Wednesday, August 13, 2008

USA Women Win Group + Women's Quarterfinal Previews

Written by du Nord reader Adam.

USA 4-0 New Zealand

After an uninspiring 4-0 rout of New Zealand, and thanks to some help from Japan, the US finished atop group G and will now play Canada in the Olympic quarterfinals.

Heather O’Reilly opened the scoring 43 seconds into the match with the fastest goal in women’s Olympic soccer history, after lofting a shot from distance over New Zealand keeper Jenny Bindon.

The goal clearly came as a blow to New Zealand’s hopes of springing an upset over the US. The Kiwis never seemed to get into the match after that first goal; still, the US did not look as dominant as the final score suggests.

Throughout the first half, lame defense and poor passing continued to plague the US. Fortunately, New Zealand failed to create dangerous scoring opportunities and capitalize on the USA’s mistakes. Just before halftime, in another knock to New Zealand’s hope for a comeback, Rachel Buehler’s long pass freed Amy Rodriguez behind the defense. Rodriguez calmly cracked a first-time shot past Bindon inside the far post.

Ten minutes after the break, Rodriguez got in 1-v-1 against Bindon, but the keeper blocked her shot. The ball rebounded to Angela Hucles, whose pass found a sprinting O’Reilly inside the box. O’Reilly’s effort deflected off a New Zealand player, but Lindsay Tarpley followed up, placing her volley into the open net for her team’s third goal.

Lori Chalupny, playing in her first match since the opening game, deserves most of the credit for the final US goal. Chalupny dribbled past two defenders at the top of the New Zealand box and smacked a right-footed shot off the crossbar. The ball landed at the feet of Hucles, who lofted a shot that slipped through Bindon’s fingers.

After USA’s first two low-scoring games, it was refreshing to see four different players score. The problem is, those four goals weren’t the result of intelligent passing sequences or lengthy US possession. With the Americans still struggling to gel and find rhythm, the team might find that spurts of good play are not good enough in the knock-out stages of the tournament.

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(All matches played on Fri Aug 15)

USA v Canada

The US has won all four encounters with the Canadians this year, two games were blow-outs and two were close. Depending on which team Canada brings to this quarterfinal, the game has the potential to be a close, physical encounter. Christine Sinclair is Canada’s version of Abby Wambach, and Kara Lang can also pounce on the mistakes the US has been making in the defensive end of the field.

If the US plays cohesively and can string more than three passes together, they might find their way into the semifinals. But, Canada is more than capable of beating an out of sync US squad.

China v Japan

In June of this year, China beat Japan, 3-1, and has historically owned the Japanese. But the Chinese must be on edge after seeing Japan dismantle Norway 5-1. Both teams play a similar style, but Japan has been doing it better so far in the Olympics.

China might have home field advantage, but it didn’t help the team last summer in the World Cup. If Japan finishes its opportunities like it did against Norway, it’ll prove home field advantage doesn’t matter this year either.

Sweden v Germany

With only two goals in the tournament so far, Germany has yet to find its usual offensive flair. On defense, though, the Germans are the same old team. Led by keeper Nadine Angerer, the German’s didn’t allow one goal in last summer’s World Cup and have yet to concede one in the Olympics. Sweden’s Lotta Schelin, who has three goals for her team in the tournament, will be the biggest threat for the Swedes. Captain Victoria Svensson must also have an excellent game if Sweden hopes to upset the Germany.

Norway v Brazil

Brazil came out on top of the group of death, thanks to its two stars, Marta and Cristiane. Cristiane scored three goals against Nigeria in Brazil’s final group game. Marta has yet to find her form in the tournament, mainly because defenses aren’t giving her any space at all. It will be no different against Norway.

The Scandinavians, who tumbled out of first place after Japan scored 5 goals against them, looked lost in their final group game. Keeper Erika Scarboe cannot afford to have a meltdown against Brazil, or she might end up letting 5 goals in again.

If Norway beat Brazil, it’ll be considered an upset. But Norway, still stinging from the lopsided loss to Japan, could have perfect motivation to find the form that saw them handily beat the US in the group stage. Anything’s possible if Norway captain Ane Stangeland Horpestad can keep the backline compact against Brazil’s flamboyant offense.


Anonymous Joe J said...

Saw 2 of Christiane's goals. She was ALL business.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Mamacita Chilena said...

Hope that the U.S. can pull it off. They're making me nervous.

Thanks for the great write ups Adam!

9:08 PM  

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