France defeated Australia with no surprises, except that Australia’s defense is even worse than we thought. A lot of people are saying that the Matildas have it in them to be a contender next World Cup, but they’ve got to majorly change their defense to pull that off.
In a huge shocker, heavy favorites Germany actually lost to Japan in one of the most surprising upsets in WWC history. Germany was expected to take home its third world cup in a row, especially considering the home field advantage, and instead they didn’t even make it to the semis.
Japan dominated the game, but didn’t actually score in regular time, despite their incredible possession percentage. They scored finally in the 108th minute, shocking the German crowd who couldn’t accept the way the wind was blowing. This is the first time they’ve ever defeated a European side in the World Cup, and if this didn’t make a hero out of the incredible Sawa, then nothing could. Unfortunately, because Sweden won against Australia, Germany won’t be going to the Olympics next year, which is absolutely absurd. Europe sends the two last standing teams in the WWC to the Olympics, rather than having a qualifying tournament, meaning that their best team isn’t going next year, which is legitimately a real shame, though I can’t say I feel anything but joy for Japan after this game.
France and England played an intense game that went all the way to PKs, a rarity in WWC matches. Although Sunday’s US vs Brazil game would prove to be a much more insanely intense game, France vs England looked like it would end up the best game of the tournament. France dominated play, but England’s goalkeeper kept them in the game and England scored in the second half. England then questionably used all three of its substitutions in the last ten minutes of regular time and France scored with just two minutes left, taking the game into extra time. Neither team scored so it went to PKs, where England lost 4-3.
Hope Powell, the England coach, is rumored to be stepping down after accusing her team of cowardice. Apparently none of her team stepped forward to volunteer to take the Penalty Kicks, except the two who ended up missing them — one was exhausted, and one was playing her first WWC game — but since no one else was volunteering, they did. Probably not the most political way of dealing with the situation, but it was a hard loss.
And then there was US vs Brazil. What a game. I think I’m still recovering from the adrenaline. 2 minutes into the game, the US forced an own goal on poor Daiane, whose head must be hanging low today. The US went on to dominate the game for most of the first half and into the second. And then the referee dominated the game.
I tend not to get upset at calls, I usually get upset at the lack of instant replay, which allows bad calls by fallible eyes to go unchecked. Marta, five time player of the year aka the female Pele, was going in towards the goal and facing a completely fair challenge by Buehler, but the ref decided it was a foul — it very clearly wasn’t on replay. Buehler got a red card and sent off in the 66th minute, meaning the US went on to play a man down for the next hour, and Brazil got a Penalty Kick. For a foul that wasn’t committed, mind you.
The unbelievably awesome Hope Solo blocked the PK, but the ref decided that someone was off their line (another bad call) and gave Solo a yellow card (a truly disgustingly bad call) and forced the PK to be retaken (seriously vomit inducing). Solo did not beat Marta’s shot, and Brazil came up for a tie.
And then something amazing happened, the crowd in Germany decided they hated Marta and Brazil. I mean, really despised them because of how unfair the calls were. It is amazing at any time when a US team is liked overseas, but this was brilliant. Every time Marta touched the ball the entire crowd booed, hissed, and whistled. She was like a horrible villain on the field.
In a beautiful attack by the US on Brazil’s goal, they got called offsides when they were well onside, and immediately after offsides wasn’t called on Brazil, who made a goal. Thanks to horrible calls, Brazil had a second goal, and the US was down by one.
And then Brazil got nasty, they started taking time when they didn’t need it. A player who wasn’t hurt crumpled to the ground when no one was around her in the most spectacularly cynical move I’ve seen to run out the clock, a move that makes Italy and France look like they hardly take dives at all. She stayed down for three or four minutes and got stretchered off the field. The moment play resumed, she jumped off the stretcher and joined the game. The ref only gave her a yellow card, but I would have sent that horrible woman off with a red and a severe talking to.
The German crowd started chanting USA! USA!
They added on 3 minutes of injury time to the game, taking them over the 120 minute mark and, in a truly unbelievable moment, Rapinoe sent a massive pass forward and Wambach headed it in with less than a minute of play left. It was incredible.
So it went into PKs on the anniversary of the 1999 final in Pasadena, where the US won in PKs and everyone was confident that the US was going to pull off the miracle comeback. And they did, thanks to perfect shots from all of the US and a brilliant save by Hope Solo, who is awesome, against poor poor Daiane who made the mistake of looking at the goalie. You never look at the goalie during PKs.
It was the most epic footy I’ve ever seen.
OK, so wow, France is doing much better than expected, and my US team is looking like their number 1 rank is deserved. I am relieved and will go forth being overly optimistic for them because I love them so much.
So, my predictions for the rest of the group games.
France and Germany are tied on points, but France has a much better goal differential, meaning that all they have to do is tie Germany to move forward as the winners. Germany is the favorite, but France has looked much better on the field — something I definitely did not predict. I’d like France to win and that, more than anything, is leading me to say that France will win the group, and Germany will be second.
Japan is definitely going forward, so the competition is between Mexico and England. England is well ahead in goal differential, so they can lose to Japan and still move forward, which is exactly what I think is going to happen. Japan first, England second.
This is as fun as Group A, because the US and Sweden are literally fighting for the number one slot. Like France, all the US has to do is tie to win the group. I think they’re going to outright beat Sweden, or at least that is my hope. US number 1, Sweden number 2.
I simply cannot see Brazil not creaming Equatorial Guinea, which may be very fun to watch, so the competition is now for second place between Australia and Norway. Norway has not been impressive, but Australia’s defense has been lax. Australia just has to tie Norway to move on, and I think they’ve got that in them. I’m saying Brazil 1, Australia 2.
So if the games followed this prediction, we’d end up with the following matches.
France vs England
I’m tempted to say France, as surprised as I am by that. This seems like a very close match to me.
Japan vs Germany
Should be a great game as well, but I think Japan is going to be tough to beat.
US vs Australia
This should be an easy win for the US.
Brazil vs Sweden
This should be an easy win for Brazil.
France vs Japan
I think this is Japan’s.
US vs Brazil
Man, this is tough. I don’t know. They are my two favorite teams. I think Brazil is weak in their defense and the US could exploit it, but sometimes it seems like the US barely even shows up. I’m going to say the US, but I would be thrilled to see either one of these teams in the final.
France vs Brazil
US vs Japan
Halfway through the first round of group matches.
Argentina v Nigeria
Argentina, especially Lionel Messi, was incredibly agile and fast with the ball, but they were denied again and again by the fast and talented Nigerian goalie, Vincent Enyeama. Any goalie less talented and Messi would have had at least one goal and possibly three. Argentina wasn’t fully confident, they’ve got some defensive weaknesses, but they’re the most impressive team I’ve seen so far.
S. Korea v Greece
Well, who the hell expected that out of S. Korea, a contender out of nowhere and good for them. Greece has been a little weak lately, but did not expect that.
England v USA
This is a game the USA should have lost, the way they were playing, and if not for the awful error on the part of the English goalie, Robert Green, they definitely would have. The English played much better, the US was incredibly lucky. They’ll need to do better.
Algeria v Slovenia
Slovenia comes out the winner, leaving them the surprising leader of Group C. This game was very evenly matched, possession and attempts pretty evenly distributed.
Germany v Australia
I’m not sure Australia even showed up for this game. They’re ranked 20, but they looked like they didn’t even know how the game was played. Gratuitous fouling and total inability to fight the German’s efficient play – so destroyed was Australia that Germany is now a favorite to win the whole thing. Germany looks good (minus the diving) but Australia, come on, that was ridiculous. Every game today got a red card too.
Serbia v Ghana
Well performed on the part of Ghana, especially as they were not at all favored to win.
THE CURRENT STANDINGS
1. Mexico (1)
1. S. Africa (1)
3. Uruguay (1)
3. France (1)
1. S. Korea (3)
2. Argentina (3)
3. Nigeria (0)
4. Greece (0)
1. Slovenia (3)
2. England (1)
2. USA (1)
4. Algeria (0)
1. Germany (3)
2. Ghana (3)
3. Serbia (0)
4. Australia (0)