Archive | July, 2011

Japan fully deserved World Cup title

18 Jul

It was a heart-breaking loss for the United States.  They twice gave up late goals and then were completely devoid of confidence in the penalty shootout. There was a lot of talk about the U.S. being a team of destiny, particularly after the win over Brazil, but couldn’t Japan have gotten the exact same stories along the way?  The Japanese weren’t expected to make it to the final at all.  Many people, myself included, thought that Germany would pick them apart in the quarterfinals.

Japan, like the U.S., showed the importance of the ability to stay strong and never give up on the game.  You could tell when the game went to penalties that Japan had all the momentum in the world and the U.S. had none.  After bossing PKs against Brazil, the U.S. couldn’t repeat the feat in the final.  Shannon Boxx looked like she was going to cry and Carli Lloyd looked like she wanted to be anywhere but on the field.  They had no confidence and you could tell.

Even though the U.S. lost, the final was by far their best game of the tournament.  Their passing was sharp and they played possession soccer like the best of them.  The Yanks did not allow Japan to control the tempo.  And sometimes, even when you play your best game, it just isn’t enough as the game proved.

Props to Japan for providing the surprise of the tournament and a much-needed boost to their struggling nation.

U.S. Women into World Cup final

14 Jul

I haven’t written about the Women’s World Cup at all and frankly, that’s pathetic because the tournament deserves coverage.  Anyways, the U.S. will play Japan in the final on Sunday.  The U.S. defeated France, 3-1, in the first semi and Japan picked apart Sweden by the same scoreline.  It should be quite the interesting final as Japan dominated host and two-time champ Germany in the quarterfinals and also controlled the semi against Sweden.  The Japanese have clearly shown they belong in the final and the U.S. will have a tough time defending their possession game.

Here are some keys to a U.S. win on Sunday:

1. Continue to take advantage of chances – The U.S. was outshot by France, 25-11, in the semifinal on Wednesday.  The French also tallied eight shots on goal to the USA’s five.  The main difference?  The U.S. put the ball in the back of the net on three of the five attempts at goal.  The French had one.  The U.S. also had five shots on goal against Brazil and converted two of them.  With the way Japan plays, I would think the Red, White and Blue will have limited chances in the final as well.  They just need to take advantage of them and having players like Abby Wambach up front definitely help their cause.

2. Improved ball control – The U.S. needs to do a better job of controlling the ball through the midfield.  There were too many chances for France after a poorly placed pass out of the back.  The U.S. struggled to string passes together and they will face a similar battle against Japan.  The Japanese like to play possession soccer, but the U.S. is capable of doing it too as long as they can hold onto the ball for more than three seconds and make smarter decisions.

3. Smart defense – It will be vital for the U.S. to play tough defense on Sunday.  The majority of the shots the French took on Wednesday came from outside the box and while those can be tough for a keeper, you know she’d rather face shots from outside the 18 than the six-yard box.  It will also be important for the defense to be able to clear the ball out of danger immediately.  Japan will pounce on misplayed balls (like the long lob into the goal after Sweden’s goalie came too far out OR Sawa’s header after the ball was bouncing around in the box) and the U.S. will not be able to afford costly turnovers.

Both teams are coming in full of confidence after gutsy performances in the quarters and semis.  It should be a fantastic game as the U.S. team tries win its first title since the famous 1999 shootout and Japan looks to win its first-ever title and inspire a nation still dealing with the effects of the tsunami earlier this year.  There will be a lot of pressure on both sides and the team that can handle it the best will walk away with the trophy.

My prediction: USA 3, Japan 2 in extra time