From good to professional. But with some bumps
There were some bumps in the level of play as we already got too used to the increased level of this championship. The quarter finals were the first time here we were not too much amused. Still the level was good. But the games switched further away from a matter driven of showing what skills they have got to professionally preventing the others from showing what they might have. Somehow the high quality level of the group matches throughout made the quarters a difficult stage. Because it just wasnt justified to expect the quarters to get any better. With a lot at stake and with the 4th game the girls understandably were missing some of the sharpness and joy of the first matches. Maybe sometimes the coaches also added to a more cautious approach.
Maybe in the first quarter final match it was the quality of Deyna Castellanos again who made the game reminding of the previous years where the level of the players have been much less homogeneous. Maybe it was because it was probably the match with not the strongest teams. Apart from Castellanos glimpses there was not too much else to appreciate. Still a good achievement for Mexico in this tournament.
Unfortunately also the top match Spain – Germany couldnt quite live up to the expectations. Two and especially the second one sloppy gifted goals we had not seen so far set up Spain to do not take much risks to play football but rather make sure they keep Germanys attacks down.
And Ghana – North Korea was a strange duel you needed to focus on other things than football skills to enjoy. More being a battle than a nice football game it at least took entertaining twists and turns. England probably made a lot of things as smart as possible but at the end of the day were simply not strong enough to make that game a real contest. So all in all – this wasnt the best day of the WC.
And we need to mention the refs once again. Already during the Olympics the refs have been taken for whatever other reasons than being the best available. As soon as there is no public transparency in FIFA decisions. They are without words. Why, is the question, dont they do themselves a favour and get free of any thoughts of fixing suspicion. We are usually reminding here that referees do not have inbuilt slo-mos or different angles to view. And sometimes simply a player is standing in the way. However. We also know that the selection of referees in many countries is something that is done in very doubtful ways. We dont know how much money plays a key role. But it is not nice to see that countries sending some refs here to such a tournament for whatever reason.
It hasnt been the only joke of the ref of the game North Korea against Ghana who yellow carded a North Korean player where a Ghanaian should have been red carded instead. A ref might have seen nothing. That then might be unlucky but ok and comes down to that you just didnt have a look at the right moment. But to yellow card a player you should be sure you saw what happened.
We had refs who stood in the way of play. We had refs who pushed walls not back – what is her task in case the distance is not according the rule – but closer to the ball. What is an absolute joke of a referee. And so on. This world cup has deserved top class refereeing.
Match by match:
Spain – Germany 2:1
We had something about the probabilities to go through a tough series of games last time here. An unlucky day and out you go. And that was it for Germany while a draw or narrow loss against Cameroon would have given them a much easier path to the final where they probably would have won all games even with that unlucky day.
But sometimes in football the better team loses. Thats football. But the spectators have been a little bit unlucky they couldnt even say Spain were not the better team. It just didnt need more than to sit back and wait for the final whistle after it had professionally used two German mistakes to take a 2:0 lead.
But is has nevertheless been a quality match. Germany needed a while to make their stronger athletics count to win the majority of duels. First Spain was able to pass their way around. But even before they went up 2 goals Germany started to dominate the game. They just couldnt find that lucky moment when the ball fell lucky for them until deep in stoppage time. And they have not been clinical enough to make their possession advantage count. But we now that from bigger senior teams also.
Venezuela – Mexico 2:1
At day one, when Venezuela faced Germany we had been astonished about Deyna Castellanos shot remarking it reminded us of Carli Lloyd. In the meantime we have seen that it is the other way round. Carli Lloyds shots will now remind us of Castellanos. Whose right footed shots are possibly the best in womens football overall. Also her touch of the ball is very good. However there is a lot of work to do to match the rest of her game with that. Playing at FSU certainly will give her the chance to develop her athletic skills the best possible way. So let us see where this will finally bring her. Still kind of a pity that she knows she would have only a slim chance at this moment to earn herself more than what is just enough for a living from playing football if things are not changing massively.
Japan – England 3:0
Of course like always the different style of play from the young Asians (playing a very similar style to the seniors) were most obvious. England probably did well in what they tried and it was a well thought plan. Limit the damage as long as possible and then start to try to switch more into offensive play and hurt the Japanese defence. However once they tried the problems of increasing open spaces in the own half emerged. And Japan used them well to cruise over the line. In stark contrast to the Japanese team effort as always the individual effort of the other football nations. And when a team is as strong as its single parts are that makes of course missing your best player (Georgia Stanway was out on two yellows – rather unnecessary and thus disappointing) not only missing 10% but more.
Ghana – North Korea 1:2
And that has been the real disappointment of the quarters. U17 football like you dont want to see. Ghana used their body strength to win most of the duels and interrupt the play as often as possible. Not nice to watch but understandable from their point of view so far. However they clearly overcooked it and the ref wasnt always able to follow what happened. Highlight was when she yellow carded a North Korean player because of acting when she was stepped on her heels by a Ghanaian who should have been sent off instead. It wasnt the only scene that reminded us more of the WWE than an U-WC. But the Korean players were also guilty of responding to the Ghana disrupting style not very clever. Instead of easily playing around their not very well organised opponents by passes they often took them on in individual duels trying to run past them often resulting in losses or disrupting fouls.
50%. Spain is still difficult to judge because we havent seen their true face so far. They got a little bit lucky against Germany. But they did what was needed. Japan didnt look convincing in their back line several times. Although Spain doesnt play the direct style as the US or the UK. Might be that is the big point for Japan that they can control the Spanish more technical attacking play better than fast forwards. But apart from that we would have expected Spain should have looked better against the US and UK than Japan did. Very close to call.
Venezuela – North Korea
55% North Korea. The advantage of the easy bracket to the final. After seeing North Korea struggle against Ghana we are not so sure about them being favorites. Should still be but if Venezuela can come up with a proper defense they will be with chances. At some point Castellanos will probably be able to get a shot away and any well organised and focussed defending will give North Korea hard times.