Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Women's Soccer: Japan Beats China?! Germany Seals the Deal. And, well, Brazil Makes You Crazy.

OK: First off - Japan beat China (FIFA summary here). The two are rivals, but I can't say as I saw this one coming. I only caught the second half, and it was good enough to explain why. I felt for China, as I can’t imagine how it must feel to give up a game like that in front of so many adoring fans. At least they were supportive (the atmosphere in the stadium seemed amazing). That said, during the second half they seemed overly cautious – almost depressed, even when they had the ball. Japan, on the other hand, reminded us just how much of the game is about getting to the ball first. They had hustle, hustle, hustle and deserved the win. Sawa got the first goal, and celebrates here. Nagasato got the second, cleaning up some scrap in front of China's goal. They move on to take on the U.S. They lost to the Americans 1-0 but I'm not sure what that says about anybody.

NEXT: I missed the first half of the above game watching a scoreless 45 between Sweden & Germany, who were playing a very physical and defensively amazing game (FIFA summary). [By the way 5 of the players in this match are teammates at Djurdåden Damfotboll in Sweden - Sweden's Victoria Svensson, Sara Thunebro & Linda Forsberg; Germany's Ariane Hingst and Nadine Angerer.] Germany grabbed the lead in extra time, with a perfectly placed corner from Lingor. Garefrekes laddered over the crowd and headed the ball across and into the net with force. Sweden's keeper got the tips of her fingers on it, and almost had the save, but there was just too much power on the ball. Simone Laudehr scores in the second half of extra time from a perfectly placed ball from Prinz. As Sweden put on the pressure, my gal Nadine made another save or two - the game ends, in fact, with Sweden having taken 9 shots on target to Germany's ten. And that's it.

One of my teammates suggests in a comment on this blog that I might give Angerer too much credit in some of my entries. After mulling this possibility over, I thought perhaps I should say that Germany's entire defense has fantastic communication. I don't think I've seen a single slip up between them once. Otherwise, I'd say - no - it's impossible to give her too much credit. She's kept a clean sheet so far, and had a clean sheet through the World Cup. Nobody seems to score against her. She went 540 minutes in the 2007 world cup without conceding a single goal - and that includes a penalty save against Marta! This is, by the way, a record for both men and women. This youtube video is grainy, but it gives you a sense of how good she is. I have to say, while I'm not a Germany fan, I am an Angerer fan. The more I see her in action, the more I feel like I am watching football history unfold.

LAST: How do you beat Brazil? (FIFA summary for their game against Norway). Unless you are Germany and have Nadine Angerer solving all your problems (Marta, Cristiane, Formiga, Daniela, etc.), I don’t know if it can be done. Here is Brazil's strategy: The team is stacked with players that need three defenders on them when they have the ball. Give the ball to one of those women, and let her take it up a bit. Everybody else gets to move around, and because the player with the ball is so awesome, she will actually get it to one of her teammates - say Cristiane - even though she's holding the ball in the middle of a wasps nest. And, since, like, at best the player receiving the pass has maybe one or two defenders on her, and she is better than them, she can score. Brazil has players who can do things like surprise a defender who is running for and with the ball towards the goal, and before she gets control of it, your Amazonian football goddess will make up the five yards between them and slide her body between that running defender and the moving ball and - mid-stride - she sends the ball into the back of the net (the strike is pictured here). That's how Marta got the second goal. She made it look easy, but the look on the Norwegian defender's face (surprise, frustration, awe) said it all.

Brazil is getting better and better. They are proud of their skills, and have every single right to be [I originally wrote "cocky and arrogant" instead of "proud of their skills" - and I meant on the field, when they in their groove - but too many readers mistook my remark, so I changed it for clarity: see comments]. If I had to face these women in a game, I think I’d just, well, I guess I’d foul them hard and often. I think it must be easy to get frustrated and angry playing them. And that's part of their plan.

The only weakness I saw in Brazil’s game today was that they got too relaxed after the second goal. In particular – their forwards, who seemed content to just let the back line do any defensive work, which therefore meant Norway spent more time in Brazil’s territory than they should have in the last fifteen minutes, and Brazil wound up giving them a penalty. But, you know, I didn't mind watching women laughing and having a good time as they were in the game's last leg. Overall, though, for the most part it seemed like Norway was just so sure they were going to lose that they gave up before they set foot on the pitch.

They have their work cut out for them, because they must face Germany again. That's the game of the tournament in my eyes. Pardon the expression, but it should be balls-to-the-walls football, as I am sure Brazil has no intention of letting this game go to penalties.


  1. Love your blog. I find out about it recently, but i'm already enjoying a lot.

    But i have to disagree in one thing: the cocky and arrogant definition about the brazilian girls.

    These woman are simple, down to earth because life made them that way. They came from a very poor background, struggling to make it here, in Brazil, a country that's famous for the male soccer.

    Some people here think they are all lesbians, think they should return home to their husbands and keep saying soccer it's not a sport for girls. But yet, they dont care, they initiated their careers pratically paying to play, without any structure or support. Fighting, sometimes, hunger and always the prejudice. CBF gives them NO support, the confederation doesn't care. And if they made it in soccer, it's because of a miracle.

    That said, i always watch their interviews and never noticed any cockiness and NEVER heard them judging theirselves superior. What i always hear is them saying they have an olympic dream. I see a team tired of losing, tired of all discrimination against them. Trust me, you never seen girls so humble like that.

    And if you mean they are cocky on the field, well, that's how they play. You should never apologize for who you are.

    Sorry for the LONG reply. But i have admiration for this girls.
    In Brazil, guys play for money. Girls play for passion and love for this sport, because they gain NOTHING to play.

    Sorry again :)

  2. hi cibele,

    you never need to apologize for having a strong voice on this blog!

    and, yes, of course i mean that they can cocky and arrogant on the *field* - only on the field - and i mean it in the sense of how really and truly fierce players are - c. ronaldo on the field is a little like this (and, unfortunately, not such a great guy off the field).

    i know this on the field attitude from the leagues & pick up games i've played in in London & LA - it's a style, and something you can only pull off when you can back it up, which they can.

    think of marta's famous samba in front of that american defender in the world cup. that was fierce. and cruel. i loved it, and hated it - and loved it even more, because that's what makes the game interesting, people who play with passion, ambition, and attitude.

    i hope you can see that i am a fan of brazil - big time. i would love to see them win that gold medal. i really do just love the game, and love seeing it played so well - and they are the most interesting team to watch.

    by the way, i am totally getting myself a FORMIGA shirt made. thanks for confirming the meaning of her name. she may be tiny, but her game is huge!

  3. i'm glad you understand my point of view. thanks for clearing that up :)

    now i know what you mean. my perspective is different and it's kinda cool to understand the other point. to me it wasn't cruel because it's my team, but i can see it's different to you guys.

    anyway, i hope they win. i'm kinda afraid of what could happen now. when they lost the world cup, people here were cruel to them. they called them pipocas (popcorns - a term used to a player that usually does good, but loses in the finals, in decisive moments). I want them to show they can play well and win too!

  4. OT: Did you see the breakdown of the medal counts by gender from Beijing? Most nations have a roughly equal distribution of male and female medal winners. China has about 50% more female medal winners and the Netherlands and Romania both have far more women medal winners. Of the nations winning more than 10 medals to date only France has winners that tilt heavily to the men. French men have a whopping 22 to 3 medal advantage over French women. Do you have any idea what it is about French sports culture that would cause such a dramatic disparity?

  5. cibele! FORMIGA RULES!!!!! I was jumping up and down screaming when she scored! (And what a great little move on Cristiane's part as she got the ball free and put it in the right spot!


Feedback? Let me know what you think. Just an FYI: all comments posted to this blog are recorded, whether I publish them or not. I do not publish generally hateful comments - whether they be directed at me or at players and teams or other readers. I appreciate reader feedback, especially from those whose contributions add nuance and complexity to the story.

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