A few thoughts to share on the epic Women’s World Cup quarterfinal between the United States and Brazil, but first a tournament schedule update and two videos:
USA vs. France, noon ET (ESPN, Galavision, ESPN3.com)
Sweden vs. Japan, 2:45 p.m. ET (ESPN, ESPN3.com)
SATURDAY’S THIRD-PLACE MATCH
Two semifinal losing teams, 11:30 a.m. ET (ESPN2)
SUNDAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Two semifinal winning teams, 2:45 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Enjoy the photo gallery.
Watch Ali Krieger talk about the match, setting and PKs:
As for the match.....
FIFA has many faults. I know it. You know it. They know it (but don’t seem to care enough to doing anything about it). One major on-field issue that drives fans, players, coaches and reporters mad is the lack of information when controversy arises.
I’m not expecting the referee to immediately explain a call over the public-address system (like in the NFL), or an official scorer in the press box to make a ruling (baseball), or FIFA execs in Zurich to monitor video on questionable goals (NHL). But there is no reason why an officiating supervisor or match commissioner can’t consult with the referee or fourth official and issue a statement during or after a match, so we can all better understand what transpired.
For a referee to order a penalty kick re-taken without explanation, leaving a worldwide TV audience, not to mention the participants, in the dark, is unacceptable. Transparency is not FIFA’s strong suit, but with this simple action, the game — and spectators — would benefit.
Even with an explanation on the Brazil re-take, the USA still would’ve had a beef. If Hope Solo came off her line early, it wasn’t by much. A U.S. player did enter the box early, but how often is that minor infraction enforced? Watching replays, I don’t know who made the call or when it was made: Neither the referee nor the assistant referee in the TV shot signaled a violation.
As for the call leading to Brazil’s penalty kick, I’m not as disgusted with the decision as many of you. Sorry. Rachel Buehler allowed Marta to get around her, tugged her shirt and clipped her leg as she attempted to volley. The red card, though, was extreme. It wasn’t a breakaway, just a challenge in the box. Award the PK, show no cards, move on.
*The early own goal by Brazil stirred memories of the teams’ 2007 semifinal meeting — when a mistake by Leslie Osborne in the 20th minute spurred the Brazilians to a 4-0 rout. Like today, the Americans also received a red card in that match (Shannon Boxx, late in the first half).
On Sunday, Boxx had a mixed match. Her cross to the six-yard box led to the own goal, but in exta time, she looked away from Marta for an instant to appeal for an offside call. Marta seized on the opportunity and scored.
*With the equalizer late in extra time, Abby Wambach added to the list of dramatic U.S. goals in big women’s matches:
Michelle Akers in the 78th vs. Norway in 1991 World Cup final.
Shannon MacMillan in extra time vs. Norway in 1996 Olympic semifinal.
Tiffeny Milbrett in added time vs. Norway in 2000 Olympic final (USA went on to lose in extra time).
Heather O’Reilly in extra time vs. Germany in 2004 Olympic semifinal.
Wambach in extra time vs. Brazil in 2004 Olympic final.
Natasha Kai in extra time vs. Canada in 2008 Olympic quarterfinal.
Carli Lloyd in extra time vs. Brazil in 2008 Olympic final.
“Up and down, up and down. Emotional,” Solo said. “I didn’t know if we were going to pull it out at the end. It started to look grim, but you felt the energy. It’s not like we held our heads. But you see the clock winding down and you wonder if this is going to be our time, our tournament. And we fought. I knew Abby would come up big. I don’t care if she has two goals or 10 goals. When it counts, she comes up big.”
*With Germany’s shock elimination in the quarterfinals, the host nation will not appear in the championship game for the fifth time in six Women’s World Cups. The only exception: USA in 1999. Canada will face long odds of advancing to the final when it hosts the tournament in 2015.
*What does this U.S. campaign mean for struggling WPS? A championship isn’t going to ensure success, just as a semifinal loss isn’t going to doom it. Ultimately, the league will live or die on its own merits and business decisions. But a world title would draw attention to the U.S. players, all but one of whom plays on the six-team circuit. (Krieger spent the past 3 1/2 years in the Women’s Bundesliga and, despite being out of contract, might return there in the fall.)
Never before has a U.S. women’s pro league been in business when the national team won a major title: 1996 Olympics (no league), 1999 World Cup (two years before WUSA’s launch), 2004 Olympics (year after WUSA folded), 2008 Olympics (year before WPS started). So WPS clubs would have an opportunity to market their U.S. players right away and, perhaps, enjoy a box-office bump.