A look back at the record breaking Women's World Cup
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Everybody loves an underdog. Unfortunately for those of us who crave a plucky feel-good story, it was the cutting and intimidating figure of the USA national side - with their searing moments of quality - which proved to be too much for the rest of the world.
It’s been a World Cup filled with excitement and peculiarities. Matches like Norway vs Australia, France vs USA and England vs USA have produced some enthralling and tense spectacles. Then there have been the various bizarre VAR incidents, not least the events of England vs Cameroon in the last 16.
Image Credit: Liondartois via Wikimedia Commons
VAR has, unfortunately, taken up a key role this tournament. A year ago, it was implemented relatively efficiently in the men’s World Cup. The general reaction to its usage was positive. Even the doubters began to sway.
But this World Cup has seen something of a backwards step. The use of it has been painstaking, and the consistency in decisions has, at times, been lacking. The discrepancies in the laws of football have been laid bare by technology, and it has proved highly controversial.
It has also given us moments of heartbreak, with the width of Ellen White’s knee proving decisive for England in the semi-finals. It is not often we find ourselves wishing a player was just a yard or so slower.
And that incident came after Cameroonian fury a couple of rounds earlier. After an epic effort to reach the round of 16, the Indomitable Lionesses saw their blood boil in the wake of VAR. Their desire to win and to prove themselves, unfortunately, spilt over into something unpleasant.
But VAR should not be the main character of this World Cup. Megan Rapinoe is a much better candidate for that role. The USA winger has been spectacularly outspoken, and has matched her words with excellent performances and vital goals.
Image Credit: Jamie Smed via Flickr
With her ‘screw you’ to Donald Trump, her outburst on the scheduling of the final, and a celebration that really wound up Piers Morgan, she lit up the World Cup on and off the pitch.
The USA on the whole, though, somewhat chugged their way through the tournament. They may be the international juggernaut of women’s football, but their performances were not entirely convincing.
Throughout the knockout stages, they failed to really dismantle any sides, and were probably a tad lucky at certain points. But they have come up with some superb moments of quality, such as Rapinoe’s strike to seal the win against France following a scintillating counter-attack.
The Dutch were also a team that proved somewhat lacking. They look to have all the makings of a great team: their formation and style were settled and cohesive, and they have excellent players such as 2017 World Player of the Year Lieke Martens and world-class striker Vivianne Miedema. Spectacularly, she is her country's record scorer at the age of 22, with a massive total of 61 goals.
Yet they also flattered to deceive. Players didn't quite perform to their potential, but they still, like the USA, managed to push through to the final. Come the final, however, it was that cutting quality of the USA which proved to be the difference.
The Netherlands went for it and did well in the first half, but lacked a cutting edge and any quality passing in the final third. The USA, meanwhile, kept their composure and made the right decisions in the final third. Their rewards were a deserved win in the final - giving them their fourth World Cup title.
The Swedes claim third place in the tournament and can put in a good shout for being the underdog of the tournament. Few would have expected them to get that far, but an organised system and effective counter-attacking have seen them claim bronze.
Italy are another underdog who went further than most expected. They found themselves in a tricky group with Brazil and Australia, but found themselves top after both sides faltered. Their spirited displays were cut short by the Dutch, who had just a bit too much quality.
Consecutive defeats have seen the tournament end in dismay for England. It was made clear that they hoped to go all the way, so fourth place will disappoint the Lionesses.
Their thrilling attack was neutered thanks to a questionable tactical switch from Phil Neville against the USA. He chose to go defensive against the World champions as a security measure, but instead put too much emphasis on England’s sloppy backline at the cost of their excellent attack.
Still, England were actually very unlucky not to at least force extra time. White devastatingly saw her equaliser ruled out by a tight offside, before Steph Houghton was struck by a very English problem when she stepped up to take a late penalty.
The English, too, had to suffer the indignation of a slightly aggravating celebration from Alex Morgan, who dared to mimic sipping a cup of tea after scoring against the Lionesses. Her ‘distastefulness’ far exceeded the crotch grabbing of Diego Simeone, Antoine Griezemann dancing around with the shape of an L on his forehead, and Ronaldo doing his weird jump-twirl. Obviously.
There has, unfortunately, been an unpleasant commentary (aside from that of Jonathan Pearce) throughout this World Cup. It is the dismissiveness of people (men, really) who feel the need to comment on how little they care about women’s football. They care so little, that they feel the need to continually post about it.
And then there are those imaginative people who find the odd clip of a player making a mess of a corner or someone taking a foul throw, and use it to diagnose women’s football as being rubbish. Have they never seen Christian Eriksen take a corner, or Andy Robertson take a throw-in?
There is a strange phenomenon around women’s football, one which borders on security. Could this actually get a bit too good!?
To be blunt, women’s football is not at the same standard as men’s football. But of course, it isn’t. It was literally banned for decades during the 20th century. It has not had the huge financial boosts that the men’s game has received over the years.
It is, however, improving. And quickly. The pushing of it in the media is important. It inspires youngsters. It helps direct sponsors and money towards the game by raising its profile. In turn, the extra money will improve the quality of coaching, allow for more professionalism, and help give more young players the opportunity to develop.
TV records broken— Alex Scott MBE (@AlexScott) July 8, 2019
New stories have been told
New hero’s have emerged
Standing up & fighting for more
Inspiring young & old
We laughed/we cried
We were taken on a journey
‘Football is Football’
I’ve loved every moment#FIFAWWWC #ChangeTheGame ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/QUh2Dx6wdb
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Hopefully, this World Cup will be yet another big step in further the women’s game.
Lead Image Credit: joshjdss via Flickr