Wednesday, October 03, 2007

2007 Women’s World Cup Wrap-Up

A review of the Women’s World Cup by du Nord reader Adam.

First things first, here’s a list of the awards:

Golden Boot: Marta, Brazil (top player)
Silver Boot: Birgit Prinz, Germany
Bronze Boot: Cristiane, Brazil

Golden Ball: Marta (top scorer), 7 goals
Silver Ball: Abby Wambach, USA, 6 goals
Bronze Ball: Ragnhild Gulbrandsen, Norway, 6 goals

Top Goalkeeper: Nadine Angerer, Germany

Fair Play Award: Norway


And here are some final observations about the Women’s World Cup:

Germany is the best. With the team’s World Cup victory, it seems a little redundant to call Germany the best women’s soccer team in the world. But, leading up to the World Cup, Germany didn’t look like a team poised to retain the title. They struggled in a tournament in March that included the United States, Sweden, Norway, China, and other World Cup contenders. And, no one expected back-up goalie Nadine Angerer to play as well as established goaltender Silke Rottenberg had in the 2003 World Cup.

After defeating Brazil in the final, though, it became clear that the German squad was the perfect balance of youth and experience. Well-known stars like Birgit Prinz and Renate Lingor didn’t have to carry the team alone. Younger players Fatmire Bajramaj, Annike Krahn, and Linda Bresonik, to name a few, played with just as much confidence and composure as the team’s veterans. And Angerer certainly proved her worth, not allowing a goal in the competition.

Germany’s coach, Silvia Neid, also had a strong World Cup. Her confidence in her bench enabled her to rest older players and give valuable experience to the next generation of German stars. Neid’s contract lasts through the 2011 World Cup, which means she’ll be eager to add Germany’s first ever Olympic Gold Medal to her hardware collection next summer.

Next to Canada, Germany is the leading favorite to host the 2011 Women’s World Cup. Given public support of the team—a throng of about 20,000 greeted the team when they arrived home—Germany would be hard to beat if FIFA names them host of the next World Cup.

Brazil’s okay. Brazil was voted the most entertaining team at the 2007 Women’s World Cup behind the talent of Marta and Cristiane. More than ever before, the players showcased amazing ball control and creativity, as well as an overall organization they’ve lacked in the past. But, the Brazilians also displayed the kind of soccer fans shouldn’t admire or support—they over dramatize fouls. Much like players in the men’s game, the Brazilian women often employ the “if I roll around and act hurt, I’ll get a call” tactic. They’re the only team in the women’s game that does it and hopefully FIFA, the referees, or the players themselves will put an end to the practice. The Brazilians play a pretty physical game themselves; if they can dish it out…they better learn to take it.

The US will be back. It’s disheartening to see how quickly people wrote off the United States after their lopsided loss to Brazil. Sure, the players looked like they were on their heels for the entire tournament and played some ugly soccer, but one bad tournament doesn’t mean they can’t compete with Germany and Brazil in the future.

This was the first world cup for a lot of the US players, and many of them gave promising performances. Lori Chalupny, Leslie Osborne, and Heather O’Reilly all looked strong throughout the tournament. Before the goalkeeper controversy, Hope Solo also played well.

The US team has a history of bouncing back after disappointment. In ‘95, the team placed 3rd in the World Cup then won gold in the ’96 Olympics. Again, in ’03, the US came in 3rd at the World Cup and went on to win Olympic Gold in ’04. Expect Kristine Lilly to stave off retirement one last time and lead the team to next summer’s Olympics in Beijing.

Now, what will US Soccer do about Greg Ryan?

Norway has potential. Norway reemerged as a world power in this tournament with their respectable 4th place finish. To beat a dead horse, coach Bjarne Berntsen finally switched the team from relying solely on a long ball style of play.

After 2003, when many of the team’s big stars retired, Norway struggled to compete. Now, with the emergence of new players such as Ingvild Stensland, Leni Larsen Kaurin, and Lene Storlokken, the Scandinavians appear to be building a strong core of players for the future of Norwegian soccer.

Blow-outs didn’t help. FIFA was going to use this World Cup as a gauge for whether or not the 16-team field should be expanded for future tournaments. The matches involving Argentina, Ghana, and New Zealand didn’t help the cause. And outside of the top teams from each qualifying region, women’s soccer is pretty weak.

On the other hand, teams on the cusp of becoming competitive sides—teams like Mexico, Italy, and France—would certainly benefit if FIFA increased the field to 24 teams. And the only way weaker teams will improve is if they play against the best teams in the world.

Sweden was unfortunate not to make it out of the first round. The team looked strong against North Korea; it’s too bad they waited until their last game to find their form. Had the Swedes been in any other group, they would have reached the quarterfinals at least.

North Korea finally showed why they’re ranked fifth in the world. After they bowed out at the group stage in ’99 and ’03, playing in Asia seemed to help the Koreans reach their potential. It’s too bad they couldn’t maintain their speed of play throughout the entire tournament, or they might have given Germany more trouble in the quarterfinals.

Australia made it to the quarterfinals for the first time in four World Cup appearances. Lisa De Vanna was one of the most exciting players in the competition, and Tom Sermanni proved to be one of the best coaches. Now that they’re playing against better competition in the Asian qualifying region, expect Australia to continue to improve.

China played better than expected. After a dismal start to 2007, they closed out the year in promising form thanks to ex-Sweden coach, Marika Domanski-Lyfors. It’s unclear if Lyfors will remain coaching the team through next summer’s Olympics, but if she does, China might be able to finish in the top four, which was her goal for this World Cup.

England’s performance proved how important a women’s professional league is. Nine of the English players play for the same club team in the Women’s Premier League. Hopefully the start of a women’s professional league in the US doesn’t get pushed back as a result of the USA’s 3rd place finish.

The 2007 Women’s World Cup proved parity has arrived in the women’s game. Germany, Brazil, and the USA are no longer clear-cut favorites to win next summer’s Olympics. Now, teams that used to be considered dark horses aren’t long shots to win a title—they’re contenders.

Visit the official FIFA site for match reports and highlights from every game.

4 Comments:

Blogger Dave DuJour said...

This is a great summary. Thank you. I didn't get to watch as much of this years tournament as I have in the past, but what I saw was good to watch.

I agree about the Brazilians. The USA v Brazil game was horribly with all their diving and flopping around. Where did all that garbage come from? The women's game was always better without it and I hope it stays away.

9:04 AM  
Blogger mamacita chilena said...

I second Dave's comment, awesome summary.

Thanks so much for doing these write ups Adam. You've been a great help to fans like myself who weren't able to watch all the games.

8:55 PM  
Anonymous augusto said...

Let me put my own point cents on both Dave´s and mamacitas comments.
i am brazilian and an active fan of womens soccer.
Brazilian women often over dramatize fouls suffered. Period.
That´s bad heritage from male behaviour.
BUT theyabsolutely are the most over chased, beaten and over tackled women players all around anywhere.
For two reasons: they are good with the ball and they´re usually
weaker physically vs the tough elder world favorites of the game.
competitiveness´won´t let cristiane or marta stop run and spin out toward the net, will it?
or wld yu think a down punch in marta´s neck in world cup is way of a caressing?
we guess that germany and usa , the niest world gae leaders will have to improve and p grade exactly because of the south americans challenge.
So much the better for womens game.

7:21 AM  
Anonymous augusto said...

Let me put my own point cents on both Dave´s and mamacitas comments.
i am brazilian and an active fan of womens soccer.
Brazilian women often over dramatize fouls suffered. Period.
That´s bad heritage from male behaviour.
BUT theyabsolutely are the most over chased, beaten and over tackled women players all around anywhere.
For two reasons: they are good with the ball and they´re usually
weaker physically vs the tough elder world favorites of the game.
competitiveness´won´t let cristiane or marta stop run and spin out toward the net, will it?
or wld yu think a down punch in marta´s neck in world cup is way of a caressing?
we guess that germany and usa , the niest world gae leaders will have to improve and p grade exactly because of the south americans challenge.
So much the better for womens game.

7:22 AM  

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