For however underwhelming the USA has looked at times, it can -- and should -- attack more ways than just with long balls aimed at Abby Wambach because it has lots of players who can play. Japan's seven goals have come from seven different players. What separates the top four teams from the rest
of the field is that they can attack in numbers and out of the back, like Germany with outside backs Leonie Maier and Tabea
The four quarterfinal matches produced only seven goals, the best of which was Carli Lloyd's well-placed header off a great ball played in by Julie Johnston. The other six goals were the result of defensive mistakes (all three goals in the England-Canada game, including the Lucy Bronze header when Canada's marking instructions failed to get communicated to the field), a deflected shot (Louisa Necib for France), a penalty kick (Celia Sasic for Germany) and a blown offside call on an albeit bang-bang play (Mana Iwabuchi for Japan).
Of the four semifinalists, only Germany is averaging more than five shots on goal a game, and its average (11.8 per game) is inflated by the barrages it unleashed on Ivory Coast and Thailand in group play. A comparison to the men's side is always tricky, but the four semifinalists at the 2014 World Cup averaged 9.6 shots on target per game, basically twice as many.
Chances have been few and far between, and France paid dearly for failing to convert them. After his team was eliminated on penalty kicks, France coach Philippe Bergeroo admitted the game was lost before the shootout. (Necib in the first minute and Gaetane Thiney late in overtime failed to put open chances on frame.) The word Bergeroo kept coming back to: efficacité ("efficiency"). The Bleues, too, failed to even put an average of five shots on frame a game.
While it was easy to dismiss Wambach's comments early in the tournament blaming the artificial turf for her missed headers, there is no doubt the soccer at the Women's World Cup has suffered because of the turf and the heat it produced.
Bergeroo came in for a lot of criticism for his decision to take off right winger Elodie Thomis midway through the second half against Germany, but what was not known is she asked to come off because she kept cramping up. Would that have happened on grass? Perhaps but more likely not.
The Australians complained that playing on the artificial turf at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium was like playing on hot coals, and they wilted in the Saturday afternoon heat that forced many fans to seek shade under the stands. The Matildas had nothing left in the last 10 minutes after spending 80 minutes chasing Japan. Australia was probably the fifth best team in the tournament in terms of its results and the soccer it produced, but it was reduced to sending Sam Kerr on long and hopeless runs at the Japanese backline.
Whoever came up with the old soccer adage "Let the ball do the work" obviously didn't have artificial turf in mind. Japan produced it with its second goal against the Netherlands, but only France has shown it's got the players with the pace and skill and intelligence to consistently appear out of nowhere and combine in numbers, producing those "wow" moments that make soccer so special.