Monday 15 July 2019

Women's World Cup 2019 Review by A Fan of No Importance Part 1

Reports of the record-breaking viewing figures for this Women's World Cup have happily been well reported, and while it's fair to say that never before has a television channel in this country devoted so much of it's coverage to it, the volume of interest vindicated that commitment. Personally, as a father of three with a football World Cup happening, I was just happy to see a bit of it. And luckily, I didn't need to see every minute of every game to store up a sizeable collection of comments (of no importance) detailed below, starting with a dislike... 


Just as in the men's Final last summer, VAR had a major say in the climax to the tournament. You could say this year's intervention for Stefanie Van der Gragt's unseen high-foot challenge on USA's Alex Morgan was more satisfying because the offence was clear and obvious. You could also argue, though, that it wasn't all that clear and obvious as no one in the American team protested, but yes, I do get that that isn't the point, and I also understand that an 'injustice' was avoided thanks to modern technology. 

My next argument then, is that VAR's concentration on incidents inside and just outside the penalty area suggests that how the ball arrives at that point of debate is irrelevant. What if a US player, or a Dutch player for that matter, had committed a sly foul in the minutes, or in fact in any part of the game beforehand, that wasn't picked up  by VAR because it was outside of their supposed remit of the clear and obvious? Every action determines the pattern and flow of the game, and though VAR may boast that it takes care of the big moments, the small unnoticed moments are just as important, joining up the dots, as are the early group games and the knockout matches leading to the Final. There is a meaning and a consequence in everything on the pitch, and to just focus on the eye-catching makes for a shallow and illogical system. Unless VAR is on alert for every single incident, it cannot be credible, and even if it is ruling over every single incident, it wouldn't be worth it. 

Without VAR would USA still be world champions? Very likely. With VAR, would Man City still have won the Premier league last season? Very likely. Without VAR would France have still won the World Cup last summer? Very likely. With VAR would Huddersfield have been relegated? Yes, of course. In short, players and teams respond to the behaviour of other players and teams, and also things like pressure and adversity and will to succeed. Their destiny isn't determined by VAR. I say introduce a ref in each half instead, and a linesman in each half. It still wouldn't be perfect, but it would be cheaper and human. A Guardian sports columnist referred to anti-VAR's as "luddites", last summer during the World Cup, but me, I'm happy to use this computerised platform instead of my old pen and diary to record my World Cup memoirs of previous years, it's just that I don't like VAR in football. 


Talking of reacting to adversity, let's bring in the Indomitable Lionesses.

My sarcasm is not entirely fair. Ajara Nchout scored a brilliantly composed stoppage time goal, defying the situation at hand, to go through to the knockout rounds following her team's 80th minute own goal that threatened to put New Zealand through instead. And against England in that knockout last 16 tie, they roused themselves at 2-0 down to finish a sustained passage of power play to give England a fright for the last half an hour.

Except that they didn't get to keep the goal, or the viewers the suspense, as Mr VAR pulled out a parking ticket for the offence of going half a second over the permitted time clearly displayed on the meter. If you show any objection to this crime, you will be lectured by Phil Neville.

Talking of Phil Neville, I cannot ignore Cameroon's foul play, which wasn't even "good foul" play, just cold, calculated and vicious on an England team who coped well with it. They did embarrass themselves with their dissent over England's opening VAR-attended goal by Ellen White, giving the impression, probably "worldwide"  that the only offside rule book in their possession was up to and including 1993. 

Hopefully Cameroon will show less Song/Massing assault play and more professionalism if they qualify in 2023, which is probable as most of the world will be allowed to qualify for it.


Now the defending champions, which you might reasonably expect from a nation that is "the richest and most powerful nation on earth", according to one widely ridiculed observer. If the men's game over there gets the same attention, then both teams could rule soccer. Even with the women's game, though, it's only the national team that is queen, with less emphasis on the domestic league, so if England and Holland and Sweden and others carry on "growing the game", they may well catch up.

For now, there is little dispute that USA are worthy of the crown. Flanked by the Kanchelskis-like Tobin Heath and the attacking efficiency of Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan led the line without equal, backed up by the pitch-burning Rose Lavelle, and behind them, their tight defence was epitomised by the dogged resilience of Crystal Dunn. They all know their jobs in this team, as Martin Keown would have said. 

Yet, their tendency to drop deep in the latter stages gave hope to opposition who should have been seen off long before. Their technical edge mattered little when England were awarded the penalty in the 80th minute of the semi final. That they were not pegged back was  less to do with the stern-faced goalie Alyssa Naeher than another wretched example of an England penalty-taker's ruthlessness.    

So USA rule the women's football world...for now. 



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