It’s not the possession. It’s what you do with it.
France had the ball for so much of this match that its players seemed to forget what to do when they didn’t. In minute 59, Jill Scott slipped past a sleeping back line with a nonchalant fake, a turn and a cracker of a shot. Les Bleues went from dream to nightmare.
Although France still dominated possession, they began to do so without dominating the game.
France tried again and again. Over 30 shots on goal by the end of the match. Different players, from different parts of the field. They tried the same play over and over again. Thomis must have taken the ball down the right wing, and tried the same shot across the goal a dozen times. The match callers were despondent. Frappe! Frappe! Frappe! C’est pas possible! Strike after strike wound up in the hands of Karen Bardsley.
One carefully constructed series of plays after another.
|Alex Kingston, as Iceni warrior Queen Boudicca|
In the end, an ugly jumbled defensive scrum brought the French their equalizer. The ball popped out to the top of the box in minute 87, where it met Bussaglia’s right foot. Bang – the ball hit the top corner and ricocheted hard across and into the goal. Boudicca, finally defeated. Nothing she could have done - it was a terrific goal. And so we went into extra-time.
Thomis was still cursed: shots blocked, shots wide or high, or she just made no shot at all, held the ball until someone kindly took it away from her. Play seemed hesitant: The stupor of extra-time started to settle in – a kind of death-rattle, in which the intensity of our fear of the penalty shoot-out conjures it into the world.
Players fell to the ground, turning ankles, cramping, just falling apart. Bompastore blew a corner at the last second.
As the women gather the last scrap of their energy and dignity together, one of the Eurosport commentators says, “Chez les filles, one doesn’t like penalty shoot outs.” Because chez les hommes – we just love having the game resolved with this horrible ritual, in which all that had been accomplished in the previous 120 minutes of play is sacrificed, one player at a time.
When Camille Abily stepped up to the spot to take the first shot, I swear she looked like she was going to cry. It seemed to take ages for the ref to blow her whistle. Bardsley saved it. Kelly Smith stepped up to whistles and jeers from the stadium and NAILED it, and raised her arms to the crowd. I hate to put the rest of it in words. Rafferty and Faye White missed their shots. France won.
The Eurosport commentators had the nerve to say “c’est merité.” I'm sorry. I don't care if the team had the ball for most of the game. England played out of their socks. But I'm biased: I felt it as soon as I saw them take the field. I just love the Lionesses, I really do. This game killed me.
Karen Bardsley is my player of the match.