Monday, 6 July 2015

My 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Highs And Lows

The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup was the seventh Women's World Cup international female soccer world championship tournament. Surprisingly, only 2 countries submitted bids to host the event in 2011: Canada and Zimbabwe. With the latter withdrawing their bid, Canada got the nod in the end. 24 teams competed in the tournament: these were made up of 5 Asian teams, 3 African teams, as well as teams from North, Central, Caribbean and South America, Oceania and Europe alongside the host country, Canada

North Korea was banned by FIFA and were not allowed to participate in the tournament, after several of their players tested positive for performance enhancing drugs during the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany. 

The tournament commenced on June 6th and concluded with the final on July 5.  

(Info via Wikpedia) 

Key Stats:
  • Biggest attendance: 54,027 for Canada vs England quarter final in Vancouver
  • Average of 2.81 goals scored per match compared to 2.69 in 2011
  • USA surpassed Germany as the highest scoring team in Women's World Cup history with 112 goals 
  • 9 billion tweets on Twitter generated about the 2015 Women's World Cup 

Total number of goals scored in each round:

Group stage - 107

Round of 16 - 19

Quarter finals - 7

Semi finals - 5

Finals - 8

Grand total of goals scored at Women's World Cup 2015 : 146

The Lows....

  • England losing the semi-final against Japan by a last- minute freakish own goal - We were almost nearing extra time, when suddenly one of the defenders, Laura Bassett diverted the ball into their own goal for an own goal. It was a cruel ending and totally undeserved. Perhaps she should've directed that ball a little bit better, but that was harsh. Nobody was to blame, not one person. The team was unlucky; strange things happen in a game of football and this was one of them. The team will move on from this heartbreak- they will have to and they will.   

  • Japan's one-touch passing, negative football & low scoring efforts - Likewise winning almost all of their games by keeping the ball and scraping (& relying on) 1 goal in the last few mins in their matches- has bored me. As effective as they may have been & tough to break down, Japan are arguably one of the most boring teams in the tournament when it comes to their style of football. It is very one dimensional. As world champions, I expected a lot more from their football; I wanted them to cut out the 1 touch passing and really convince me that are worthy of going further in this tournament by being attack-minded in their approach to the games & scoring plenty of goals, something the likes of Germany, France, England have done. People have remarked that the Japanese team doesn't give the ball away and try to keep possession: by solely relying on one-touch passing, in some ways, this is detrimental to the game itself. Despite what people say, they have not impressed me entirely in this World Cup.

  • Brazil - And there we thought last summer's woes with the 7-1 thrashing of the men's team in the World Cup semi's was the last we heard of their problems. The women's team didn't play convincingly well in the group stages, lost in a shocking defeat against Australia in the last 16. Are Brazil's golden years over? I'm actually really disappointed in Brazil; even though they weren't one of the favourites to lift the cup, I really had thought that with the likes of Marta & some technically skilful players, they would make it as far as the semi-finals. But they didn't. Their best player was 38 year old Formiga. Brazil have some talented individual players, but collectively the team fell apart. For a nation that is renowned for being good at soccer, to get as far as the last 16, they have under-performed by their own standards. 

  • France going out - We can argue about that dive by the French player in the penalty area against Germany, which she shouldn't have done, but after the way they have been playing in the tournament, I was gutted to see them go out in a penalty shootout.

(France midfielder Louisa Necib reacts during the quarter final match between Germany and France, credit: Franck Rife) 
  • The seedings - top 3, as opposed to top 2 go through in the second round. it was all messed up. There is no way the top ranked side and 2nd ranked side in the women's game should face each other in the 2nd round. FIFA have done some stupid things, and they still do today. Because there are less teams in the women's tournament than the men's, should 3 of the 4 teams advance to the last 16? Yes. Should the top seeded teams meet each other in the second round though? No, absolutely not. At that stage, the Germany vs France encounter could have been easily avoided by FIFA. If it were to happen, it could've and should've taken place during the quarter finals or semis. But on the basis that France and Germany would beat other opposition to advance to the latter stages & possibly face-off with one another. Once again, FIFA fail.

  • Refereeing standards abysmal - the refereeing decisions have been as inconsistent and poor as they have been in the men's World Cup. Some truly awful decisions have gone against teams and players, some of which have ultimately cost their team a win in those games, as well as a place in the next round, as the tournament progressed. Even with a second referee and lines people, it didn't make much of a difference. 

  • The pitches - artificial pitches are a crap idea. Next....

  • The sexist, chauvinist, misogynist comments about the female players and women's football in general - not watching the world cup, because you don''t like women's football is not sexist, saying women should not be playing soccer/football and that television shouldn't be airing women's football, is sexist. 

  • FIFA - love the game of football (or soccer for those in America and Canada), but I still can't stand this odious excuse of an organisation. 

Pic by Jeremiah 

  • BBC punditry and commentary - ranging from tolerable to sucky, it has been a mixed bag, but mostly for the exception of Rachel Yankey & Sue Smith for me, I would say in terms of speaking about the other nations and being completely biased to England, they have been guilty in doing this a lot. it's nice to see them back England. Although I will add that the comments from Natasha Dowie regarding Japan after the England vs Japan semi final game, echoed my sentiments and feelings. So I felt exactly the same way when she described Japan as being defensive and not being impressed by their play. Jacqui Oatley was interesting and good as the main presenter of the BBC World Cup programme. 

The Highs.... 

  • France - France's football has been so entertaining and enjoyable. One of the tournament's and world's most compelling teams to watch, their quick, free-flowing, attacking style of play earned positive feedback. Standouts include midfielders Amadine Henry, Louisa Necib, Elodie Tomis and Eugenie Le Sommer. Unlucky to find themselves against and lose to Germany in the penalty shoot-out during the last 16. If we put results aside and judged based on the performances overall and excluded the Colombia loss, out of all the teams, I'd argue that the French were the best of the bunch. They were the best side NOT to advance to the latter stages of this year's Women's World Cup.

  • England - secured third place after beating Germany 1-0 in the third place play-off was pure redemption after their semi final heartbreak by Japan. All-round, they have been a joy throughout this epic journey. Bronze may be a poor consolation to some people back in England, but it was the least they deserved, given what happened in the previous match. Reached the semi-finals for the first time, and was the first time that a men's or women's team have reached the semi final in a World Cup since 1990 in Italy. Hardworking, tenacious, creating chances and more importantly, scoring vital goals. The loss in the opening game against France was a wake-up call to the players, - and they have responded brilliantly. Full credit to Mark Sampson: he has reinvigorated the England team & as a result this has been their best World Cup performance to date. There's not one standout player; for England, their success is a team effort, overall. They have done our nation proud & have gone further than any of us had imagined. 

  • USA - okay, let's be honest, they have not set this tournament alight throughout, and part of the blame goes to coach Jill Ellis for opting towards more defensive tactics earlier on. But they have won games and have one of the best defences in this World Cup. And whatever your views are on Hope Solo, as an athlete, she is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. If the Germany win was the spark in the team's sudden resurgence, then the U.S saved the best until last in this World Cup in the 5 goal thrashing of arch rivals, Japan and winning 5-2 in the final, with Carli Lloyd's hat-track (which included a stunning David Beckham-esque goal from the half- way line). Was their path to the final as good as it should have been? No, but they made it that far and became 2015 Women's World Cup champs. Not to mention that Carli is and has been the star of this U.S team. For all the talk of star names like of Hope, Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach and poster girl, Alex Morgan, it was Carli Lloyd who stepped up to the plate and delivered when it mattered, scoring crucial goals and aiding in assists for the team, and is therefore hugely deserving of all those accolades and plaudits. 

 United States Carli Lloyd (right) celebrates with teammates after scoring her third goal against Japan, Sunday July 5th 2015 (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
  •  Germany, Netherlands, Australia and hosts Canada also gave a really good account of themselves 
  • No diving, conning the referee, play-acting, rolling around and going down as if they had been shot
  • The determination, the desire, passion, the will to go on and win for the team and playing well for the team was terrific to see from almost all of the teams involved. 
  • Goals aplenty and some standout games, most notably the France vs Germany match-up. 
  • Women's World Cup 2015 televised and given proper TV coverage - this is the biggest global international soccer tournament event and thanks to the BBC, Fox Sports who paid for the rights to air the World Cup in the UK and US, I'm just thankful they went out of their way to air women's football, something that doesn't happen on a regular basis on TV. And because of that, we get to see the likes of Abby Wambach, Christine Sinclair, Marta - names that have graced women's football for many years.  

  • Seeing all those flags and colours in the stands from the supporters from around the world, the enthusiasm, interest and excitement they have of the Women's World Cup. It was just amazing to see. 

(England supporters Photo by Vaughn Ridley/EMPICS Sport)

Players of the tournament 

In no particular order: Lucy Bronze, Elodie Thomis, Wendy Renard, Eugenie Le Sommer, Carli Lloyd, Kadeisha Buchanan, Megan Rapinoe, Amadine Henry, Celia Sasic, Nadine Angerer, Hope Solo, Fran Kirby, Kyah Simon, Lisa De Vanna, Lady Andrade, Julie Johnston, Fara Williams, Formiga, Louisa Necib


England's Lucy Bronze scoring with a header against Canada in the quarter final.  
(Source: The Guardian)

French midfielder Elodie Tomis against Germany in the quarter final encounter.  
(Source: Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) 

Kadeisha Buchanan of Canada wins the ball from New Zealand's Annalie Longo. (photo by Ed Kaiser of Edmonton Journal) 

Celia Sasic heads Germany's 3rd goal during the last 16 victory over Sweden (photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images) 

USA's Carli Lloyd with the Golden Ball trophy (photo by Getty Images) 

Final thoughts:

Apart from France going out, bad officiating and that fluke own goal for Japan against England in that heartbreaking semi-final (though the team redeemed themselves with a win against Germany for 3rd place), it has been absolutely immense and a brilliant spectacle from start to finish. Plenty of shocks, surprises, great goals and players giving it their all on the pitch, the Women's World Cup in Canada surpassed the men's World Cup of Brazil in 2014 for me. Hopeful the next Women's World Cup held in France in 2019, and the world cups after that, gets the same amount of TV coverage as that of Canada's. But also the standard of the analysis and punditry improves. 

The game of soccer is what makes the World Cup - men's and women's - what it is. It's about the game, the skills, technique, the passion and desire, working hard and ultimately doing your best.

Not Sepp Blatter, not FIFA: we do not tune into the World Cup to watch them. We tune in for the players and the coaches.  

The motto for this year's Women's World Cup was 'Inspire A Generation'. There have been other Women's World Cup tournaments before, but they were nothing of the grand scale and magnitude that they have generated around the world, compared to 2015. And where else but in Canada when it hosted the tournament. 

England bagging 3rd place and USA winning the final was the icing on the cake for me.

This year's tournament definitely gets a huge thumbs up. 

Image: ESPN

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