Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Return to the Silk Road: USWNT v NZ

I got up early this morning to work out and found myself riding the exercise bicycle in from of the TV. Peeper was sleeping in his high bed, and little Missy, whom I had intercepted toddling about in a cute little girl tousle of hair, blankie and stuffed friend, was snuggling with Mojo in our bed. So everybody all warm, cosy and sleepy while Daddy ground away on the exercycle watching the Women of Summer take on the All-White All Blacks.Much as I follow the U.S. Women, I have to admit a certain contempt for and lack of interest in the Olympic women's soccer tournament. To begin, I have no idea how the IOC qualifies teams for the finals, but looking at the brackets I suspect they use one of those "Magic Eight-Ball" gadgets, y'know, the "Reply Hazy - Ask Again Later" thing you get at Spencer Gifts? Because take a look at the 12 finalists:

China - host nation, OK.
UEFA (Europe): Germany, Norway, Sweden - fair enough, the 2007 WWC champs and two other WWC finalists, although why you'd expect Sweden to be a factor when they proved in September that they are slow and porous at the back I don't know...
CONMEBOL (South America): Brazil, Argentina - Brazil pretty much a certainty, but here's the first real uh-oh. Argentina? This is the Argentina with the freaking -17 differential in Shanghai last fall? That Argentina? Are you smoking crack, IOC? WTF?
CAF (Africa): Nigeria - Well, somebody had to represent Africa, even though ex Africa semper aliquid sucky. They'll be able to provide some good, hard fouls, anyway.
CONCACAF (North and Central America): USA, Canada - USA a lock, Canada frankly because the rest of CONCACAF treats their women's soccer players like sluts in shorts. Sad, but reality.
AFC (Asia and the Middle East): North Korea, Japan (and China as host): Unexceptional except as I discuss below. Sadly, until FIFA makes everyone play in a chador the Middle Eastern women will never see a real soccer pitch.
OFC ("Oceania", the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand): New Zealand. New Zealand? (Repeat in high, squeaky voice used for comment on Argentina above) So, OK, the Kiwi's -9 makes them look like Brazil against the hapless Argentines. But, sweet baby Jesus, why would you want these poor gals here?The field is ugly and unbalanced. Three nations from Asia, probably one more than can play top-class women's soccer. There's two obvious misfits: Argentina and New Zealand, both of which have proven that they have no business playing outside of a women's recreational league. We'll throw in Canada as a makeweight, but still...this mess should really be no more than eight or nine teams, all this if-its-not-the-World-Cup-what-are-all-the-same-people-here-for-dog-and-pony show deserves.

And guess what?!? So the IOC drags the poor gals all the way back to Chinato play three games in the sweaty East Asia summer heat and...

Argentina, New Zealand, Nigeria and the DPRK ALL go home. Again. Argentina and Nigeria winless, just the cost of doing business for the Argies but at least in September the Nigerians eked out a draw. Well, I'm sure glad we got to see all THAT again and for what I don't know. The Kiwis sure must feel that draw against Japan made it all worthwhile.

So excuse me if "Olympic gold" doesn't send me rushing to buy Telemundo so I can see these games. See ya in 2011, gals.

So what about the US women and New Zealand? I hear you whine. Alright, already...

Ugly. Ugly offensively and defensively. Ugly going up and going down; ugly to all fields. Fuckin' ugly. Ugly fouls. Ugly play; long minutes of both squads playing what a former Scots teammate of mine used to call "wee headies". Ugly goals, mostly, especially the U.S. third, the result of a brutal goalkeeping error. Final score 4-nil and flattering to the Kiwis, since the U.S. women looked hasty and sloppy, firing wide and over the bar, looking out of sync and lacking almost all midfield play, just a lot of hoof and hope.I'm not sure about this USWNT. A couple of games this spring made me hopeful that the whole Greg Ryan who-cares-if-we-have-a-midfield-let's-just-hoof-it-up-and-let-Abby-Wambach-knock-it-in game plan was deader than a Georgian reservist outside of Gori. But I have to say, this squad doesn't make me confident that they could take on a full Germany side. Or Brazil, when Brazil is playing together and not hacking and blinding as they often do. They looked crap in their first game against Norway. I think the U.S. is lucky that they are on the "right" side of the knockout draw. They should get past Canada and China to make the finals. But if they meet Germany there...mmmm...

Still: good luck to the U.S. gals. Get some, Yanks!

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