Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Silk Road: WWC Days 1 through 3

I have to say up front: it's very difficult to blog about anything except the looming reality for us that in 29 hours we fly halfway across the world.
And in less than a week will we hold our second daughter - our first living girlchild - for the very first time.

That's a mailliot oro, a yellow jersey and a world cup all in one twenty-pound wriggler!

But life is what happens when you're busy doing other things, and there IS something pretty exciting for soccer cranks like me going on in China other than Lian Baoxin having some tasty rice congee' for breakfast. The first week of the Women's World Cup has been fun. A little excitement, a little danger...another great bit of the beautiful game.

I don't want to do a long post on the USWNT vs. North Korea - it was a great game but it was just one game, so I'll try and give a quick rundown of the games played from Monday 9/10 until today.

Monday 9/10
The opener, Germany v Argentina, was an 11-0 laugher. The sad truth is that for all their skill and standing in the men's game (and, to a great extent, because of the attitudes of the players and fans) the Latin and South American women's teams a traditional doormats and bottomfeeders. In the 2003 WWC one of the asian teams, Japan, I think, put 6 past Argentina. The other thing involved here is that FIFA has ranked the U.S. WNT number 1 in the world lately, and the German madel haven't forgotten handing some Americans their asses four years ago. This was their way of saying "Wachet auf, Amis!"

Tuesday 9/11
Three games today:
US v North Korea - I missed this game, maddeningly, because I didn't know it was the early (3am PDT!!) match. The accounts say it was an outstanding, end-to-end contest, lots of attacking, lots of fireworks. I can't say much since I didn't see it, but my impression from the game reports is:
1. The U.S. team came in a little shaky, and possibly a little casual. Kim Jong Il's little ladies came to kick some Yankee ass.
2. The wet field made for some really sloppy play: NK's first goal was an ugly keeper error, Hope Solo letting one in off her hands. That's overconfidence, too, thinking she could catch what, given the conditions, she should have boxed away.
3. I blogged before about how dependant the US is on Abby Wambach. Well, Abby got her bell rung and went off in the 52nd minute with the U.S. up 1-0. Thirteen minutes later it was 2-1 North Korea with the Yank gals scrabling to get back and cover. They were said to have "settled down" after Wambach returned, and Heather O'Reilly got the equalizer 69 minutes on. I still think that the U.S. depends too much on Wambach, and that they see her presence - and absence - is too critical for their game. A good team, like Germany, is going to use that, mark Wambach out of the game, and then what...?
England v Japan - good game for Japan, getting them a point they didn't deserve. England far the more dangerous of the two teams, and Kelly Smith..! 'Ere's a luverly bit o' goal-scorin' crumpet, as the Brits would say. Helluva player, sweet touch with both feet and two nice goals to show for it. But...Engerlund! How the hell do you give up two fucking goals on two fucking set pieces? Free kicks!? That's Brit stuff, that's what you gals DO! Awful. Hopefully the Three Lionesses pull themselves together before's Germany and Birgit Prinz. Want to bet anyone wil be humming the Dambusters theme?
Sweden v Nigeria - another good one. I think the Swedes were surprised by the Super Eagles. The IKEA gals were all over the first half, and after their terrific forward Victoria Svensson put a bulge in the old onion bag I think they thought it was over. But you don't ever count out the gals from West Africa. Plus you gotta love a team whose players have names like Precious Dede and Chi-Chi Igbo. So a tough draw for Sweden, who needs to come up big against the Yanks on Friday.

Wednesday 9/12
Already a couple in the books today:
A couple of laughers: the Brazilians drilled New Zealand 5-0 and Australia hammered the Black Queens of Ghana 4-1. The Brazilians are on their usual course, and it was time and more than time that the Matildas got something for all their hard work. But was there ever a team that underperformed in the WWC like Ghana? I don't think those poor gals have won a game yet. I'm not sure what that says about African soccer. But I'm sure it's nothing good...
And the Canadians and Chinese teams are up 1-0 at the half...
Update 9/12 3:30pm:
So the Chinese gals played a blinder at the end and won 3-2, setting up a tough match with Brazil on Saturday. And my poor Canadians to Norway lost 2-1 - I feel protective of the Canucks because of my heroine, Chris Sinclar, but not even Tall Gal footy goodness could overcome the Norse ability to grind out a win. Damn. This will set up a tough third match next week for them against the aussies.
Good games, great sport. Sorry to miss this.
But not as sorry as I would have been to miss my little girl's first look at her new world.


SBird said...

29 hours? Holy shit.

I'm not sure you'll be able to blog from China or not (or even if you want to...), so--WOW--I hope you all have an amazing experience, and I can't wait to meet Baoxin (virtually, in any case....)!

walternatives said...

Have you already signed her up for a Little League soccer team, Chief?
It's now less than 24 hours, yes? Wow. Big fat WOW!