Having never advanced beyond the quarterfinals and having qualified for their first World Cup only eight years ago, Spain are now the champions. And there sure seem to be lots of hard feelings about it in the Spain camp. Plenty of the press coverage seems of the opinion that La Roja won the big one in spite of Coach Jorge Vilda rather than because of him. At the final, the same crowd that cheered the Spanish players’ names booed his name when it was announced (which was pretty funny), and two-time Golden Ball winner Alexia Putellas (whose injury prevented her from making much impact at the World Cup) refused to shake his hand. He’s been pushed out of team photos and celebrations, and the players often huddled among themselves rather than look to him for advice.
Also Vilda’s boss and Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales (known in Spain for being a camera hog when things go well and disappearing when they don’t) kissed midfielder Jenni Hermoso on the mouth in the aftermath of the win. Hermoso was not okay with that. Neither were large swatches of the Spanish press, and Rubiales refused to apologize and called his critics a bunch of idiots. Man, that’s rough. You reach the pinnacle of your sport with the world watching, and you get sexually harassed at exactly that moment. Being a woman athlete sucks sometimes.
To continue the theme of men acting like morons at this World Cup, FIFA president Gianni Infantino (who called himself a disabled lesbian migrant worker during the men’s World Cup last fall) took it upon himself to lecture the women that they needed to pick their battles to convince men of their value. Norway’s Ada Hegerberg told him to fuck off, and when he was handing out medals to the England team after their loss, Lucy Bronze refused to shake his hand. Right on!
On a sadder note, left back Olga Carmona scored the winning goal in the final and then found out that her father had died two days before. Congratulations and condolences are in order. Let’s get to the questions.
Was Vilda really a passenger here?
That may be a bit harsh. After all, his tactical adjustments were key in the quarterfinal match against Netherlands. Still, the last time players carried their coach to this extent was in 1998, when Aimé Jacquet did not much to elevate his brilliant France team. Ordinarily, you’d never fire a coach who just won the World Cup, but his players barely congratulated him after they won. If they tell the federation they want him gone, I wonder what will happen between now and next year’s Olympics. The doings in Madrid bear watching.
How did England lose?
It wasn’t close. For once, Coach Sarina Wiegman’s tactics let her down. It’s true that England’s strike partnership of Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo had gotten into a groove, but couldn’t they have started Lauren James as part of a trio up front? And when James came in at halftime, it was for Russo, which makes no sense. On the back end, the Lionesses played with three center backs to match up against the Spanish front three, and it was a fiasco. Mariona Caldentey, Esther González, and Salma Paralluelo (starting for once) were too mobile for England’s Alex Greenwood, Millie Bright, and Jess Carter.
Spare a word for the hosts.
Sam Kerr finally did a Sam Kerr thing when she scored a thunderbastard of a goal against the English in the semis, which will be replayed millions of times by Australia fans. It always gases up a tournament when the host country makes a run deep into the tournament, and Australia’s success has had a seismic impact. The country’s sports culture is full of macho crap (as are sports cultures most everywhere, though it’s different from place to place), and the quarterfinal win over France attracting higher ratings than any Australian TV program in the last 20 years royally pissed off some fans of men’s rugby and Australian rules football. Despite that, the Matildas have attracted some of the respect that was previously reserved for those sports. Respect is great, but the Matildas will now get an additional $200 million in funding as a result of their success. The country can claim a share of the success of the Barbie movie, too.
Who scored the goals of the tournament?
Three of these are the first goals ever scored by their country at the Women’s World Cup.
Honorable mention) Laia Codina (Spain) vs. Spain
I wouldn’t ordinarily put an own goal on this list, but scoring it from the halfway circle is truly special.
10) Lushomo Mweemba (Zambia) vs. Costa Rica
The Copper Queens’ first ever World Cup goal was a neat little first-time volley off a corner kick.
9) Lauren James (England) vs. China
A shot from the D that has eyes on it.
8) Lieke Martens (Netherlands) vs. Vietnam
Mmm, I love a delicious chip.
7) Beatriz Zaneratto João (Brazil) vs. Panama
The ball movement here counts for more than the finish. This is how you expect Brazil to play.
6) Olga Carmona (Spain) vs. Zambia
She scored winners against both Sweden and England, but this wins on aesthetics.
5) Cristiana Girelli (Italy) vs. Argentina
I could watch this majestic looping header over and over. It was a game-winning goal, too.
4) Katie McCabe (Ireland) vs. Canada
What is it about Canada giving up olimpico goals? Anyway, Ireland’s first sure is memorable.
3) Linda Caicedo (Colombia) vs. Germany
Check out her fancy feet and the way she finds just enough space to thread this shot through.
2) Sam Kerr (Australia) vs. England
This ball is still screaming. So are some of the Australia fans.
1) Marta Cox (Panama) vs. France
Kids, study this one. This is how you paint the corner from a free kick.
Who is in your team of the tournament?
I’m so used to putting England’s Lucy Bronze in here, but she was actually pretty meh this tournament.
GK: Zećira Mušović (Sweden)
RB: Lynn Wilms (Netherlands)
CB: Alex Greenwood (England)
CB: Amanda Ilestedt (Sweden)
LB: Steph Catley (Australia)
DM: Katrina Gorry (Australia)
CM: Linda Caicedo (Colombia)
CM: Aitana Bonmatí (Spain)
RW: Salma Paralluelo (Spain)
LW: Mariona Caldentey (Spain)
CF: Eugénie Le Sommer (France)
Bench: Mary Earps (England), Chiamaka Nnadozie (Nigeria); Élisa de Almeida (France), Magdalena Eriksson (Sweden), Naomi Girma (USA), Ashleigh Plumptre (Nigeria); Arianna Caruso (Italy), Hinata Miyazawa (Japan), Jill Roord (Netherlands); Alessia Russo (England), Mary Fowler (Australia), Alexandra Popp (Germany)
Coach: Sarina Wiegman (England)
Are the Saudis taking over world soccer?
Shut up, that’s for next month when I cover soccer transfers. The Olympic soccer tournament starts 11 months from now in Paris. USA and a few other teams will be looking for redemption, while England and Australia can dare to dream of a gold medal. The sport continues to grow. Hope the games have entertained you as much as they have me.