Sunday’s first game was the third place game between the US and Norway. As expected, Scurry was in net again. And as expected, the US made few other changes. I was especially disappointed that Ellertson didn’t start instead of Markgraf but Dalmy, who did start, did have a good game too. And shortly after Tarpley went in for Lilly, there was immediate payoff in the form of a goal. However Lilly did play much better in this game than she had in the other recent cup games. The US managed to ring up 4 goals – some of them lucky (thank you, Wagner’s face!) and some of them gorgeous like Wambach’s redirection with the back of her foot (aping the shot on the US by Brasil on Thursday!).
Norway did look a little tired in this game and seemed to chase the US around. But to prove that they weren’t simply making it easy for the US, they did score late in the second half and it was a beaut – a nice arcing diving ball over Scurry who had come off her line a bit. It was a good game to watch – skills on display and of course the right outcome! – but lacked punch because it was the 3rd place game.
Oh, and ESPN made much about the Hope Solo comments and the puff piece they did on her. I’ll admit that it does make me have more sympathy for her knowing that it was a game against Brasil that she couldn’t play because of her father’s death. But her comments clearly dissed Scurry despite her attempt to say they don’t. And what’s more important to me than a player’s after-game comments is the deplorable ref call that ejected Boxx from the game. Why was that not the thing that was tearing at the hearts of the US players? I’m still fuming about it half a world and a full gender away.
The final between Brasil and Germany started off bad for Germany. Brasil had a couple of early opportunities and were unlucky on a shot off the post. And Brasil was playing the same junk soccer that worked against the US last Thursday: a Brasil player with the ball and an uncertain path around would simply try to go through German defense hoping to draw a call. And early on Daniela and Cristiane used this to good effect – Garefrekes didn’t know what hit her. Cristiane was especially pleased with herself one time holding up her hand as though she were holding a card reminiscent of how she did that in the game against the US. It’s easy to not like her for this kind of play.
But something happened as the first half went along. Germany managed to rebuff this play and even turn it to their advantage somehow. The ref stopped calling fouls on the junk soccer and Germany took the ball that Brasil lost and made some nice plays. Germany seemed to settle in to a groove on how to play against Brasil and it was frankly nice to see the junk soccer tactic fall apart. The first half ended without a goal but Germany seemed to be controlling the play.
Early in the second half, a nice German setup yielded the first goal off of Prinz’s foot, even if the finish wasn’t as pretty as the setup. Not too long after that Cristiane went down in the box; the replay showed that she was indeed fouled even though she clearly put on a little show to drive the point home. Still, I think the call was not overtly wrong and that resulted in a penalty kick. Things looked bad for Germany when Marta got behind the ball. I think everyone, including the German keeper, was shocked to find the ball in the keeper’s hands after the shot. Not at all Marta’s best shot but the keeper made a good save and it prevented the tide from turning in Brasil’s favor. For anyone thinking that the German keeper Angerer didn’t have to work too hard on the PK, she came up with a big save soon after that further deflated the Brasil team. And from thereon, it was Germany’s game. Germany sealed the win with a goal near the end of the game while the exasperation was becoming obvious on the face of the Brasilians.
Again, I feel that the exasperation was karmic payback. Brasil started the game off on the wrong style of play and only started playing to win in the second half, once it became clear that their junk soccer wasn’t paying off. But by then it was too late because Germany had the one goal and had figured out how to shut down Marta (triple-teaming if necessary). In a way, it’s a shame that Marta didn’t have a chance to shine, but it’s the company she keeps. Brasil needs to adjust their play to match Marta’s.