Manya's Musings On the World Cup Quarterfinals
Manya Makoski is recovering well from a broken leg suffered while playing with her USL W-League team, but if you’re going to break your leg, you might as well do it right before the World Cup (as long as you are not actually ON the World Cup Team of course). The injury knocked her out of this summer’s Nordic Cup, but it did give the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team standout a chance to watch as many World Cup games as she wants. After an intense week as a counselor at a soccer camp, she checks with her thoughts as the World Cup winds down.
|Group Play | First Week of WC | Opening Weekend | Pre-Cup | USA-LVA|
Sorry about time lapse since the last edition of the Musings. I couldn’t watch the games consistently due to prior planned engagements that were necessary to my financial well-being. That’s right, I was working soccer camp. And not just any soccer camp. I was a proud staff member of the Kristine Lilly Soccer Academy in my home state of Connecticut (yes, my broken leg has healed enough to hobble around). So you can take it up with The Queen of Caps for my lack of Musings during the start of the elimination rounds. After four days of coaching of 10-12 year olds, which can be as excruciating as watching tension-filled overtime World Cup matches, I was back to planning my day around the World Cup games just in time for the quarterfinals.
All four teams that came out with a victory in the quarterfinal rounds are European teams. Coincidence? I think not. With the home “court” advantage during most of their games, teams like Italy, France, Portugal, and of course Germany, are going to have that little extra edge to be able to rock their opponents. However, two out of the four games ended up going to penalty kicks and I can’t think of a more horrible way to lose a game than to have a hard fought 120 minutes go down the drain because of a couple 1-on-1’s with the goalkeeper.
At Lil’s Soccer Academy, we each coached teams that took on the name of a country in the World Cup. I coached Ukraine, and the real Ukrainians, were doomed from the start in their quarterfinal against Italy. Despite a great coach, Ukraine had less pace on the ball, less of a physical presence, could not finish chances on goal and allowed goal within the first couple of minutes in the game. They were dominated by Luca Toni and his Italian teammates. I know Toni is six-foot-four, but how can you not defend him properly, twice? I don’t know what the Ukrainian defender was thinking when he was standing on the wrong side of Toni when he buried a header off a cross and when he easily tapped in a cross from Gianluca Zambrotta. Maybe it was the Ukrainian’s long flowing locks that got in his eyes, blurring his vision of the game. Next World Cup, go for the buzz cut. The Italians at least use hair ties. Maybe that was the difference in the match…
I knew the England vs. Portugal game was going to be an interesting match, but really the highlight (actually lowlight) was Wayne Rooney’s red card. We all saw it coming. Bad temper plus frustration are a lethal combination. And young Wayne is a walking volatile mixture. The referee was standing right there when he back-heeled the groin of Ricardo Carvalho and then pushed Ronaldo in the chest as he came to the aid of his fallen, and entirely “uncomfortable” teammate. In this World Cup, with the amount of cards being handed out, you just won’t get away with that kind of behavior. Still, Portugal deservedly won the game, even though they couldn’t score with a man up for almost an hour, but when you’ve got a goalkeeper who saves three penalty kicks, that should be enough.
Maybe it was the ridiculous headband showing a big “R” that did in Ronaldinho and his Brazilian against Thierry Henry and his gang of aging Frenchmen. Zinedine Zidane was inspired, juking Brazilians left and right, juggling over the head of Ronaldo and placing a perfect free kick onto the foot of Henry for the game winner. I’m sure the rest of the world was shocked, along with myself, to see the reigning champions going home in the quarterfinals, but with such great soccer being played by France, once again, a well-earned victory.
As always, I welcome comments from my readers at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve enjoyed writing during this special time for soccer fans and please look for my final entry after the World Cup Final.