her?) scored seconds into the match, and the Americans never could build on it. It is hard to take Nigeria seriously when you see stuff like this, though.

Random fact:

Although Germany scored eight in a friendly against Nigeria, they’ll be hard pressed to score more than they did against Argentina in 2007 when they put 11 past Argentina in the tournament opener. Argentina gave up 18 in the tournament.

Player to watch:

Helen Ukaonu, Nigeria – It was Ukaonu’s sublime equalizer last summer that drew Nigeria level and eventually allowed them to upset the United States on penalties at the U-20 World Cup last summer. Perpetua Nkwocha, their best striker, and possibly the best name in the tournament, also needs to be watched.

Game to watch:

Canada vs. France, June 30 – This match should decide who goes through to the knockout stage, and France will likely enter as favorite, but Canada – as has been discussed – can be dangerous.

Likely end of the road:

Germany – Champions (over France)
France –  Finals (loss to Germany)
Canada – Group Stage
Nigeria – Group Stage

GROUP B

Quick Preview (in order of predicted finish):

Is it possible that England is playing too well coming into this tournament? Coming off wins over the United States and Sweden in friendlies, and stuck in – let’s face it – the easiest of the four groups, hopes are high for Kelly Smith and crew. But Hope Powell’s team is also prone to bad losses: a loss to Scotland in March, a loss to Italy to open Euro 2009 (they went on to the final). But if Fara Williams is healthy, she should be the difference.

Well, we need at least one off the radar pick, and I’m going with New Zealand to advance. They’re young enough not to know better, they have nothing to lose, they’re in a weak group, and they seem to match up well with Japan in the opener. Of course, then they’ll get Germany in the quarterfinals.

Watching Japan against the U.S. in friendlies, they could move the ball, but they’re just tiny, and that could be a big problem against New Zealand in their opener. Japan also hasn’t been out of the group stage since 1995 and I just sense that – without much scoring prowess – up top – this may not be their year, either.

Mexico beat the United States less than a year ago, and nearly escaped with a 0-0 draw just two weeks ago, they’ve got Maribel Dominguez (who is 32 now?), they’ve got a few very good college players, so I think they’ll be competitive. But I don’t see them getting over the hump this year. Four years from now in Canada?

Random fact:

Hope Powell has been in charge of the England women’s national team since 1998, longest among any manager in this World Cup. Of course, Kelly Smith has been with the squad since 1995, or the same year Mexican goalkeeper Ceci Santiago was born.

Player to watch:

Amber Hearn, New Zealand – Hearn is in good form and has 22 goals in 46 caps for her national team. She actually plays her club football for the Ottawa Fury in the W-League. Also quick shoutout to Alina Garciamendez of Stanford, who is playing for Mexico.

Game to watch:

Japan vs. New Zealand, June 27 – If New Zealand is going to advance, they’re going to have to get a result in this game, and that will probably mean getting a goal off a set piece of some kind. Hearn can do that for them.

Likely end of the road:

England – Quarterfinals (loss to France)
New Zealand –  Quarterfinals (loss to Germany)
Japan – Group Stage
Mexico – Group Stage

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