USA vs. France: How Women's World Cup 2011 could be game-changer
The USA vs. France match in the Women’s World Cup Wednesday marks a clash between the old guard and one of the upstart nations that could reshape the game of women's soccer.
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And that future could look a lot different than anything that has come before.
The American team is, in many ways, pleasantly familiar to those who might have taken a 12-year siesta from women’s soccer. Like the US women of 1999, the women of 2011 are strong, they are fierce, they are athletic, and their will to win could be measured on the Richter scale.
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So raw and visceral is goalkeeper Hope Solo’s determination that it would seem she needs to be kept in a cage between matches.
In France, however, the US will be facing a team with a completely different competitive DNA. They aspire to be artistes in the truest French tradition – sculptors of goals, divas of defense.
And of all the developments in an already-historic World Cup, this surely is among the best: The hegemony of a few teams dominating the game is ebbing away as more countries around the world embrace the women’s game. As a result, a new class of countries has the opportunity to leave their mark on the sport, increasingly bringing the intoxicating potpourri of national styles that seasons the men’s game into women's soccer, too.
Both Wednesday’s semifinals will pit the old versus the new order.
In game No. 1, the US represents the robust style that has dominated women’s soccer since the inception of the World Cup in 1991 – a sort of soccer Darwinism in which only the fitter, faster, and stronger thrives. The French style, in some respects, is a repudiation of that world view, slowing the action down and looking to open opposing defenses through more subtle interplay and greater on-the-ball skills.
Wednesday is a potential hinge-point in women’s soccer – a moment when teams playing in ways unfamiliar to the women's game could overturn those who have set the standard for more than a generation.
Brazil began the revolution eight years ago when it introduced the sport to samba football, in which soccer becomes a 90-minute carnival. Japan took another step when it ousted world No. 1 Germany in the quarterfinals last weekend. And now France and Japan will try to complete that revolution and become the last teams left standing.