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Women’s World Cup: Weekend Summary: Insanity

Wow, what an insane weekend. So much overtime, so many surprises.

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.

Women’s World Cup 2011 Predictions

Group A Predictions Points
Germany (2) W W W 9 (first)
Canada (6) L T W 4 (second)
Nigeria (27) L L L 0
France (7) W T L 4

Germany has already beaten Canada, but France only beat Nigeria by 1, which is potentially good news for Canada. Canada doesn’t have to beat France outright, as long as there’s a bigger point spread between Canada and Nigeria. In fact, the only reason I’m picking Canada over France is the point deferential in the Nigeria game.

Group B Predictions Points
Japan (4) W W W 9 (First)
N Zealand (24) L L T 1
Mexico (22) T L T 2
England (10) T W L 4 (Second)

I’d love to see New Zealand tie England and then Mexico and New Zealand fight it out to go forward, knowing that if it’s a tie, England will move forward. That would be exciting!

Group C Predictions Points
US (1) T W W 7 (First)
N Korea (8) T L W 4
Colombia (31) L L L 0
Sweden (5) W W L 6 (Second)

I think the US is going to start weak, but then find its feet. I would actually like the US to come in second in this bracket, though I think assuming they’ll get out of it is an assumption. If they flat out beat N Korea tomorrow, I’ll feel a lot better about them, they’ve been pretty shaky of late. They could also easily lose or tie Sweden, meaning N Korea isn’t out of the running here.

Group D Predictions Points
Brazil (3) W T W 7 (First)
Australia (11) L W T 4
Norway (9) W T T 5 (Second)
Equatorial Guinea (61) L L L 0

Poor Equatorial Guinea. I’d love to see them tie someone. Or a beautiful upset of Brazil! That’s going to be by far the biggest difference in team quality of the tournement.

So if the games followed this prediction, we’d end up with the following matches.

Match 25
Germany vs England

Oh man, I always love Germany versus England, that’s always so great, such brilliant rivalry there. I think England doesn’t stand a chance, though.

Match 26
Japan vs Canada

Regardless of the second place Group A finisher, I have a hard time seeing any of them beating Japan this year.

Match 27
US vs Norway

This is the US game to lose, but that doesn’t really mean they won’t. Gosh, I’m awfully pessimistic about the US this year, I’m just not feeling the number 1 ranking at all.

Match 28
Brazil vs Sweden

I think this could actually be a good game. Brazil’s certainly got the advantage, but it would be a brilliant upset for Sweden to beat them. And it’s possible.

SemiFinal A/B
Germany vs Japan

Why do so many match ups remind me of WWII? I think this is easily Germany’s.

SemiFinal C/D
US vs Brazil

In my optimistic moments, I think the US could win this. In my pessimistic moments, I think it’s hopeless. It’s a close call, and I’m likely to revise my opinion seeing how the teams progress through the cup, but from here I’m going to say Brazil.

3rd Place
Japan vs US

The US has never placed lower than 3rd, we’ll see if they’ve got the ability to keep that true.

Final
Germany vs Brazil

How men’s soccer of them. I’d love to see Brazil win, as it hasn’t done so yet and it would lend more legitimacy to the Women’s Soccer program in a country where soccer is the sport.

World Cup: Fun with Excel

First, here’s the link to the spreadsheet on Google Docs should you want to play.

Basically what I did is make a spreadsheet predicting the winners based solely on their FIFA rank.  It should be immediately noted that, in the past, FIFA rank has meant nothing.  The World Cup is high stakes game playing, and injuries, travel, exhaustion, and carding are all important.  So, the FIFA rank will probably end up being nearly useless at predicting games.  But it’s there and I have access to it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the way the World Cup works, I’ll explain.  It starts out with 8 groups (A-H) of 4 teams (32 teams total, 48 group matches).  Every team in each group plays each other (6 games), and whoever has the most wins in that group moves forward as 1A, whoever has the second most wins moves forward as 2A, the other two teams go home.  There are various tie-breaking things that inevitably matter as soccer is a very low-score sport, but the important thing is that every team has 3 games to prove themselves before getting kicked out.

Once a team has gotten through the group stage, it enters the knockout round, which means every game is win or go home.

Here are the games by group:

It’s fairly self-explanatory, but if you look at the last one: it’s game 48, held on 6/25, Group H, Switzerland has a FIFA ranking of 24, Honduras 38, so Switzerland to win by a 14 rank superiority.

Another interesting way of looking at the data is to group it by how closely matched two teams will be:

So, my guess would be that anything within 6 is going to be a close game, anything within 10 could easily go to the underdog, beyond 15 would probably require extremely extenuating circumstances to turn the game, and finally that N. Korea, S. Africa and New Zealand are probably completely screwed.

So, within each group there are some games that could turn out to be vitally important for the underdog to win to move forward, and where two teams are ranked closely enough that this is possible.

Mexico and Uruguay are extremely closely matched, with France significantly (but not unreachably) higher ranked, it’s likely going to be a fight to move on as 2A.  Likely, Uruguay will be coming off an easy win, and Mexico will be coming off a hard fought loss.

Australia could beat Serbia and move forward as 2D.

The only game in this group that looks even remotely close is Slovakia v Paraguay.  And fortunately for the drama, they’ll be fighting to stay in the competition.  Of course, getting to the knockout stage is probably all they’ll manage, but there’s no small pride in that.

It’s not super close, but the Americas often don’t do as well overseas, Switzerland could be the one to go forward.

So, using this same method, the rest of the Cup looks like this:

If it fell out like this, I tell you the last 9 games would be un-bloody-believable to watch.

World Cup: Links

I’m sure you Americans (aka 90% of my readership) are like in total hate with me right now.  I’m sorry, this link is for you.

For you other crazy kids, I’ve got the super awesome calendar.  Seriously, it’s super cool, the information is so organized and sane, yet visually pleasing.

Then there’s this:

Running a little over 70 pages, it’s a remarkably in-depth summary of each country in this year’s finals, including football prowess, economic state, and political situation. Furthermore, it provides a primer on the potential hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and, unsurprisingly but more than interesting, an examination of economic growth and decline vis-a-vis the international football teams of respective countries.

(Quote from here)

Do numbers and in-depth analysis with lots of charts turn you on drive you mad make you happy?  Then look at the dang thing, because it’s awesome.  And it has in-depth predictions of who’s going to win.

Also, this is the link to TNR covering the World Cup.

Next in my world cup coverage will probably be me explaining to you who I’m rooting for.  It’s complicated… sort of a hierarchical system rather than a “I want X to win”.  There may be maths and history lessons involved.

World Cup: Ashley Recommends These Games

Let us pretend I’ve spent no time on this and am merely grabbing some things out of a random hat.  The following are 6 games over the next few weeks that I think will be entertaining, in order of appearance, all times PST.

6/12 11:30 England (8) v USA (14)

England is hungry for another cup, but their line-up is a bit wobbly.  These two are probably competing for number 1 in their group, and will both make it out, but this game will show us if the US is going to actually do anything worthwhile and if England is going to make a real run to repeat ’66.

6/15 11:30 Brazil (1) v North Korea (105)

These are the two extremes; Brazil is FIFA rank number 1 and Korea DPR is number 105, the lowest in the competition by nearly 30.  Perhaps I’m a sadist, but this could be extremely fun to watch.  It probably helps that it’s really easy to hate North Korea, though there are some worries that there will be negative consequences for the players if they embarrass their dictator , so maybe it’s easy to root for the incredibly downtrodden underdogs?

6/17 11:30 France (9) v Mexico (17)

I generally think that the France, Uruguay, Mexico triad is going to be fun to watch, I think they’re very closely matched.  And I think my soft-spot goes to Mexico.

6/22 7:00 Mexico (17) v Uruguay (16)

These two are ranked 16 and 17, and it’s likely that this will be win or go home.  I suspect this will be a hard fought game.

6/22 11:30 Greece (13) v Argentina (7)

They’re closely matched in terms of talent, likely this will simply be for first, so not quite as much pressure, but I think we’ll see here if Argentina is going to be a real challenger.

6/25 7:00 Portugal (3) v Brazil (1)

Probably the most anticipated match of the knockout rounds.  Brazil, number 1, against Portugal, number 3.  Plus, they like speak the same language and stuff.

Internet help?

Using the massive power of, um, asking a question on my blog in the hopes that someone who reads it knows the answer, does anyone know if there’s a place online where I can watch the world cup games after they air? As in, I have no plans to be up at 7am to watch the opening game live, but I would actually like to watch it. Or is this just something I have to figure out Friday?

I sort of fell off the blogging map last week.  It was one of those weeks where I accomplished like nothing at all.  But I will be better now because I’m fully recovered from having another human being (aka Mom) spending all day with me every day for 4 days.  Have you read this?  You know that phrase “you’re getting on my last nerve”?  Having people around all the time is sort of like being put in a state of permanent last nerveness.  Also, she broke down my door.  Which was kind of hilarious.

In the last couple of weeks I haven’t been watching a lot of media.  I’m well behind on Glee and hadn’t watched a movie in like weeks because I’d been reading a lot trying to do the 50 books in a year thing.  Which has actually been nice.  I spend all day at work in front of the computer watching TV footage, I think getting away from the computer is a state I have to manufacture more often.  Like, I’ve gotten some (late-afternoon, indirect) sunlight in the last couple of weeks and I feel slightly healthier and I think my skin is vaguely less albino.  But, this weekend, I watched some movies and Sherlock Holmes.  I know it’s wrong, but Jeremy Brett, am I right?

Jeremy Brett: Hot or Not?

I just did a google image search for people who are albino and they are not paler than me.  What’s that about?

Working on D4aD, trying to get beyond the outline with complete first act stage.  I tried scene cards and decided I hate them.  I’m not saying writing has to be totally organic, and having a skeleton is important, but the scene cards confuse that for me somehow.  //END RANDOM BLOG