Commentary

Trash talk, high stakes spice up Women's European Championship

Heading into their quarterfinal meeting Sunday in the Women's European Championship, England has the momentum and France has the history.

So how are both teams approaching their first foray in the knockout round? By talking smack, a lot of it.

Brash talk is rife in the men's game and sometimes proves to be more entertaining than the matches themselves. While there's no shortage of arrogance and confidence amongst the top women's players, they don't square off in big competitions nearly as often as their male counterparts, so opportunities for friction and barbs and pointed critiques are fewer.

Where one draws the line is a personal judgment. Most people, and certainly U.S. Soccer, felt former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo stepped into bad taste by calling Sweden "cowardly" after it eliminated the U.S. in the 2016 Olympic tournament. But that remark came after the fact, not in the leadup, during the important phase of preparation in which coaches and players hone their physical, tactical, and psychological weapons.

For France and England the battle has been joined. Both have ambitions of claiming the European crown for the first time and riding that momentum all the way to the next WWC. The European game could use some freshening. Germany has won eight of the 11 European competitions staged for women and the last six in a row. The last team to dethrone the Germans was Norway in 1993 and in this year's edition the Norwegians did not advance to the elimination rounds.

France won only one of its three group games to finish second in Group C while England rolled to three straight victories in Group D, but France has won all of their last three meetings in major competitions. England manager Mark Sampson took exception when his counterpart in charge of France, Olivier Echouafni, said England “not want to play France” and “I promise you nothing will stop us."

Echouafni is coaching France in a major competition for the first time and hopes to secure a long-term contract that will bond him and the team through its hosting of the 2019 Women's World Cup. France is ranked third in the world and England fifth, though for the quarterfinal the French will be missing Wendie Renard, who is among the world's top defenders and must serve a one-game suspension.

Sampson said Echoufani is “wet behind the ears when it comes to tournament football," which is a cliched but accurate jab at his inexperience at this level in the women's game. Echoufani, 44, played 480 games in the French League from 1993 to 2010  and coached the men's teams of Amiens and Sochaux prior to replacing Phillipe Bergeroo as manager of national women's team last September.

France certainly has history on its side; England last won a game between the nations in 1974. They met in the SheBelieves Cup in March; France won, 2-1. Sampson has been in charge of England since 2013 and two years ago guided it to the semifinals of a major competition for the first time in the program's history. After losing in the Women's World Cup semifinals to Japan, England attained another first by beating Germany in the third-place match.

“He’ll learn who to talk about and who not to,” said Sampson. “We are an experienced team and I’m an experienced manager. But luckily for them the game is not played in the press room. It’s a great challenge for us to face France but we want to win this tournament – and win it the right way, by beating the best teams."

The current rankings list the U.S. first, Germany second, and Canada fourth. The England-France winner will face either the host Netherlands or Sweden, which play their quarterfinal Saturday. Germany is on the other side of the bracket; it plays Saturday against Denmark, with the winner advancing to face either Austria or Spain.

"There are some great teams in this tournament, and we are certainly one of them," said Sampson. "We are in a good spot."

There's a lot more than prestige and honor at stake. A pool of 8 million euros ($9.4 million) is to be divided amongst the eight teams that have advanced to the quarterfinals. The winning team gets $3.7 million, a staggering sum for a women's program.
8 comments about "Trash talk, high stakes spice up Women's European Championship".
  1. mike renshaw, July 29, 2017 at 10:06 a.m.

    England's over emphasis on 'fitness training' in preparation for the tournament will do them in. They have been very poor with the ball in both their 2 most recent games. One of these days they will come to grips with the fact this is a game of skill, of decision making, creativity, artistry, game sense and field awareness, not bigger, faster, stronger....until then they won't win a damn thing...

  2. R2 Dad replied, July 29, 2017 at 11:08 a.m.

    Tend to agree, but that's what they said about the Aussies and look how they've progressed just in the last couple of years (not to mention beating the US for the first time). Playing directly can't be their only way to operate--guess that applies to the USWNT, too.

  3. Nick Daverese replied, July 30, 2017 at 7:35 a.m.

    Mike your exactly right that is what our game is really about. But being able to play longer then 90 minutes and not die of exhaustion is also what it is about in tournament play.

    On trash talk will the captains have to repeat the stuff that they are forced to say because kids are going to be watching? Will there be no diving to draw fouls to get undeserved free kicks?

  4. mike renshaw replied, August 3, 2017 at 4:53 p.m.

    ...Nailed my previous comment...unfortunately...

  5. Kevin Leahy, July 29, 2017 at 12:46 p.m.

    Playing direct can be effective sometimes but, the U.S. shouldn't be getting shutout. It is not very attractive and would rather lose than stop playing with skill. Don't believe the federation wants. coach Ellis having them play that way.

  6. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, July 30, 2017 at 5:34 p.m.

    Remember though - the point of the game is to win. Not to make statements about playing style.

  7. Nick Daverese, July 30, 2017 at 7:44 a.m.

    There is direct Low percentage passing and direct high percentage passing. You can turn longer passes to higher percentage passes.

    Pass into space and not try to beat a defender who is on you.

    Long option pass to up top players who then play the ball to his back support players then go from there. There should alway be two back pass options for the receiver and not one.

    Their support distance should be 5 yards further back then the would be short passing meaning about 12 yards back.

    On defense defend the dribblers closest pass option. You can do that by staying with the dribblers closest back pass option.

    On attack Long pass from a right back to the left wing mid can be a high percentage pass. if you have the leg to get the ball there. It is also a good way to get a counter attack started after the back wins the ball.
    ------
    This is how good teams stop wing play. One defender in front of the dribbler another defender behind the dribbler and a third defender inside the field so the dribbler can not dribble inside the field or pass to a close pass option inside the field.

  8. schultz rockne, July 30, 2017 at 6 p.m.

    TT, high-stakes, and...horrendous goalkeeping. Once again.

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