A few days ago I switched to Eurosport to see whether they were broadcasting any matches from Wimbledon. They weren’t, but instead I happened upon a football match from the Women’s World Cup and have watched pretty much all of them since, or at times at least listened to them, looking when something particularly interesting seemed to be happening, though unfortunately the commentary wasn’t exactly helpful when it came to that.
This reminded me that I also happened to watch some of the Women’s Euro 2005 back then, also after stumbling upon a match by accident. If I recall correctly, it was a pretty sad affair and they were also experimenting with allowing time-outs then, which frankly looked quite silly in a football match. Not as silly as the Italian team looked while playing, however, because they seemed completely clueless, the commentator repeatedly and rightfully asking how and why did such a team end up qualifying and what did such a thing mean for the sport as a whole.
Compared to what I saw six years ago, this time I can really say I’m impressed. Admittedly, with the possible exception of France yesterday, the teams that impressed me were not the European ones, so a direct comparison with what I saw in 2005 is not possible, but it still shows a significant increase in the number of good women’s teams. Though all three lost, New Zealand was a very pleasant surprise in their first match and both African teams were quite interesting as well, but most notable is the level of Asian women’s football, China even failing to qualify. The fact that Australia now competes in the Asian zone is partly responsible for that, but the most notable aspect is how well Japan plays.
Actually, it would appear that women’s football finally got to the point where there is enough competition at the highest level for the traditional favorites to take second stage. Though they all somehow managed to win so far, the way Germany played was a disappointment, while the United States didn’t exactly impress and Norway even less so. On the other hand, as I said, Japan is playing really well, France could obviously be capable of great things and Brazil is showing that they have great players regardless of sex.
There were a couple of pretty nice matches so far and a few more that started in a very spectacular manner, though they later died down. There are teams with good tactics and players with good technique which are interesting to watch, though the goalkeeping is usually quite poor and frequently the finishing is even worse. That made for an unusually low number of goals during the first round of matches, the scores only getting closer to what would be more typical ones for women’s football, particularly when it’s not a match between two favorites, with France’s 4-0 defeat of Canada yesterday and Japan’s defeat of Mexico with the same score just now.
Granted that they still have quite some way to go, the balance reflected by the first round scores often being, as I said, more a result of poor finishing than one of good defending, the misses and the bad decisions made by the strikers being quite shocking at times, but the midfield action is often good and it shows that more and more countries are at least getting to that level. Which is quite amazing in itself, considering that many players aren’t fully professional, having other jobs as well, and some don’t even have teams, so their only recent official matches are their national team ones. Then again, since I heard that the best paid player in the German championship, which is considered the strongest women’s national championship in the world, earns €11000 per month and signed on for an installation fee of €40000, that’s hardly surprising. Most of these girls earn next to nothing from football; some of them probably nothing at all.
Seeing how far these girls are getting with only a tiny fraction of the incentives their male counterparts are used to having, one can only wonder how far they’d be if they’d benefit from even half of that level of attention, or perhaps even just a quarter of it! And why aren’t they getting that? I mean, even though football was originally intended to be just a men’s game, there is no reason why women couldn’t be just as good if given similar chances. Yes, strictly on average, they may need to play a slightly lower number of matches per season and may retire from the highest level slightly earlier, but at the same time, since we’re working with physical development averages, they may start playing at the highest level slightly earlier as well, making for a roughly equal number of years of activity. In addition, based on the same averages, it could be said that women could be more likely to have great technique if offered proper training, finesse usually tending to be associated more with women than with men.
On a related note, I was wondering about the coaches. I’m frequently seeing men coaching women’s teams in various sports, but how often does it happen the other way around? I can’t personally recall of any such case, though I now heard that Canada’s coach, Carolina Morace, very briefly coached an Italian third division team in the past… And then she very quickly resigned, apparently due to very heavy media pressure.
Seeing as she also coached that terrible Italian team at the Women’s Euro 2005, she’s not the best example, but why does that happen in general? I mean, I can understand that a coach of the same sex is preferred, yet I don’t usually see people being surprised and complaining when a women’s team is coached by a man, in fact sometimes considering that to be the preferred scenario, so why is the reverse unacceptable? The two situations seem very similar to me, so if you can find any reason other than simple sexism, do let me know…
I’ll end this here, because the New Zealand vs. England match already started and New Zealand is once again impressing, taking the lead.