Netherlands became the first team since England in 1995 to win its maiden match at the Women’s World Cup. Two more countries will kick off their World Cup careers Sunday. They figure to have it far more difficult than Netherlands did.
Almost everyone views Thailand as the weakest team at the World Cup after they barely beat Vietnam to qualify, and that only after North Korea was banned from the tournament. But they are here and ready to go and starting in the deep end against Norway, who are not only experienced but physical.
Norway beat Germany in group play two years ago at the Euros and have their eyes on doing it again (Germany returned the favor in the final), so they’ll have to be careful not to look ahead. Anything but a comfortable Norway win would be a major upset.
The nightcap should be similar to the first match. Germany are among the favorites to win it all while Ivory Coast are something of a mystery team out of Africa with little to speak of in major tournaments. They do have Ida Guehai, who has torn up the domestic league but remains mostly untested against the top flight of women’s soccer.
Germany are still trying to wade through the injury absences of Luisa Wensing and Nadine Kessler (among others), neither of whom are on the roster. A soft group could offer them the needed time to work out the kinks, starting here. Ivory Coast preaches a possession, team-style of play so they will likely try to play deliberately to keep the match close.
Aston Villa rues waste in scoreless draw at 10-man Leeds
Villa a mess in the final third: Wow. To watch Aston Villa is to see a team in control of the midfield — Douglas Luiz was sublime on Sunday — but there are too many individuals in the final third. Philippe Coutinho was lively but if has to score if the attack is going to be all about him. The same came be said about Emiliano Buendia, while Ollie Watkins and (then) Danny Ings aren’t getting much service. Villa’s xG going into the game was the second-worst in the Premier League and they are still underperforming it.
Leeds will take something from this: Tyler Adams, Robin Koch, and the exceptional Illan Meslier held down the fort for nearly a full half with 10 men. By the 70th minute it was clear this was going to be all about an away point unless the counterattack could help Leeds to a goal. And there was a chance for that, but there’s no reason to be frustrated by the point (although Brenden Aaronson should’ve had a penalty when his ankle was kicked while taking a shot. The strength of what he did manage likely led to the VAR inaction, incorrectly).
The red card, as it tends to do, changed the game completely and Leeds was hanging on for the final whistle. Marsch, from his seat in the stands, sanctioned the removal of Rodrigo, Jack Harrison, and eventually Brenden Aaronson to join the ejected Sinisterra. Villa controlled the midfield through a superb Douglas Luiz but could not find a way past a stellar Illan Meslier as Junior Firpo, Luke Ayling, and Mateusz Klich reinforced the defense at the back end.
As expected under Marsch, Leeds have taken a high-volume approach to their tactics — lots of pressing and challenges, lots of counter-attacking and lots of scoring chances created. Their 1.57 expected goals (per 90 minutes) ranks 7th in the Premier League. Leeds haven’t played a game (in any competition) since Sept. 3, one day shy of a month come Sunday, due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the ensuing fixture postponements. Leading goal-scorer Rodrigo remains out with a shoulder injury, but the Spaniard could be back in the next week or two.
Goal-scoring has been a major issue thus far for Aston Villa, who have scored multiple goals in a game just once this season. Six different players have scored a goal, but no one has scored two. Unsurprisingly, Steven Gerrard’s side sits 19th in the PL for xG (0.76 per 90).
Erik ten Hag reaction after Manchester derby blowout loss.
Ten Hag says he told the players that what he saw at the game was a matter of disbelief.
Some early post-match video seems to have reinforced his thoughts.
“Lack of belief,” Ten Hag said. “I have seen some highlights. It was obvious we are defending not on the front foot, we let them play. In possession, we were not brave enough, made tactical mistakes, decision mistakes, and then you get hammered.
“They showed against Liverpool and Arsenal: When they perform as a team, when they bring the belief on the pitch, starting individual, we will show them and you cannot deny. In the last five games, we bring that attitude on the pitch, a strong belief, convincement, we bring opponents problems. Today, it was the other way around.”
“It’s normal in our process that pattern has to go up and I think I see clearly it goes up and we have setbacks during that process and we have to learn from it but point it clearly out. We can walk away from it but if we do it we won’t get the solution. So we will do it, we will be very clear and we have to move on and carry on to the next game.”
City beats a lot of teams by a lot of goals. United’s resolve to keep fighting while being, essentially, clobbered by their derby rivals should say something to the boss. But Ten Hag wants better and he says he sees what’s wrong.
In a separate interview, Ten Hag claimed that Sunday’s 4-0 start was different to the same score line posted by Brentford against Manchester United over 45 minutes.
“This is definitely different. We didn’t run there. We wanted to today but didn’t follow the priniciples. It was a lack of belief. I will show the team that we could have been front-footed. We win the ball then give it away for the first goal. We take wrong decisions in the transition afterwards. We don’t follow the rules so we are undisciplined. It cannot happen. It is unacceptable.
“It is a process. It is one game. Maybe against other teams the problems would not come but against Manchester City they will. I want to change the head and attitude from the team. There was a reaction in the second half. We were more brave and scored three goals. Only from mistakes you learn.”
Ten Hag was criticized for his team selection in some parts — this writer included — but convincing the players there were spaces to go toe-to-toe with City will require a real Masterclass. Maybe he should tape the tape!
He’s a heck of a manager and a good bet to fix what ails United, but Ten Hag surely knows that his Manchester United was not set up to succeed on Sunday. That makes twice early this season, as the growing pains continue at Old Trafford but the silver linings are present as well.
Wolves improved their point total from 2020-21 to 2021-22, but the Portuguese boss has overseen a poor start to the 2022-23 Premier League season despite purchases of Goncalo Guedes, Nathan Collins, and Matheus Nunes.
Wolves also bought Stuttgart striker Sasa Kalajdzic, who has since torn his ACL, and the club has failed to manufacture offense at almost every turn.
The club fell 2-0 to West Ham on Saturday and has scored just three goals this season. Wolves sit 18th on the Premier League table, and visit Chelsea on Saturday.
Lage firmed up Wolves’ defending last season but his attack has struggled as Raul Jimenez hasn’t reached pre-injury heights and Adama Traore’s been often kept on the bench in favor of a more defensive stance.
Traore is one of the possible beneficiaries of a change, as both Espirito Santo and Lage stripped him of regular starter status but did not sanction a sale for the solid speedster.
Lage played five at the back for much of last season but went to four this season and also tooled around with a three-man back line.
There are some very good pieces for a new manager, who still has Ruben Neves, Pedro Neto, Max Kilman, Collins, and Rayan Ait-Nouri amongst the admired players on the squad.
“He and his staff have been a pleasure to work with throughout their time at Wolves, so it is with much sadness that we have had to make what has been a difficult decision.
“I honestly have no doubts about Bruno’s ability, and I’m sure he will succeed elsewhere, however the team’s form and performances over the last few months mean that we have no choice but to act.
“On behalf of everyone at Wolves, I would like to place on record our gratitude to Bruno and his coaching team for all their efforts during their time with the club, and wish them the very best for the future.”
We’re entering new territory when it comes to grading anything that has to do with Manchester City, making Man City vs Manchester United player ratings a real hassle.
As bad as Manchester United was in going down five goals en route to a 6-3 loss at the Etihad Stadium, there’s something about the sheer style, grace, and systematic presence of Man City that demands a curve.
David De Gea allowed six goals and it’s a challenge to say he should’ve stopped more than one of them. Antony was United’s star and the fact that he’s done it against a system that challenges attackers makes you want to push him up a notch.
Mostly the Manchester City vs Manchester United player ratings beg you to consider if you’re watching the start of one of the very best seasons to ever be put onto the pitches of the Premier League.
Manchester City vs Manchester United player ratings
These are not going to be kind to the visitors.
Manchester City player ratings
Ederson: 6 — Yes, three goals conceded (one a penalty) but he’s so important to how Pep Guardiola wants to play as evidenced by his 78 touches and 88 percent passing rate.
Kyle Walker (Off 41′): 6 — Had little to do, relatively speaking, before leaving with a left leg injury.
Nathan Ake: 6 — Not a terrible day but you feel better when he’s on the left of the defense rather than central.
Manuel Akanji: 8.5 — Could City have added a better fit? Akanji passes supremely well and is brave when dangers comes his way.
Joao Cancelo: 7.5 — Seven recoveries in a different and perhaps just as important role than his usual marauding self.
Bernardo Silva: 8 — How old that another Silva has replaced David as City’s somehow underappreciated but clearly world class star?
Ilkay Gundogan (Off 75′): 7 — Sunday’s captain didn’t have to do too much.
Kevin De Bruyne (Off 75′): 8 — Two assists and three shots.
Jack Grealish (Off 75′): 8 — Oh boy was he a pest from moment No. 1. Terrific day for the former Villa star.
Erling Haaland: 10 — What looked like a near-perfect fit is turning out to be a perfect fit. What was anyone doubting, anyway: That a gigantic beast of a man didn’t know how to pass?
Phil Foden (Off 75′): 10 — A hat trick on six shots, four of which were on target. Twenty-one of 22 passes completed over 75 minutes. You could argue that Foden has the chance to be Pep Guardiola’s great development if the Catalan wizard didn’t help produce Messi.
Sergio Gomez (On 41′): 7 — An assist but a bit too rash with the ball. Still, reassuring to see a new player make such a difference.
Cole Palmer (On 75′): 6 — 20-year-old connected all six of his passes and created a good look to goal, but was out there for two conceded.
Riyad Mahrez (On 75′): — 6
Aymeric Laporte (On 75′): 5.5
Manchester United player ratings
David De Gea: 4 — His expected goals on target was under three, so there’s that, but it’s hard to fault the Spanish keeper for not depriving more than one of City’s six goals. Just two saves, however.
Tyrell Malacia (Off 46′): 4.5 — A halftime sacrifice on a yellow card, was far from the biggest culprit but not great.
Raphael Varane (Off 41′): 5 — Blocked a shot and connected on all of his passes. The extent of his injury could badly set United’s plans back.
Lisandro Martinez: 3.5 — A dreadful day for the physical center back
Diogo Dalot: 3 — Too many crosses found their way to the other side of the pitch. He was a part of both ends of that.
Scott McTominay (Off 59′): 5 — A busy, busy boy. That was likely due to Erik ten Hag’s choice to deploy Christian Eriksen next to him against the best possession team in the world. A goal line clearance, a blocked shot, an interception, and four tackles.
Christian Eriksen: 4 — Created chances and picked up an assist, but really wasn’t the right fit for what Ten Hag was attempting to do at the Etihad.
Antony: 7.5 — Quite good, scoring a beauty and showing fire over 90 minutes despite the lopsided score line.
Bruno Fernandes: 5.5 — The system was a big part of his struggles, and it will be as long as a Casemiro or Fred isn’t out there; For Bruno to be near his best, he needs the freedom that will open up holes in the midfield.
Jadon Sancho (Off 70′): 5 — Seven recoveries on just 37 touches. System didn’t play to his strengths.
Marcus Rashford (Off 59′): 5 — Twelve touches in almost an hour as the center forward in a 4-2-3-1. Can’t really put that on him, can you?
Victor Lindelof (On 41′): 45 — Actually performed extremely well with the ball. Compared to peers’ days… hard to gripe with the Swede.
Luke Shaw (On 46′): 4.5 — Suffice it to say he didn’t fix what ailed United from the first half.
Anthony Martial (On 59′): 7.5 — A difference-making sub (unfortunately the difference was a three-goal loss instead of a five-goal loss).
Casemiro (On 59′): 6 — If Erik ten Hag could back and start one player, we bet it would be Casemiro. His insertion wasn’t going to save the day but his start could’ve given them a platform to play forward with more confidence.
Fred (On 70′): 6.5 — Tidy and in-control, likely a good-enough showing to merit a longer look.