The National Women's Hockey League is currently in its offseason following its sixth year of play, but things have been anything but normal over the past few weeks. A lot has transpired recently, and it appears as though this could be the tip of the iceberg.
England 3-0 Cameroon
So much happened in this game, much of which wasn't during the run of play and we're not sure that most of it even merits discussing here.
That so many people are refusing to see the role of racism and colonialism in both on-field performance and off-field narratives is baffling, enraging and disheartening. The always-brilliant Brenda Elsey nailed the point on how this game played out.
Way too many folks spend the aftermath of the game praising England for their "poise" or "grace" or for "keeping their cool" all while failing to understand that those words were fraught with racist and classist overtones.
England coach Phil Neville, whose professional and monetary privilege cannot be overlooked in this context, showed himself to be an incredible hypocrite by denouncing the Cameroonian play after crowing about his own unsportsmanlike tactics as a player.
That doesn't even take into account why Neville would have even been asked a question like that in the first place.
England didn't look very good. After Cameroon's goal was called back, it seemed like it might make the Indomitable Lionesses fall apart. Instead, Cameroon had a series of incredibly dangerous chances as England fumbled repeatedly. The Lionesses simply cannot play like this against Norway or their tournament will be over before halftime.
France 2-1 Brazil (extra time)
We're halfway through the Round of 16 and it's clear that none of this is going to come easy. If you thought being a fan during this tournament was going to good for your health, you were incredibly wrong. Anyone who made it through the day without a some sort of vice is a better person than I.
What We Learned:
- France Has To Clean It Up: It just feels like this team hasn't shown all it's capable of. While that could be scary or intimidating for teams that might face them in the quarterfinals or beyond, it also means this team is either not clicking or holding something back. If the knock-out rounds and playing Brazil didn't spark them, what will?
- They Will Cross You Up: Any team that places France and doesn't mark the heck out of their player on a corner or other through ball has no one to blame but themselves. Both French goals came on balls played in from the outside where the Brazil defenders had no idea where their mark was. Valérie Gauvin had nothing but room between two Brazilian defenders to slide in and knock Kadidiatou Diani's cross in. In extra time, it was Amandine Henry who just plain beat Mônica off the line and again had a clear path to net to put the ball home.
- Griedge Mbock Bathy: She was a presence for France on defense the entire game. There didn't seem to be a play in that end that she wasn't involved in. You noticed her nearly the entire game. None of that compares, however, to her game-saving block in the 105th minute. Brazil were on a fast break and Mbock Bathy had Beatriz handled the entire way. She was not going to be a part of the Brazil play. But Mbock Bathy also read the play incredibly well and saw that Debinha forced goalie Sarah Bouhaddi to come out of her net and cut the angle. Debinha shot and beat the goalie, but Mbock Bathy stepped in and made a block on one knee to preserve the tie.
- Valérie Gauvin: The young forward scored a goal that was called back and then scored again to give France the 1-0 lead. She timed a slide perfectly to meet a crossing ball in the six yard box and knock it in. She was in the middle of much of the play in front of the net for France and they'll need more of the team to be that active in the quarterfinal.
- We all really need to own those spotted socks (the dots are actually hexagons to mimic the actual shape of France).
Brazil lost steam as the second half wound down and France won partly because of their strategic use of substitutes. There were questions about Brazil's subs as each happened and as the game went deep into the overtime, France was rejuvenated by their new players while Brazil took some of their most experienced and fittest players off the pitch. That being said, France has to play better if they plan to move past the Round of 16. They have the potential to be more dangerous, but that wasn't on show on Sunday at all.
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Filed under: 2019 women's world cup; soccer; team france; team brazil; team england; team cameroon; griege mbock bathy; valérie gauvin
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