It was the expected situation: France and the USA are the leading womens football national teams and would play it out on the last game of the SheBelieves Cup. France on 4 points would stay ahead of the USA on 3 points with at least a draw. But both had not been playing as well as expected so far especially in their last games. USA lost to England and France were outplayed by Germany but held a lucky 0:0. Both needed a change to the better and so you could expect more valuable information about where they really are standing at the moment.
Headline: That is football
It wasnt tense at the end. And you missed the nail-biting final moments that we had seen before in this tournament. Especially as this was the first match ever of the SheBelieves Cup that was decided by more than one goal difference. But it was nevertheless something that was interesting to watch until the final minutes. Because you saw high quality players and a struggling “hero”-team of the USA who nevertheless fought wholeheartedly until the end to avoid defeat. Sometimes you saw the eyes of the US players in camera close ups and how they were checking the remaining time on the clock with an expression of intensity, resistance and nervousness. The latter gaining the upper end increasingly.
But that is football. Sometimes the rebound from the crossbar bounces friendly back in your way. Sometimes you miss a few inches. Sometimes the run of a player just matches the flight of the ball. Sometimes the player is brought out of the direction somehow for only a few centimetres and thus misses the goal. Sometimes you are on the lucky side where this happens twice or trice in a short amount of time like in the World Cup final. Sometimes it happens in favour of your opponent. And the fans decide whether to make a three months victory tour or a three months of ranting and mourning.
It was very interesting to watch how fast sometimes history repeats itself also on a football pitch. Mostly, to score a goal on top level from open play a few factors must come together. It is not only a good final contact to release the final shot that has to happen. The final pass has to be accurate or at least met with the run of the scoring player in a way she can make the right first contact. Sometimes a goal just doesnt happen because the receiving player is already half a step or even less too far. Sometimes a split second decide between being offside or not. And then there is this split second where the defender has to smell the danger too late so she can not intercept the ball or the run of a player. Usually it needs you lots of tries that all this comes together and it happened on average less than once per 90 minutes in the games so far.
Rarely – but sometimes it just happens twice or trice in 10 minutes. That shouldnt deflect from the fact that it helps a lot when your players are good enough to make it happen or good enough to make these things met. France do have these sort of players. And they managed to make it happen twice in the first 10 minutes. 2:0 it was but there still was a long time to go and the USA didnt need long to recover but tried immediately to start their comeback.
And often you see a team bounce back from an early deficit even if it is 2 goals. But the USA again were rather unable to orchestrate their offensive efforts properly enough to impose much of a threat. Though you saw every single player trying to give their very best. The French defense stood strong and the duo Renard and Georges in the center mostly stopped what their team mates had to let pass through. Again – like in the previous matches – there were very few chances for the USA. A good effort from Heath only went inches wide. And Gerard in the French goal had only one big opportunity to make her case to be the new French number 1 when she reacted very quickly to block the shot over her head from short distance. But that was pretty much it. The USA made a lot of changes in the second half but all in vain. They also subbed out FIFA player of the year Carli Lloyd. The skipper of the team who had also tried a lot to make things happen with rather modest success. You could see the difference to the matches against Germany and England – 80% of the French players were individually on the same level like the US players. There was rarely a chance to come through based on 1vs1 situations like usual. Sometimes even to the contrary some French had been superior in those mini battles. But it was more the fact that they had a better synergy of their players as a team not only in defense but also in offense.
And they more than the USA missed only these few inches later on that had worked so perfectly together in the first 10 minutes. Sometimes the USA defense could prevent them from coming through on the last ditch. Alyssa Naeher thus also hadnt many difficult shots to save. But you rather got the impression nearly all night long that France was much closer to score again than the USA. Thus the third goal consequently happened again for the French side – and again from combination play. And again with some help of positioning that left lessons to learn in the US defense.
So it wasnt tense at the end. And you missed the nail-biting final moments that we had seen before in this tournament …
Once again after the England match the USA had to look at very happy faces of their visitors after the final whistle who enjoyed their stay in the states. And it might have been not easy for some when they realised USA came first – but from bottom. But those who tend to think on the long term know that we all have still the opportunity to learn a lot from each other. I am rather sure the USA women’s football team will use this opportunity. But they probably wont make this an official policy because it is not urgent enough. After all. This. Is only a game.
USA from a relevancy point of view rightfully tested their new defensive system again against the best opponent without too many changes. And likewise Germany the USA also played game 1 and 3 with a vastly similar starting eleven. The same back line: Short – Long – Sauerbrunn. The same holding midfielders. Mewis and Brian. On the wings Heath and Lavelle instead of Dunn. Lloyd behind the forwards Press and Williams.
As much it was useful to see the back against a good team with players on the same level it was again the lack of testing offensive alternatives that was astonishing like we had mentioned in the preview.
France seemed to have what they probably think is their best line up at the moment for the first time: Gerard in goal. What a positive surprise to see them change and react to what is happening on the pitch. The back line with Karchaoui – Georges – Renard – Perisset. Holding midfielder Henry. Assisted by Toletti and Abily. Thomis (also some change) on the right side and Majri on the left. And LeSommer up front with Thomis and Majri on the wings very offensive minded.
Resume and Prospect
This was the expected highlight of the tournament. Again it was confirmed that they are the teams with the best individuals. Like it had been for some years now. And that France is a different calibre from that point of view was always clear. The doubts regarding France are always more the same like regarding the USA. How do they get their individual class to work as a team. And moreover – how are they able to battle their way through when things are not going along the easy route.
This time it was interesting. And it is a pity that science still isnt seeing behind the problem. Is there this phenomenon or is it only imagination that when once the luck is on your side … ? Not only did they win in overtime against England. Against old rivals Germany they used to be the better team but lost in the past. But this time they were the worse team but didnt lose. And then against the USA in the first two attacks the ball just found the way as if an invisible guide would have taken control over it.
Whatever it is. If they can turn the good luck to be that much in their favour they will be difficult to beat at the European Championship this year.
But rather to rely on good luck they should do their best to path the good luck the way. Finally they got some crucial changes to work altogether (Not sure though if there werent others still looming). But moreover we first have to see whether they draw the right conclusions.
Playing Gerard instead of Bouhaddi was a totally surprising start. No goal gifted away and no big chances gifted away for the first time (not only) in this tournament. Helps. Suddenly they re-invented Thomis out of nowhere. Still maybe not the best choice against a deep standing defense. But still a better choice against the top teams. Using her speed together with the speed of LeSommer. And playing the duo of Renard / Georges has also happened far too rarely in the last years. We will see how it goes on.
The resume of the team USA will have an extra article. And just like mentioned in the preview we seem to leave the path of success even further the more we try to get back on track. Every single game in this tournament things got worse than in the previous. Clearly such 10 minutes like the opening in this game happen and might lead to worse results without playing worse. But the problem was that there was nothing to see how the main problem was tried to be addressed successfully. Instead there was a lot of energy used in the meantime to work on a minor issue in the back line.
We will see how the journey a la Wolfsburg and Lyon goes on.
And also how the energy level from Carli Lloyd goes on. Playing her all games is another worrying sign. We know she used to up her game at the big events. Rarely have we seen her working so hard like here in friendlies. Hats off for that. She knows she is under special observation . Every players who is 34 now and 36 at the next big event knows exactly what the problem is and that she has now more than ever before to show she is still fit and still a valuable part of the team. Every player is more motivated at that age because she knows this is the very last time and there will be no chance to get it back.
Not sure whether there is somebody who could convince her and her coach that she has to use her energy smart now more than ever. She needs at least double the time to recover from this than Pugh for example. At least. Not sure whether it is smart she was one of the few who was used for all 3 matches in 6 days. And despite all these efforts the doubts have got bigger because the outcome was weak.
Player of the match: Team France
Team. Team. Team. The interesting aspect once again highlighted. Not sure whether this was all on purpose because France is also all too well known for simply trying to play some player roulette and look whether accidentally a change to the better comes up. But for the 7th billions time it showed the difference between the best individuals trying and a team where the weaker individuals are somehow fitting together so that the group is much more efficient as a whole. Not sure because you havent much seen of this in Frances matches against England and Germany. But this time it worked and also the players seemed more focused. Thus it would be not right to name a single player. Renard and Georges worked together brilliantly in the center of the defense. Henry played her part when needed in front of the back line. As did the trio of Thomis, LeSommer and Majri in finding spaces to attack and being a constant threat.
Couldnt do much about the goals. But could have seen red
Has integrated well into the team.
Again not always positioned the best possible way
Important clearances but unlucky on the goal
Type of player who suffers from missing competitive matches and disconnected team mates.
Solid defensively. Tried to also support the offense.
The English fell for her style of play. But still ok.
Very engaged. but also to not enough effect
Very engaged. But couldnt create much danger.
Nothing to get for the goalgetter this time.
Far less enterprising than against Germany
Faultless and solid as usual.
Solid rock in the backline.
Very good tackles and positional play.
Too many ball losses. Can do better in offense.
Solid as usual in front of the back line
Nearly vintage classic Abily
Strong performance all around
Found the space she likes.
Always good in running at free wings
Every comment is very much appreciated !