Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Not according to form, more's the pity.

Through the sixteen games of the Women's World Cup being played now in Germany, predicting the winners was pretty easy work. Look at the world rankings and what ever team was ranked higher would win or at worst draw. But then came the last eight games in group play, which started yesterday and ended this afternoon, and betting on favorites based on the rankings went to hell.

The Canadians were supposed to be the sixth best team in the world and the Nigerians 27th, but after two tough losses, the gals from Canuckistan had nothing left in the tank and lost 1-0. Japan and England met in a match that would decide first and second place in their division, and England beat the higher ranked Japanese. Besides the rankings, Japan had crushed Mexico 4-0, while England had only managed a draw against las Mexicanas.

A somewhat bigger surprise, at least historically, was Australia beating the Norwegians to get into the knockout rounds. The difference in their rankings was not that big, but Norway has a much shorter trip to get to Germany and they have won a World Cup. But there was foreshadowing in the earlier games, when the Aussies fought hard against Brazil and lost only 1-0, while Norway took a 3-0 beating at the feet of the Samba Queens. The Aussies beat the Norwegian 2-1 this morning and they will be playing the Swedes this weekend in the quarterfinals.

(photo from the New York Times)

Australia is playing Sweden because the Swedes beat the heavily favored Americans. The U.S. team could have been first in their group if they had managed a draw, but they gave up two goals in the first half on a penalty and a deflected free kick and they could not manage the comeback.

This is the first time the Yanks have lost a game in group play since the Women's World Cup began 20 years ago. This picture is from the only goal they scored, when Abby Wambaugh (number 20 in white, upper left) went up for a header but the ball hit the top of her shoulder instead and went in. It's was Wambaugh's first goal of the tourney and the only bright spot in an otherwise bad day for the Americans.

So now comes Sunday, and the Americans have to face Brazil. My loyalties are completely conflicted. I love the American team, but the Brazilians are so damned pretty when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net. The Brazilian defense is definitely suspect, but after today, the same can be said of the Yanks.

Even before these last few days of chaos, this was a tough match to predict. I usually leave prediction to the people who do it for money, but I'm going out on a limb and saying Brazil 3, United States 2 in regulation and at least one goal for the amazing Marta.

I'm definitely going to be in front of a TV for this one.

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