Statistics can be useful information, and everyone is looking for an edge in any kind of endeavor, but one of the reasons why I love soccer so much is that the numbers don’t always tell the whole story or the same story that your eyes do. Brazil officially had a 21-10 edge in shots and had 64 percent of the possession, but that doesn’t begin to tell you what happened in the game. Marta and Christiane tried their best, but the disorganization of Brazil, from the top to the bottom, as disastrous. Meanwhile, Japan knew what to do, stayed where they were supposed to be and just waited for the opportunity to strike, taking advantage of lackadaisical play and mistakes to advance to the semifinals. It’s really a shame for Brazil, but it’s gone way past the point where I’m surprised, and probably past the point where I care anymore, which is even more of a shame. But we shall see.
1) Lessons in organization
I think this should tell you all you need to know. As each game kicks off, I try to write down where everyone is by formation, looking for little tweaks and people who might not be playing a “true” position, but a hybrid. As I wrote down Japan’s lineup, it took me about three minutes to figure out where everyone was and what they were doing. As the second half commenced, I still couldn’t totally figure out Brazil. Granted, there were some changes, but almost everyone – including Marta – was everywhere. There’s something to be said for confusing an opponent, but I don’t think that was the case here, just straight undisciplined soccer.
2) The first goal also tells the story
Brazil had a few chances and was making the Japan defense work very hard. And then in the 27th minute, they fell asleep, while Japan scored a brilliant, but simple goal. After a foul at midfield, Homare Sawa was smart enough to restart quickly, just as every 12-year-old is taught, and Yuki Ogimi was five yards ahead of the Brazilian defense for a 1-0 lead. Brazil can feel slightly aggrieved that the kick was taken a good 10 yards from where the actual foul occurred, but the bottom line is it never should have happened and did. Mistakes like that cost you big games and it certainly did here.
3) Brazil and Marta will be back
A frustrated Marta said after the game that she may retire before the next Olympics, which just happen to be in Brazil. But I’m not going to take her seriously in the heat of the moment. She’s angry, and I completely understand that, she gets little support from her federation, the team has regressed, rather than progressed, but four years is a long time. You do worry about the short-term prognosis for Brazil, though. How many competitive games are they going to be able to play before the next tournament? South America appears to be a women’s soccer wasteland right now, and they don’t exactly travel to many games on their budget. It’s something to keep an eye on, I guess. Brazil did not score in its final two matches, and only once outside of a rout against Cameroon, which was fueled mostly by set pieces.
Marta and Christiane combined for 13 shots, but were only fouled twice total (once each), which I think is more telling than the shots.