Hold that talk on how much progress women’s soccer has made.
The 2011 Women’s World Cup was the most competitive ever, but it is clear that the gap between the good teams and the rest of the bunch has widened. Perceptions – including my own – have been skewed by events such as Mexico upsetting the United States in World Cup qualifying, France making the World Cup semifinals and Japan winning the World Cup.
Sure, there’s a changing of guard at the top. That progress is evident, but what about the teams at the bottom? And the middle?
Friday evening brought the absolute waste of time and embarrassment that was a 14-0 United States victory over the Dominican Republic – and a clear realization that we are not as far along as we thought.
Don’t blame the Americans for scoring or their coach, Pia Sundhage, for being happy. CONCACAF must clearly reassess its commitment (well, lack of it) to women’s soccer. FIFA, too, for that matter. What is actually being done to prevent complete blowouts amongst what are supposed to be the best teams in this region of the world?
Sepp Blatter will walk around trumpeting how great the 2011 Women’s World Cup was and how far the women’s game has come, but after that top, say, 56 – where Equatorial Guinea is ranked – then what? We get an atrocity like Friday night’s game, where the Dominican Republic – the youngest of the eight teams in Vancouver for CONCACAF women’s soccer Olympic qualifying – suffered through a game they were never in.
The Dominican Republic took no lessons from this game. They won’t be watching the game tape to see how they could improve a sequence or better their defensive shape because the players were nothing more than moveable cones for practice. With how badly they were beaten, CONCACAF might have to beg them to even stay in Vancouver for the next four days.
And it’s not their fault they were in that position.
The Americans take nothing from this victory but a possibly Olympic threatening injury to defender Ali Krieger, a mainstay at right back. That and a few records will have to be changed in the 2013 media guide.
Not their fault, either.
It is easy to play the blame game here, but the reform effort has to be ubiquitous. Is this CONCACAF’s fault? Sure, FIFA is higher up the food chain and deserving of blame as well. And how about the federations who commit almost their entire budgets to their men’s programs? Why can’t Mexico – one of the more advanced federations in CONCACAF – even step in and pay to fly to Los Angeles to play two tune-up matches for Olympic qualifiers?
Everyone will sit here in the aftermath of this 14-0 shellacking and tell us who to blame. The blame must be shared from the top down – from FIFA right down to individual federations that do not commit appropriate money or effort to their women’s programs.
Exactly how to better women’s soccer requires more than a knee-jerk reaction to a lopsided affair (by the way, the four games played thus far have ended by a combined score of 27-0). FIFA has some time to really sit down and find a way to make things right before the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which features an expanded field of 24 teams.
Saturday will bring at least one more blowout with Canada playing Cuba, and then the U.S. can run all over Guatemala on Sunday night. That is not to blame Canada, the U.S. or even Mexico for being far superior sides. The U.S. has a point to prove after nearly failing to qualify for the World Cup and that statement was heard loud and clear on Friday. Players should not have to take it easy on an inferior opponent.
But players also should not be subjected to games such as this, where one team is demoralized and the other could gain more from a training session. Pitting these teams against each other is pointless without some sort of assistance and direction for the minnows. All it does is bring negative attention nd further risk for serious injury like we may have seen Friday in the case of Krieger.
Right now there are a lot of questions to be asked. I won’t claim to have all the answers, but surely there is teams can be more competitive than this.
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