USA need penalties to edge past a brazen Spain

27 Jun

I had not been able to watch a full Spain match in real time until this one and wow. Worth. The. Wait. Watching Spain move in blocks around the field to stifle the US attack was grin-inducing. They showed so brilliantly a concerning issue with the US team: if they can’t stay in their predetermined lane they waffle and scramble and neutralize themselves into partial paralysis.

Here is the statistic to prove it: the US had 0 shots on target the whole match. ZERO. Their first string A-team managed 0 shots. The counterbalance of this is that Spain committed 14 fouls (if not more). But that’s how it goes. You can’t impede an attack without turning most of the pages in the defensive handbook. Nor can you exploit a defense without turning most of the pages in the offensive handbook.

Moving on, I’m not keen on giving press to Barca but this is true –

I’ll give us some press too. Word broke on Twitter Monday that Real Madrid would FINALLY have a women’s football team. This guy was smartly representing at the match.

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I wrote about Jessica McDonald in my USA v Chile recap; here’s a lovely update for you:

Pre-match festivities

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Match overview

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Location: Stade Auguste-Delaune, Reims
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Referee: Katalin Kulcsár (Hungary)
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Match details

Ohhh baby, this was going to be good. And not because Lindsey Horan got benched. I would have put her there too. One more yellow card and she would have missed the quarter-final so why take the chance?

It was going to be good because Vicky Losada looked prime to lead after not pulling a whole lot of minutes in the group stage. Not as many as I expected anyway. She’s fantastic and I forgive her for playing at Barca like so many of the Spanish team. For now.

And it was Losada who got the action started. She headed down the left, losing her marker Kelley O’Hara before whipping in a cross to no one. But the ball wasn’t cleared and Becky Sauerbrunn got an up-close and personal view of it thanks to Patri(cia) Guijarro. Learn this name; she’s going to be huge for Spain in the next few years.

By my count Morgan had gone down off the ball twice in about five minutes. Good fouls? Bad fouls? *Shrugs*

Abby Dahlkemper got the ball and sent it in to Tobin Heath who made to cut back only to tripped up by Mapi (María Pilar) León’s leg. Penalty!

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Captain for the day Megan Rapinoe stepped up as a captain should and sent Sandra Paños the wrong way. 1-0 USA.

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That’s great and all but Mapi has some fierce looking tattoos. So great to see sleeves on a female football player for a change. The one on her neck apparently translated as “looks can be deceiving.” Mmm.

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Here’s another little tidbit – León was the first paid transfer in the history of the Spanish women’s game. How much? €50,000. SMFH.

SMFH was maybe what Jill Ellis was doing on the bench two minutes later. Some stupendously sloppy defensive work at the back saw keeper Alyssa Naeher play the ball to Sauerbrunn who was under pressure from Lucía García. García easily nipped the ball away and played it over to Jennifer Hermoso who took full advantage. 1-1.

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DELICIOUS! This is why we watch football!

Sam Mewis and Losada collided with the latter going down. Losada took the brunt of it and was checked over by the medical team. She did not look fully stable getting back up but continued on.

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At the 13′ Rapinoe was threaded a great throughball by Rose Lavelle. She aimed at the near post but was denied by a diving Paños.

Heath got into the box and played the ball to Rapinoe who saw her shot blocked by León. Mewis tried to get Alex Morgan into the match with a cross in front of the goal but Morgan couldn’t get to it. Mewis tried again but the pass bounced away and out.

O’Hara got herself the ball and sent it in front of goal for Julie Ertz to send over the crossbar. That makes it sound like it was planned. I don’t think it was.

25 minutes in and the commentator said that the US led in passes by like 90 to 30. Yeah, I believed it.

More sloppy defensive work by the US. Crystal Dunn passed the ball back to Naeher who then sent her clearance into García who just wasn’t quick enough to capitalize.

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Spain then sent a long ball through for García who got past the defense and forced Naeher to come off her line and head it away. Spain then tried a similar tactic with Alexia Putellas forcing Naeher to come off her line again and collect.

I think Spain got the memo on who the potential biggest weak link is for the US.

Rapinoe went down under no challenge. Morgan went down under … I don’t know. I just saw her there.

Early substitution for Spain. With a heavily swollen eye, Losada was removed for Nahikari García. I don’t know how she managed to play twenty minutes with an injury like this. She was absolutely gutted. Me too. 😢

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Yellow card to Rapinoe in the 37th minute. She was having a horrible time on the wing thanks to Marta Corredera and decided to showed her lack of affection with a hand to Corredera’s face.

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That’s a serious no-no, even if the resulting reaction had some, umm, unnecessary dramatic flair. I’ve never been slapped in the face but in the movies the person doesn’t flop … I mean, fall down.

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But hey, I get to write about another player being booed by the opposition every time they touch the ball. Yay me. But not really.

Virginia Torrecilla went down after an ouch-inducing stretch to deflect a cross out for a corner. The medical team assessed her and she was good to continue. Honestly, I think I felt that stretch too.

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Three minutes of added time. Irene Paredes fouled Morgan who, along with Rapinoe, immediately lobbied the referee for a yellow card. No, said the ref. The resulting free-kick from Rapinoe was poooooooor.

Half-time: USA 1 – Spain 1

What did you do at half-time? I checked my work email for all the work I’m missing while doing this work. I am just as exciting as you’ve never thought me to be.

On went the second half and more off the ball fouls with Heath going down after battling Torrecilla in a sliding race for a loose ball.

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Heath got back up only for Morgan to fall down after colliding with Paredes. Then she was down again a minute later. And then again a couple of minutes after that. I think she may have spent more time down than she did up.

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The rest of her team was still playing with Lavelle sending a ball to Heath who put it over again.

Tired of Morgan, Paredes decided to take aim at O’Hara on the edge of the penalty box. Good tackle? Maybe a bit of a foul?

Sixty minutes in and Lavelle decided to have a go herself. Just over the crossbar. It was soooo close.

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Spain’s high line was working wonders at directing the ball everywhere but the goal. USA fans on twitter were all in a tizzy by this point lamenting the thought they could lose. La vache!

Guijarro dribbled through to the penalty area and played in a pass-shot or a shot-pass to the back post that went just wide. Ohhhh.

Another Spain long ball went up for Lucía García and her volley kick kept it up.

71′ and Lavelle went down in the box after Torrecilla caught her leg out. Penalty!

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Th Spanish players argued vehemently with the referee and rightfully so. It took like two minutes or such for the referee to get the VAR tap and for the referee to show us an all familiar gesture . For people who are following the match closely on a bajillion screens, VAR be slow.

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It did look very soft, like a dive soft. Not okay with this verdict.

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Morgan stepped up first but stepped aside for Rapinoe during the VAR review. Curious, curious. 2-1 USA.

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Collision in the box with 10 minutes to go between Naeher and Torrecilla. Both were able to continue. Well, one was anyway. Torrecilla wasn’t able to shake off the effects and was subbed for Mariona Caldentey soon after.

Paredes for yellow please! I like Paredes but she was wild out there. After another heavy tackle, this time on Rapinoe, the referee pulled a yellow card on her.

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Maybe it was a farewell gift for Morgan who was finally substituted at the same time for Carli Lloyd. What a clanger of match she had. Before the tournament started mygypsyspirit asked ForzaSusan and me if she was the only American who thought Morgan was overrated. The answer today was – NO.

I did question Ellis bringing on a poacher then I remembered Lloyd is decent enough at defending so two birds, one Carli. Horan was brought on to finish out the match too. I did wonder if the timing of this substitution was related to Paredes getting the yellow and being somewhat nullified. Hmmm.

Seven minutes of added time. There was a whole bunch of fouling happening now. I didn’t take notes so just imagine it.

Hermoso dribbled into the box and tried cutting it back through the penalty area but the defense was on it right away. Yes, you read that right. Rapinoe being Rapinoe got one last taunt in on Corredera who responded by giving away a free-kick. Everyone has their own bag of dirty tricks; this is just one of Rapinoe’s.

Spain banged in a last long ball for Paredes who tried shooting but went down and then demanded a penalty call. No, said the ref. It’s called karma, Irene.

Final score: USA 2 – Spain 1
HB & HB Player of the Match: Marta Corredera SPN
VISA Player of the Match: Megan Rapinoe USA

Final thoughts

The best news for all of you is that I don’t have many further thoughts on the US. It’s not really news that the US lack creativity. They’ve been like this for quite awhile but the situation has not been as magnified as it is now. Perhaps it is because Jill Ellis is not the most dynamic manager. Perhaps it is because all the players are based in the NWSL which is pretty much a one-trick pony league regardless of the players they import from other countries. *shrugs shoulders*

Dhalkemper was not bad in a defense that was in turns poor and not as poor. Morgan was ineffectual and perhaps Pugh would have been a better option here. Rapinoe had a woeful match and that’s down to Corredera who had an excellent match.

Hahaha – they hugged it out at the end.

I don’t know where the US goes from here except to the quarter-finals. They don’t have the nuance to spin a new strategy. They’re going to have to grind to get results against a team in France and perhaps a pull page or two from Spain’s playbook.

As for Spain, where do Spain go from here? Only forward. They have so many strong young players in Guijarro, Aitana Bonmatí, María Pilar León, and both Garcias. I particularly have my eye on Guijarro; potential best in the World candidate there. Losada, Paredes, and Hermoso will likely be around for another World Cup but even if not the team’s future is blinding. It helps that these young players benefited from Jorge Vilda during his Spain U-17 and U-19 days. Such camaraderie is always a benefit.

I loved seeing just how far Spain have come in 5 years. From their leap onto the World Stage in 2015 to the player revolt that toppled the team’s horrendous governance to the recent dominance of the U-17 and U-19 teams in Europe it has all been electrifying. And so much of all this is down to Vero Boquete in some fashion.

For all that she’s done on the field, Boquete’s legacy will be tied to having broken through so many inequality barriers for female footballers off the field so that this next generation of players–those on an actual pitch and those playing via a game console–can reap the rewards.

Unfortunately, there is always a cost for the outspoken ones. Boquete has not had a good time of it since 2015, bouncing around from team to team and country to country and her playing level as dropped. She’s been blackballed from the national team by Jorge Vilda and the federation. It’s unlikely we’ll see her in national colours again but what an impact she had while she was wearing them.

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– Teri

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