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: Updated Predictions

OK, so wow, France is doing much better than expected, and my US team is looking like their number 1 rank is deserved.  I am relieved and will go forth being overly optimistic for them because I love them so much.

So, my predictions for the rest of the group games.

Group A

France and Germany are tied on points, but France has a much better goal differential, meaning that all they have to do is tie Germany to move forward as the winners.  Germany is the favorite, but France has looked much better on the field — something I definitely did not predict.  I’d like France to win and that, more than anything, is leading me to say that France will win the group, and Germany will be second.

Group B

Japan is definitely going forward, so the competition is between Mexico and England.  England is well ahead in goal differential, so they can lose to Japan and still move forward, which is exactly what I think is going to happen.  Japan first, England second.

Group C

This is as fun as Group A, because the US and Sweden are literally fighting for the number one slot.  Like France, all the US has to do is tie to win the group.  I think they’re going to outright beat Sweden, or at least that is my hope.  US number 1, Sweden number 2.

Group D

I simply cannot see Brazil not creaming Equatorial Guinea, which may be very fun to watch, so the competition is now  for second place between Australia and Norway.  Norway has not been impressive, but Australia’s defense has been lax.  Australia just has to tie Norway to move on, and I think they’ve got that in them.  I’m saying Brazil 1, Australia 2.

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

Match 25
France vs England

I’m tempted to say France, as surprised as I am by that.  This seems like a very close match to me.

Match 26
Japan vs Germany

Should be a great game as well, but I think Japan is going to be tough to beat.

Match 27
US vs Australia

This should be an easy win for the US.

Match 28
Brazil vs Sweden

This should be an easy win for Brazil.

SemiFinal A/B
France vs Japan

I think this is Japan’s.

SemiFinal C/D
US vs Brazil

Man, this is tough.  I don’t know.  They are my two favorite teams.  I think Brazil is weak in their defense and the US could exploit it, but sometimes it seems like the US barely even shows up.  I’m going to say the US, but I would be thrilled to see either one of these teams in the final.

3rd Place
France vs Brazil

Brazil.

Final
US vs Japan

US

World Cup Day 7, Day 8

So, I’m beginning to think that unless you’re from Central or South America, you’re just here to disappoint me.  And I’m not sure that that’s even right because I wasn’t impressed with Brazil.  Even the Germans, who looked unstoppable after their total destruction of Australia, have lost to a minor team.  I guess that’s the great thing about World Cup, it’s unpredictable.  I dunno if you remember who my favorites originally were, but they are now officially 1) Uruguay 2) Argentina and 3) Mexico.  Favorites, of course, not being who I think will win, but who I want to win.

Argentina v South Korea

Argentina, 4-1, is looking pretty good offensively, especially with the first hat trick of the Cup going to Gonzalo Higuaín, but they let in a goal with a pretty intense lapse of defensive attention.  Still, they’re looking good and might go all the way.

Greece v Nigeria

Greece wins!  For the first time!  Nothing like a good comeback story, especially when there’s a very obvious villain in the form of a Nigerian player, Kaita, who got kicked off the field for a blatant red card offense.  It’s what red cards are there for.

France v Mexico

I admit that I actually freaked out with happiness when Mexico scored it’s first goal against France.  The second was just icing on the cake, because it’s almost impossible for France to advance.  This is two part, because I like Mexico and I know some people really enthusiastically cheering for Mexico, and also I hate the French team.

Germany v Serbia

WTF Germany?  How do you lose to Serbia?  This is one of two games this day that were dominated by over-refereeing.  I mean, the sheer number of cards thrown out was absurd, especially considering how mild some of the fouls were.

USA v Slovenia

Oh, let’s talk some referee bullshit.  The US was robbed, absolutely robbed, of a third goal.  They should have been moving forward with a win rather than a draw.  Still, the US will move forward if they win their next game, which slightly makes up for it.  But the lame-ass ref also gave a yellow card for an intentional handball that wasn’t.  Very irritating.  I read that the ref is probably going to be not allowed to ref any more World Cup games.

England v Algeria

Scoreless matches aren’t always boring, but this one sure as hell was.  England and I aren’t speaking for the moment, I’m too disappointed in them.  I don’t even want to talk about it, have some statistic porn, courtesy Nate Silver and Wikipedia.

Day 8 Odds

Group A: How to Advance

Group B: How to Advance

Group C: How to Advance

McDonald’s Likes the Gays in France, hates them in the US

Then what’s that I smell? Floatin’ down from the North–could it be the aroma of hypocrisy? - 1776

Perhaps you’ve had the fortune to see this kind of weird commercial that McDonald’s is airing in France, or to see maybe the really homophobic reaction of Bill O’Reilly to it.  Bill O screamed and railed that it would never be aired in the US, because we don’t truck with that sort of thing.

This led to much mocking of Bill O as well as some sad acknowledgement that he was probably right.  Well, Mr. Don Thompson, COO of Mickey D’s decided that he was going to speak to the press about this very important issue.

I’ve never shied away from the fact that I’m a Christian. I have my own personal beliefs and I don’t impose those on anybody else. I’ve been in countries where the majority of the people in the country don’t believe in a deity or they may be atheist. Or the majority of the country is Muslim. Or it may be the majority is much younger skewed. So when you look at all these differences, it’s not that I’m to be the judge or the jury relative to right or wrong. Having said that, at McDonald’s, there are core values we stand for and the world is getting much closer. So we have a lot of conversations. We’re going to make some mistakes at times. (We talk) about things that may have an implication in one part of the world and may be the cultural norm in another part of the world. And those are things that, yes, we’re going to learn from. But, you’re right, that commercial won’t show in the United States. (Emphasis mine)

So, I just want to make sure I understand all of this.  He’s a Christian who doesn’t impose his values on anyone, but McDonald’s made a mistake by showing a gay-friendly ad and they stand for core values that apparently don’t include showing that commercial in the US.  Those core values are, of course, that they will make an attempt to fake the values of wherever they’re trying to sell hamburgers.

I sent them an e-mail, I doubt I’ll get a response, but I’ll post it if they do.  I actually like McDonald’s OK for fast food, and they’ve got a decent score with the HRC, so this homophobia may be particular to Mr. Thompson.  Or, more likely, a simple corporate attempt at having it both ways.  “We like the gays, because, let’s be honest, everyone in France is gay anyway.  But there aren’t any gays in Iran… or the US.”

World Cup: Day 1

To give you an idea how accurate predictions are for the world cup, compare this post to what has happened today.

Right now, Mexico and S. Africa are technically in the lead in Group A. Both games (Mex v S.Af, Uru v Fra) ended in ties, but since both Mexico and South Africa have scored 1 goal each, they’re technically ahead of scoreless Uruguay and France. Uruguay also earned the first Red Card of the games, and managed to keep it tied with only ten men on the field.

What we’ve learned today is that S. Africa is beating expectations and making itself a contender, Mexico may continue its streak of disappointing World Cup showings, Uruguay is fantastic on defense but not so impressive on offense, and France is inconsistent. In my dream world, Uruguay and Mexico would move forward. With everything tied up, the remaining games have much greater pressure on them, but everyone is going into them without having to catch up. The game with impossible odds seems to be S. Africa v France, but if France continues to be inconsistent and S. Africa can ride this high, they may have a chance.

The other thing I learned is this: There are some super cute guys on the Uruguay team.

Captain Diego Lugano

Striker Diego Forlan

Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera

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.