2015 World Cup

Men in Blazers podcast: Previewing the Women’s World Cup with Heather O’Reilly

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Rog and Davo are joined in the Panic Room by USWNT veteran Heather O’Reilly to talk about the Women’s World Cup, the team’s mindset heading in, and, of course, the HAO Game Face.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Follow them on Twitter @MenInBlazers, and find Rog at @rogbennett and Davo at @embassydavies.

FIFA: Offers to lay down natural grass for free didn’t fit the bill (but come on…)

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The latest salvo in the battle between FIFA and some of the top women’s players in the world comes from the world’s governing body, and it lands with a thud.

Abby Wambach claimed last week that FIFA rejected offers for “free grass” to be laid at World Cup venues this summer. Wambach is the leader of a group of players who claim FIFA’s refusal to replace the artificial turf at World Cup venues amounts to discrimination. The group dropped its lawsuit in January.

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This week, FIFA admitted that the grass offers came in, but were turned away because they only covered the game pitches, not the 18 training pitches.

Because, you know, there aren’t any other suitable grass practice fields in all of Canada, and FIFA doesn’t have the money to meet the free offer with help.

From the Associated Press:

The governing body, based in Zurich, maintained that Canada’s bid for the event included the artificial turf, which FIFA accepted on the condition it met competition standards.

“The contact (with the natural grass companies) was informal and didn’t include any range of price for any service,” FIFA said in the statement Monday. “The proposals were for the official stadia only and not for the various training sites (18 in total) to allow the players to train on a consistent surface throughout the tournament.”

FIFA changed its rules in 2004 to allow sanctioned matches on certain artificial surfaces. A few games at the 2010 men’s World Cup in South Africa were played on grass that had been reinforced by artificial fibers.

FIFA rules also state that all matches and practices for the World Cup must be held on the same surface. Canada’s bid for the event stipulated that the final be played on an artificial field at BC Place in Vancouver.

Oh, so they were informal. No need to explore it further then. Seems like if someone informally offered FIFA $400 billion, they might explore it further.

While the science behind turf being more dangerous than natural grass is within question, there’s no question FIFA’s answer to Wambach’s claim is weak. While there’s a decent case to be made that the science behind the claims is far from exact — and some studies have even backed FieldTurf as equal — “Yeah but the practice fields” isn’t a shining excuse for FIFA.

And we’re talking about an issue that has reportedly led to FAs threatening the suing players with their World Cup rosterslots, though, so we won’t be acting surprised at FIFA’s lazy reasoning.

Rapinoe takes aim at FIFA, artificial turf and (passive aggressively) Canada in Players’ Tribune post

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United States women’s national team star Megan Rapinoe is hyped for World Cup, not so much for the turf, and pretty much conceding that anything is possible for this summer’s tournament in Canada.

In a sprawling piece entitled “5 Reasons to Get Hyped for The 2015 Women’s World Cup“, the USWNT’s energetic and dynamic veteran provides an interesting read on the mindset of the Yanks heading into the tourney.

If you wanted to be positive, you’d read this as a letter from a veteran player who doesn’t want to drop the turf debate but is incredibly fired up to rep her country in an effort to bring the World Cup back to the United States.

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If you wanted to be negative, you’d read this as a letter that tells you how hard it is to win the World Cup, that the turf could really harm the better teams’ chances at surviving, and that really a lot the teams can win the thing.

But, Rapinoe, being one of the best personalities in the game, she brings a great zest to her story. And her take on the Canada rivalry is not only spot-on, it’ll make you want the tourney to start pronto.

From The Players’ Tribune:

So, Canada doesn’t like us very much. The U.S. Men’s National Team has Mexico. We have Canada. Personally, I don’t hate them, but I can understand why they’re still mad about the “delay of game” call on their keeper that sparked our crazy comeback win in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics. They thought the penalty was B.S., and looking back, maybe it wasn’t the most deserved penalty. But it wasn’t like the game was 1-0. We scored three other goals, plus the goal in extra time. Still, I can understand why they feel hard-done by the call.

The tension of the rivalry has been building since that game, and I feel like it’s fueling them going into the World Cup. Tactically, when they play us, their mentality is, “We’re going to do whatever we have to do to win. The gloves are off.”

To recap: After a little, “Yeah, your nation was cheated, Canada”, Rapinoe drops a passive-aggressive, “You only stick with us in games by fouling the heck out of us” jab.

It’s also worth noting that they scored four total goals, not five as Rapinoe’s math states. And that the “craziness” of the comeback is due almost solely to the almost never called foul on Erin McLeod. But Rapinoe was an absolute beast in that match, so we suppose she can say whatever she wants.

Bring on the World Cup.

Sepp Blatter calls himself the “godfather of women’s soccer”

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Sepp Blatter believes he is the “godfather” of women’s soccer. What else did we really expect?

FIFA’s long-time president has been speaking to BBC World Service radio, in an interview which was broadcast on Thursday, about the upcoming Women’s World Cup in Canada this summer.

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In that interview Blatter admitted that the women’s game is still lagging behind the men’s game but that the 2015 World Cup could be a major turning point in its popularity.

“Women’s football must market itself. It’s a product and the product must have quality,” Blatter said. “Now it’s up to the ladies in this World Cup to show that it’s a great event because the television coverage will be done exactly like the FIFA World Cup.”

Blatter then went on to reminisce about his role in women’s soccer since he took charge of FIFA in 1998. It’s safe to say that Sepp believes he has been pretty influential in shaping the women’s game but admitted there is still plenty of work to do.

“I consider myself a little bit as a godfather of the organization of women’s football in FIFA,” Blatter said. “Women’s football is still limping a little bit behind. Men’s football should share with women’s football to get new partners for women’s football. It is not easy because the market is focused on men’s football.”

This kind of comment from Blatter, 79, may be used to remind everyone out there exactly what he has achieved during his 17 years in charge of world soccer’s governing body. In case you had forgotten, Blatter is the favorite to be re-elected for a fifth-term as FIFA’s president on May 29 during its presidential elections in Zurich.

Also, in case you had forgot, Blatter previously said things like “any ladies in this room? Say something ladies! You are always speaking at home. Now you can speak here,” during a FIFA congress in Mauritius in 2013 and was correctly lambasted for his sexist comments. Sure, Blatter and FIFA has done a lot to improve the women’s game and that will be evident this summer in Canada as the largest-ever Women’s World Cup will take place with 24 teams competing for the first time.

But should he walk around calling himself the “godfather” of women’s soccer at FIFA? Probably not. Then again, Sepp usually does what he wants…

Look out, Lothar and Gigi: Sawa set to snap record for World Cup appearances with six

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Homare Sawa is slated to do what no one has ever done.

The 36-year-old Japanese star was named to her sixth World Cup roster on Friday, becoming the first person to need another hand to count their appearances.

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Three men — Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal, Germany’s Lothar Matthaeus and Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon — and four other women have made five tournaments.

Sawa currently sits with Kristine Lilly (U.S.), Bente Nordby (Norway), Miraildes Maciel Mota ‘Formiga’ (Brazil), and Birgit Prinz (Germany) as women to appear in five World Cups.

From EqualizerSoccer.com:

Sawa’s appearances with Japan have been limited of late, creating some doubt that she would be a part of Japan coach Norio Sasaki’s plans this year. She did not travel with the team to the all-important Algarve Cup, an annual tournament that in World Cup years serves as a miniature tune-up to the main event.

Sasaki says Sawa earned her place back into the team.

“I haven’t picked her for experience alone,” Sasaki told reporters. “She’s been selected to make the team stronger and to bring more tactical awareness. I’ve seen her play for (club side) Kobe and she puts her body on the line, and is focused for the full 90 minutes. With Sawa’s essence added, the team becomes more powerful.”

Sawa has 196 caps, and has scored 82 goals for Japan. She netted the 117th minute equalizer against the United States in 2011 World Cup, a goal that sent the match to penalty kicks and Japan to the winner’s circle. Sawa was the top scorer in the tournament, and named its best player.

Japan is in Group C with Switzerland, Ecuador and Cameroon.