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Winners & Losers
by Paul Kennedy, July 18th, 2011 8:50PM

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TAGS:  france, germany, japan, women's national team, women's world cup

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[WOMEN'S WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT] By any criteria except goalscoring -- down to 2.65 a game from 3.47 in 2007 -- the 2011 Women's World Cup was a huge success. Record crowds, some great individual performances and back-to-back-to-back, as good a trio of games as you'll ever want to see in the USA's three knockout games against Brazil, France and Japan. For all winners and losers at Germany '11 ...

WINNERS

JAPAN. Who predicted Japan would win the Women's World Cup? Or beat host Germany in the quarterfinals? Or, given how the game went in the first 15 minutes, have a chance against the USA in the final? Or let alone come back twice against the Americans? (Japan's triumph did give credence to the FIFA seedings -- it was the top seed in Group B.) Many factors went into the Japanese victory over the USA in the final. A key: their patience to stick with their possession game even in the dying minutes of regulation and overtime. But Hope Solo said it best when she said "something bigger" was working in favor of Japan on Sunday. "I'm happy for them," she added, "and they do deserve it."

PIA SUNDHAGE. The 51-year-old Swede demonstrated just how far you can get with a smile on your face. Sundhage was upbeat throughout the tournament -- evening serenading the media with her rendition of Simon & Garfunkel's "59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" -- and her players responded to her positive attitude. The USA got better as the tournament went along, playing its best soccer in the final against Japan. Sundhage promised to make the USA a better team and the introduction of Lauren Cheney to the midfield and key roles played by exciting Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan have the U.S. women headed in the right direction.

STEFFI JONES. The former German international and head of the Germany organizing committee -- the Franz Beckenbauer of the Women's World Cup -- delivered on her promise to show off the "most beautiful side of 2011." The opening game drew 74,000 fans at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, a record for a women's match in Europe, and stadiums were filled to 86 percent capacity. Most important, there was a real buzz about the tournament in Germany. Probably the most amazing statistic from the Women's World Cup was that almost 47 percent of Germans watching television Sunday night were tuned into the final between the USA and Japan in Frankfurt.

TONY DICICCO. ESPN's team includes many of the greats of the 1999 Women's Women's Cup -- Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm -- but the star of the bunch was their coach, Tony DiCicco. Paired with Bob Ley and Chastain as the primary studio trio, DiCicco played the insider's role -- he knows all the U.S. players as the head coach of the Boston Breakers and is even friends with Japan coach Norio Sasaki -- but he never came across as a know-it-all or cheerleader. Instead, he was articulate and insightful.

WPS. Women's Professional Soccer was thrown a lifeline. Forget the fact that the USA lost the final. The USA's comeback victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals and its win over France put women's soccer on the front page for an extra week. For a league in desperate need of free publicity, you can't ask for more. Women's pro soccer is still a long shot -- average attendance in WPS has dropped below 3,000 and salary budgets could be slashed as much as 40 percent -- but the buzz created by Germany '11 gives league executives perhaps one last chance to find new money for the league. Wednesday's game in Rochester between Western New York and magicJack will be a good start. A sellout crowd of 13,000 is expected.

FRANCE. No team played better soccer throughout the tournament than Bruno Bini's Bleues. Like the French men's team of Spain 1982, the Bleues exited Germany 2011 sympathetic losers, having played the better soccer in their 3-1 loss to the USA in the semifinals. Women's soccer was a big winner in France, where the TV share for the France-USA on Direct 8 was a record 19.4, meaning almost one in five French TV viewers was tuned into the broadcast. With Marseille the latest pro club to announce plans to launch a women's program, things are looking up for the women's game in France.

LOSERS

SILVIA NEID. It was a sign women's soccer has come of age in Germany when the host country -- the two-time defending champion -- fell to Japan in the quarterfinals and its coach got hammered. The German federation had to come out in support of Neid as the best person for the job after her team's shock exit. She came in for criticism for Germany's tactics and her personnel moves, none bigger than dropping superstar Birgit Prinz.

BRAZIL. Brazil has promised so much yet delivered so little in women's soccer. Five-time Women's Player of the Year Marta was whistled by fans, and her teammates were jeered for time-wasting. The Brazilians had what was coming to them when Abby Wambach equalized in the second minute of stoppage time in the second overtime after Erika's time-wasting tactics. Brazil's quarterfinal exit will hopefully be a wakeup call to the CBF, its federation, that it finally needs to put money behind women's soccer in Brazil. Talent alone won't get Brazil an elusive women's world championship.

EUCHARIA UCHE. The Nigerian women's head coach demonstrated that homophobia that still exists in Africa, telling the New York Times that she needed "divine intervention" in order to curb the presence of lesbians in the Super Falcons, the reigning African champions. She added, "I tell you, it worked for us. This is a thing of the past. It is never mentioned.” For the record: Nigeria quickly exited from the Women's World Cup after losses to France and Germany.

NORTH KOREA. Considering its success at the youth level -- it won the 2006 Under-20 World Cup and 2008 Under-17 World Cup and was second to the USA at the 2008 Under-20 World Cup -- North Korea was supposed to be the new Asian women's power. But not only did the secretive Koreans fail to win a game but they had two players fail drug tests for steroid use. In a first for a FIFA tournament, the entire North Korean team was then tested and three more players tested positive. North Korea's excuse: the players had taken musk deer gland medicine. FIFA President Sepp Blatter was not pleased. "This is a shock," he said. "We are confronted with a very, very bad case of doping and it hurts."

CANADA. Canada entered the Women's World Cup with high hopes. It won the 2010 Concacaf Championship and 2011 Cyprus Cup and a core of players had spent months preparing for the tournament under the guidance of their popular coach, Italian Carolina Morace, at their training base in Rome. But Canada's best team ever crashed in Germany, losing all three games. Not the kind of momentum Canada was looking for to build up the 2015 Women's World Cup it will host.

NORWAY. The only country to have won the Women's World Cup, Olympics and European Championship, Norway failed to reach the knockout stage at the Women's World Cup for the first time when it fell to Australia, 2-1, in their final group game and finished third in Group D. Even worse, the setback means Norway didn't qualify for the 2012 Olympics, and its players stand to lose the financial backing they get from the Olympiatoppen, the Norwegian Olympic authority.



0 comments
  1. Carl Hudson
    commented on: July 19, 2011 at 8:49 a.m.
    Sundhage a winner? I don't think so.

  1. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis
    commented on: July 19, 2011 at 9:52 a.m.
    Sundhage a winner? Absolutely.

  1. Mark N
    commented on: July 19, 2011 at 10:14 a.m.
    Sure Pia's a winner. And surely she could have squeezed a little more out of that team (and out of the player pool leading up to the WC).

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: July 19, 2011 at 12:06 p.m.
    Pia not a loser but NOT a winner The ridiculous decision to have pre-determined PK takers and order of take disqualifies her winning status, along with the more ridiculous decision made years ago to make Boxx/Lloyd auto-starters, come hell or high water, without seriously looking at any other mid options or combinations. (Shades of Bob, eh!). Pia got the team to overachieve but, no. NOT a winner.

  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: July 19, 2011 at 2:11 p.m.
    Whoa there @Carl! Pia a loser? They made the final, and played an excellent game. And @David, why is that pre-determined PK decision ridiculous for the final, when it worked brilliantly in the Brazil game? Both finalists had a remarkably similar trajectory through the tournament, coming in second in a group they were supposed to win and thereby drawing tough quarterfinal opponents (Japan arguably drew the toughest assignment, the defending champs playing in front of a home crowd). Both overcame this in extra time. Both dealt with their accomplished semifinal opponents with a 3-1 score. Both scored 2 goals in the final. Finalists are almost by definition the best teams in the tournament, and neither side is justified in feeling entitled to the win. Something had to give, and that it was the US in the end--by a hair--doesn't somehow transform Pia into a loser.

  1. Wolfgang Wostl
    commented on: July 19, 2011 at 2:53 p.m.
    Ramon, Agreed Pia is definetly not a looser. She took the team much futher than most expected. But in the final she made a few mistakes. Buehler should not have been in the line-up. At the minimum she should have been substituted. Rapinoe should have remained on the field. She played very well and could have helped in the PC. The PC line-up was not the best.

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: July 19, 2011 at 4:18 p.m.
    Ramon, having seen literally 50 or more games at the highest levels which end in a PK ( and coached many others), no where have I seen or heard a coach pre-set the kickers and order--until this fiasco. Fatigue, not being right in the head, minor inury, can all put at risk or derail even the best PK takers. Even intuition comes into play. Good coaches identify these factors on the fly, and then make the split second decisions to either take a player out of commission or leave them off the first 5 list. What's ideal in practice or what worked really well in a previous game means nothing the next game. Moreover the advantage is turned over to the opposing keeper.

  1. Gole goal
    commented on: July 19, 2011 at 6:06 p.m.
    Paul Kennedy, not sure what World Cup you were watching but last I checked the USA lost so as a result Pia is far from a winner. Pia is a loser! If anything all of US Soccer is a loser. Okay okay we won the Olympics big deal but its still not the World Cup. When you live in a country where girls are playing soccer at the age of 5. In a country where female sports has full support from parents, leagues, universities etc. wining the World Cup is expected. Our WMNT players have been playing soccer since they were kids and losing shouldn't be possible. So why did the USA really lose? Has US Soccer failed from the bottom up? Perhaps its time to select players for skill, creativity, and for talent over fast, strong, and big players. Lets face it US Soccer on the Womens side has hit the roof, and have no where to go because they just dont know where to go next. To bad US Womens Soccer cant use creativity and imagination to realize that their is more places to go to that of the roof. Back to the matter at hand Paul. Why is Paul including DICICCO as a winner, last I checked he didn't coach this World Cup. Also, to have Marta as a loser and DICICCO as a winner is perhaps one of the most foolish things I have ever read. In concerns to calling Marta a loser you cant be serious. She scored goals, she is still the best the women's side has to offer, she took the team to the quarters by herself, oh and last I checked she is what people want to see in the WPS. Marta is far from a loser if anything the Coach lost the game with bad tactics. Anyhow, its time US Soccer as a whole changes their views on what a good player is and what a US National team player and Coach is to be. US Soccer when are you going to open your eyes and select creative players over robots? You just dont get it US soccer.

  1. David Huff
    commented on: July 19, 2011 at 6:53 p.m.
    I think Pia is a loser just for the decision to include Buehler in her starting 11 (rather than the quicker, faster and more talented Sauerbrunn) and leaving Natasha Kai off the squad in favor of bringing A-Rod.


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