Thursday, September 13, 2007

Women's World Cup: Day 3

The Canada-Norway match was the first one I've actually been able to watch all the way through (not just highlights), because the Mothercorp in its infinite wisdom is only showing the games featuring the Canadian team during the group rounds. I realize there's probably not much of an audience for women's soccer, but come on: the matches are all at some ungodly hour of the morning. Surely they could pre-empt the cartoons for a few days.

Anyway, the 2-1 loss is a bit disappointing for Canada, but not a terrible result, as you would have expected this to be the toughest of their group games. Possession was about 60/40 in favour of Norway, but in spite of that it still felt like a pretty even game, especially in the first half. Canada had the lead at the break, with a goal from Candace Chapman after being set up by good work from Christine Sinclair, but it could have been two, had it not for Melissa Tancredi's early goal being harshly disallowed for a phantom foul on the Norwegian keeper.

Tancredi was replaced after the interval by Rhian Wilkinson, and Norway came out the stronger team in the second half. With Canada retreating into a defensive shell, Norway poured on the pressure and quickly equalized with a goal by Ragnhild Gulbrandsen. The winning goal for Norway came late in the came, scrambled into the net by Ane Stangeland Horpestad from a corner. I have to wonder if substituting Tancredi was a mistake, because her physical presence had shaken up the Norwegian defence and allowed Canada to create some good chances -- much like Gulbrandsen did for Norway. The way both teams reorganized at halftime only benefitted Norway, as they took the game to Canada, and only a few outstanding saves from goalkeeper Erin McLeod kept the score as close as it was.

Australia, surprisingly, are on top of the group after the other Group C match, beating Ghana 4-1 to earn their first ever win at a World Cup. The Matildas took an early lead through Sarah Walsh and followed that up with two more goals in the second half before Anita Amankwa scored a consolation for Ghana. It was too little, too late, though, as her team were unable to turn their share of possession into clear chances, and Australia scored again soon after to put the game out of reach.

In Group D, China and Denmark played out one of the most engrossing games so far. Denmark fought back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the 87th minute, but it was there was to be an even more dramatic ending to the match, as Xiaoli Song scored again for China just a minute later to secure the win. In the final match, New Zealand were comprehensively beaten by Brazil, who put five goals past them, including two from Marta. Still, at least the Kiwis managed not to capitulate as thoroughly as Argentina had in the tournament's opening game.

Group C
Norway 2-1 Canada
Ghana 1-4 Australia

Group D
New Zealand 0-5 Brazil
China 3-2 Denmark

Today's a rest day, and the second round of group games resumes tomorrow.

If you haven't seen any of the games, you should at least check out some of the highlights on the FIFA website, because there are some very good goals in there.

And a few other links:

  • The Global Game has an interesting article about Marta and the state of women's soccer in Brazil
  • The New York Times' Goal blog is covering the World Cup, albeit from an American-centric perspective
  • Canada's Rhian Wilkinson is also blogging from China
  • And finally, I don't believe I forgot to mention this earlier, but I have to pimp Kickster, an excellent new site covering women's football

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