Ironically, I got home today from camp and flipping through HBO, came across “Bend It Like Beckham”. I’m going to guess most of you have seen it, I happened to come in at the scene where a match is going on and some young men in the crowd are making fun of women playing soccer, “Can’t you just see them as proper footballers?,” one of them tries to interject before laughter erupts from the others.
Believe it or not, that movie came out a decade ago. Since then, women’s soccer in Britain has grown in the number of teams, but the prevailing attitude still seemed to be a little different than it is in more accepting countries, at least overtly, as much of the discussion seemed to revolve around how the U.S. looked more than how they played.
A couple of weeks later, at the hallowed ground of Wembley Stadium, more than 70,000 people packed the place to cheer Great Britain to a 1-0 win over Brazil, and a new era has been born. Well, we’re not that naïve, are we? But still a run to the gold medal game would certainly do wonders for the sport in the birthplace of the game, and with more structure for a professional league in place, could it be a watershed moment? And all they have to do is get by ….. the United States in the semifinals. Gulp. Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it:
1) Great Britain may be playing the best soccer in the tournament
Jenna brought this up during the games on Tuesday. Obviously, the United States would probably still be the leader if you had Power Rankings, but Britain has shown in terms of technical play that they might be superior and their defense – while tested much, much more against Brazil than they were in the first two games – has yet to concede a goal. They just beat Brazil, and have to be at least a small step up from what France or Japan have put together thus far in the Olympics. Of course, that means exactly nothing when they take the field against Canada on Friday.
2) The tournament needs the hosts to win their quarterfinal game
With all due respect to Canada, a United States-Great Britain semifinal game on Monday evening at Old Trafford will be a spectacle that will define these games, no matter what happens. Of course, as I’ll preview more tomorrow, but although we love our Canada-U.S. games here in North America, it’s hard to see too many people over there getting too hyped up over it.
3) Count out Brazil at your own peril
Take the bus excuse for what you will, but Brazil did play much better in the second half and had their chances through Marta and Christiane (although with a penalty and some other chances, they could have given up a couple of more, too). They obviously didn’t get the greatest of draws with Japan, but if there is a team that could make a counterattacking style work against the World Champions, it could be Marta and company. If they lose, it won’t be because of what happened in this game, or really in any of the group games, they just won’t be good enough.
Kelly Smith may have missed the penalty and failed to score, but she did have half of Great Britain’s (four of eight) shots on goal and was fouled a somewhat remarkable seven times. Brazil committed 18 fouls in the game (Kim Little was also fouled five times).