FIFA Women’s World Cup; The Business End (part 1)
Now we reach the business end of the competition. 8 teams left from around the world, 7 out of the top 10 FIFA rankings.
There are some fascinating matches, not least the first quarterfinal game, Germany v France, two of the top 4 teams, ranked 1st & 3rd respectively. There have been complaints that this matchup is happening as early as the quarterfinals; it is truly a game that could grace the final itself. But due to FIFA’s decision to assign seeds to their groups, they are both in the toughest side of the draw. Some have hinted that the seedings were ‘deliberate’ in order to give the hosts Canada, a safer passage for progression. Whatever the reasons, the teams simply have to get on with it.
And get on with it they did! The French came flying out of the blocks, nearly scoring within a minute. The attacking flair that saw them brush aside South Korea was again evident as wave after wave of attack came forward and challenged the usually secure German defence. Yet for all their attacking, Les Bleus could not score. Usually, when chances are not taken against the world’s number one team, they will make you pay.
The second half did see the Germans pressing forward more, yet with little penetration. France remained in control of the game and finally scored through Necib’s deflected shot, not from the intricate pass & move of which they are so capable of, but a long ‘route one’ ball.
The foul count in this game was high, Germany perhaps venting their frustration with their bodies rather than the ball. But their frustrations were eased when they were awarded a contentious penalty in the 83minute for handball. Sasic promptly tucked it away to level the score and take it into extra time, the first game to need more than 90 minutes.
It was interesting to observe the 2 teams during their team talks. The German players standing silently in a circle, listening & watching Silvia Neid give out her commands & instructions; the French players on the other hand, were casually standing or sitting, talking to each other, their coach, Philippe Bergeroo giving little input.
Extra time came and went, with a continuation of both teams trying to find a winning goal. The French came nearest with a last gasp winner missed, as Thiney put a tame finish wide when it looked as though she was set to score. So it meant the infamous penalties.
9/10 penalties were scored. Then up stepped Frances’ 21-year-old Claire Lavogez. Her sadly weak shot bounced off Angerer’s knee sending the Germans in to raptures, and the semi-final.
The second game saw a repeat of the1999 final, east meeting west as China faced the US of A. America have yet to get up to speed and have come under some criticism. One commentator used the analogy of ‘it’s a marathon rather than a sprint.’ But at this stage of the tournament, they needed to step up a gear to really prove their label of one of the pre-tournament favourites. China were the lowest ranked team left, currently 16th, so this should have been a game for America to shine.
The first half belonged to the Americans, yet for all their attacking play, they could not break down the organised Chinese defence, which was the same scenario against the Colombians. Then similarly, the US scored not long after the break, Carly Lloyd heading in on her 200th cap. This single goal was enough to see them claim their regular slot of a semi-final place at a World Cup, another ‘could have been final’ against the mighty Germans. It should be some game!