Early observations on the 2011 Women's World Cup

By Kevin Koczwara

Last summer I dreamed of covering the Women’s World Cup in Germany. The men’s version had just ended in South Africa and I missed out on that chance. I knew the odds of covering the World Cup in South Africa was a million to one, and I knew that the one in Germany going to be just about that as well. Both for different reasons.

Women’s soccer is often been neglected by the mainstream media. In all the European newspapers I scourer for soccer news on a daily basis, almost none share any information or coverage of the women’s leagues in their respected countries. The American press barely covers soccer at all, so it’s not a surprise it almost completely ignores the women’s game, specifically the WPS, and barely keeps up with the U.S. Women’s National Team, which is ranked No. 1 in the world, by the way. It’s great to see that this Women’s World Cup in Germany has been getting the proper treatment the game and its players deserve from ESPN and the press.

With all of that said, here are some of my observations so far from watching the World Cup.

Marta is really good, but Brazil’s hard-tackling defenders are the story

Marta is the five-time reigning player of the year in Women’s soccer, but Brazil isn’t a threat to anyone if it can’t stop an opponent from scoring. That is where defense comes in hand, and Brazil’s defense is held together by a core of hard-tackling women. The rare 3-4-3 formation puts a lot of pressure on the back three, but Brazil’s defense has showed it can handle that pressure because whoever is back there knows how to challenge and win the ball, which is an understated skill. Marta may be the star, but it’s Brazil’s defense that makes it a threat to win the World Cup. It’s a risk to play just three defenders, but if Marta can keep scoring and putting pressure on the opponents defense, then the system could prove to be the perfect fit for a team that holds nothing back, which is the way everyone dreams Brazil’s men’s team played in South Africa.

Does Arsene Wenger coach Japan?

Japan plays wonderful looking soccer. The teams plays with a flair and skill that other teams in the World Cup dream of, but it all could be for nothing if Japan doesn’t start finishing.

In Japan’s game against Mexico, it lit up the scoreboard with four goals, but it could have had more. Against England, it didn’t deserve to lose. Japan controlled play, owned much of the possession, and had the majority of chances. But, like Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal sides of recent years, the Japanese couldn’t put away chances and at times almost refused to take on shots because the team was looking for the most perfect, beautiful, amazing pass. And that could be Japan’s downfall, just like it’s been Wenger’s shortfall in recent years. England took its chances and scored, and Japan needs to learn to start finishing or else an exit from the World Cup seems imminent.

The Three Lions Syndrome carried over to the women

Expectations are high for the England Women’s team. Expectations don’t rival that of the men’s team, but they’re high nonetheless. And it looks like those expectations could be weighing on the team just as they’ve weighed and suffocated the men. Maybe the English need to take a step back and realize that other countries, many other countries, are better than them, and it’s no fluke. It’s time to come back to earth and realize that countries with larger populations and more skilled players can actually beat the English at their own game. Maybe it’s time for the English media to take a step back and enjoy the ride rather than suffocate the few talented players its national teams have because it looks like its killed any sort of enjoyment from the game. And it shows in the way the national teams carry themselves in the World Cup.

Kevin Koczwara can be reached at Kevin.Koczwara@thesoccerguysonline.com.

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