Mon July 11, 2011
U.S. Women 'Haven't Won Anything,' Wambach Says; France Is Next
The U.S. women's national team could be forgiven for soaking in the glory of their gut-wrenching win over Brazil in the Women's World Cup quarterfinals. The tight game electrified fans, driving many to parse the game's twists and turns, and it's dramatic final moments, on Twitter.
But Abby Wambach — whose head forcefully redirected a crossing pass from Megan Rapinoe in the 122nd minute to send the game to penalty kicks — says the U.S. team isn't satisfied.
"This isn't good enough," Wambach said in an interview with U.S. Soccer late Sunday. "We haven't won anything. We won a game, and that's it. We want to win the World Cup, and that takes two more games. It's gonna take a really good performance against France, they're a great team, they have many threats."
The semifinals matchup against France is scheduled for Wednesday at noon, ET. The winner will face the survivor of the Japan-Sweden game in the championship match on Sunday, July 17. The losers will play in the third-place game Saturday.
"Obviously, we have two more big games coming up," Wambach said, "but this gives you the kind of confidence that just makes you feel like you can fly. I'm proud to be a part of this."
"We play under pressure," coach Pia Sundhage told U.S. Soccer. "But we embrace that; we like that."
If you missed Sunday's game, here are some highlights:
U.S. Win Over Brazil Nets Big Ratings
Bill Hofheimer of ESPN says that TV ratings for the quarterfinals match between the U.S. and Brazil drew an overnight rating of 2.6 — a result he calls "Awesome!" in his Twitter feed.
To put that number in perspective, this year's French Open final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer also drew a 2.6, which NBC welcomed as a 63 percent rise over last year's match.
And to put it in basketball terms, the match beat the coverage of this year's NBA Draft by 0.1 percent.
The high viewership may be the result of a fairly slow weekend in U.S. sporting news. But a conversation I had with a fellow viewer suggests there may be more to it.
My fellow fan, who is proudly French and fanatically into soccer, said he was surprised at how much he's enjoyed all the Women's World Cup matches he's seen. Asked why, he said that teamwork, strategy and crisp passing have been common. And one thing has been rare, he said, especially compared to the men's game: flopping.
Sure, the Brazilian women often pretended that they weren't used to the strong gravity here on Earth. But the fans hissed and whistled at them furiously for it. And Erika's late fainting spell supplied the stoppage time that allowed Wambach to score a late goal and send it to overtime.
A rival theory holds that viewers were simply relieved to see elite soccer being played without the headache-inducing accompaniment of vuvuzelas, the horns whose drone came to define the men's 2010 World Cup.
A World Cup For Robots
I'm still on the lookout for any prescient cephalopods — like Paul the octopus — making bold and correct predictions of Cup matches. No luck yet, but I did turn up the RoboCup, a soccer competition among robots, which runs concurrently with the Women's World Cup.
This international competition is based in Turkey. But like the World Cup for both male and female players, it's a source of English frustration. As the BBC notes, "The UK's best robot footballers have followed the example of their human counterparts and bombed out of the football World Cup."
The robots play according to rules similar to those that govern FIFA matches, with some adjustments. If you're thinking that means light-amplified weapons, join the club. But no.
"The robots are still a little bit fragile in comparison to humans," Thomas Rofer told the BBC. "So we penalize pushing. A lot."
On the RoboCup site, computer engineering professor H. Levent Akin says that RoboCup began "with a focus on robotic soccer and a goal of having a team of robots having a match with a human team in 2050 and winning."
And RoboCup's goal isn't merely to mark the start of the Machine Overlord era. Since the criteria for playing soccer include a robust physique and a facility for complex analysis, the competition is meant to nurture the development of robotkind.
Who knows, maybe someday there'll be room for a robot in the World Cup — FIFA seems to be on the lookout for the perfect, unimpeachable referee.