U.S. WNT launch 2012 Olympic campaign with comeback win over France

1 Comment

What’s a U.S. WNT match without some suspense, horrid defending, and heroic interventions from Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan?

The American women clawed out of an early 2-0 deficit and scored four unanswered goals to seal the victory against France in its opening match of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

– Alex Morgan did what Alex Morgan does. The U.S.’s newest superstar helped spring the comeback with her nimble equalizer in the 31st minute. Her second goal was significantly more pedestrian in comparison, as she met Tobin Heath’s squared pass on the goal line.  Her brace today leaves her just one goal shy of reaching the historic 20-goal threshold this year. It’s still only July and she’s barely 23. Scary.

– The U.S. defense had a torrid time in the opening stanza. After just 11 minutes Gaetane Thiney made the most of her unmarked positioning and unleashed a wondrous goal past Solo. France’s second goal arrived after several painfully inept clearance attempts by the U.S. backline. Marie-Laure Delie exploited the disorganization and made her opponents pay. The sudden deficit forced a tactical re-think. The U.S.’s switch to a more direct style helped shore up its defense. Amy LePeilbet’s positioning and 1 v. 1 skills were particularly impressive on the day.

 

– Murphy’s Law looked to be in full effect in the early going. Shortly after France’s flurry of goals, veteran midfielder Shannon Boxx came up lame with a hamstring injury. Carli Lloyd was then summoned from the bench to replace her customary midfield partner. From that moment on, the U.S. abandoned all attempts to play a more ambitious possession game – something the team has honed since the World Cup final – and went back to basics. The reversion to a more direct style of play worked. Morgan’s equalizer came as a result of a punted ball from Hope Solo. The U.S.’s fourth goal materialized from a deep ball from midfield. The long ball ain’t always pretty, but it’s effective.

– French striker Laure-Marie Delie is the prime definition of a goal poacher. Delie’s killer instincts were on full display in Germany last summer. Delie nearly got the best of Solo twice today. Fortunately for the U.S., their no. 1 was just as dialed in.

– As was the case in France’s opening match at the World Cup last summer, Les Bleues failed to hit top gear. There were glimpses of attacking ingenuity, but France were unable to sustain the pressure. One has to imagine the best is yet to come.

– Megan Rapinoe is in the best form of her career right now. Rapinoe ended the day with a pair of assists and helped engineer the U.S.’s other two goals. This comes on the back of an absolutely unstoppable performance against Canada in the team’s most final pre-Olympic friendly. Rapinoe has learned to balance her explosive dynamism with tactical discipline. Her transformation helps make the U.S.’s offense so fearsome.

Final verdict: France looked set to outclass a weary American defense. The U.S. attack – namely Wambach and Morgan – led an inspiring revival that helped galvanize their teammates. France ended up being bullied into submission by the U.S.’s superior physical strength and undisturbed mental focus.

Up next: Colombia on Saturday. A slew of Colombian players were hardly left standing by the time the final whistle blew in their 2-0 loss against North Korea today. An apparent aversion to running contributes to the team’s low fitness levels, as per the TV commentary. That doesn’t bode well for the young Colombians as they got tonked 3-0 by the U.S. the last time the two faced each other in the World Cup last summer. It’s hard to imagine any other result taking place this weekend.

Fabinho admits interest in Manchester United

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

If even a fraction of this summer’s transfer interest is real, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has taken every precaution against his biggest 2017 enemy: scheduled congestion.

Mourinho was a regular critic of United’s schedule last season in the run-up to its UEFA Europa League title win over Ajax, and is building his roster up for the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Saief completes USMNT switch ]

The manager already had plenty of attacking options, and has added Victor Lindelof to his stable of defenders while reportedly flirting with PSG’s Marquinhos, too. Defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic is also a reported target (as are half of the world’s elite footballers).

And now, a wry smile from Monaco’s Fabinho hints that Mourinho may be making progress with another target.

‘‘It’s a tempting invitation. … I would first talk to my agent, Monaco too, to decide everything right. But it’s a great club, sure enough I would think well about it.”

Fabinho played mostly right back in 2014-15 before splitting time between that position and defensive midfielder the following year and seeing most of his time at CDM last season. Mourinho has lavished praise and given a contract extension to right back Antonio Valencia and has Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Paul Pogba at CDM (though the latter can certainly operate higher up the field).

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

Photo by Visual China/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

Photo by Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy/Qatar 2022 via Getty Images
Leave a comment

An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.