Just over a week ago, the United States Women’s National team wrapped up almost a month of great women’s soccer with a 5-2 trouncing of Japan to win the World Cup title.
In between the time when Canada kicked it all off with a 1-0 stoppage time win over China on June 6, there was a ton of great soccer. Colombia came up with the biggest upset of the tournament, beating France 2-0. Nigeria nearly managed to shock everyone by advancing out of the proverbial “Group of Death.” And England had its best ever finish with a third-place showing.
But despite all of those positives and great moments, the tournament didn’t quite live up to the potential it could have. No, it’s not because the Canadians weren’t great hosts, but rather because of — wait for it — FIFA.
Yes, between the artificial surface and the poor to downright awful officiating, the governing body and Sepp Blatter, who called himself the “Godfather of Women’s Soccer,” kept this tournament from being undoubtedly the best tournament ever.
First off is the issue that everyone was talking about for the entire tournament: the artificial surface. While it might not have had a big enough impact for the casual observer, the surface still had a pretty big impact on the matches. There were the odd bounces off the surface that players were not used to. And then there was the heat and the supposed melting of some of the cleats because the surface was so hot. And finally there were the scars from sliding on the artificial turf and the potential allergy issue with England keeper Karen Bardsley, though I don’t think the actual cause was ever found.
But the biggest issue related to turf is the fact that a men’s World Cup would never be played on the fake stuff. When the U.S. hosted the 1994 tournament, they put a grass field atop the artificial surface in the Silverdome. Even in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the U.S. men’s team played on a grass surface over an artificial surface. So instead of a top quality setting, the women were reduced to a less ideal surface which would never happen with the men’s game.
While that’s bad enough, the biggest issue I have is the quality of the officiating in the tournament. I get that the women’s game is still “young” but you can’t convince me that the officiating so far is as good as it’s going to get. I mean every match was hard to watch because of the officiating. From badly missed offsides calls, to poor decisions with the cards and lack of control, it was a massively poor showing for a such a high profile tournament. Every team felt the brunt of the bad officiating, but that doesn’t excuse how bad it was.
And finally, as if FIFA couldn’t come off as more corrupt, they admitted to fixing the brackets and top seeds to get the match ups they wanted. The result was a “Bracket of Death” with the U.S., Germany and France on one side of the knockout round, which FIFA knew was going to happen. Of course, this still could of happened with the usual men’s draw, but to blatantly admit isn’t exactly fair play.
Now the tournament was still pretty well run and the Canadians supported it pretty well and it was a great showcase for the women’s game.
But this tournament was far from perfect and it was all FIFA’s fault. And if they want to start regaining its credibility, they had better treat the game right in four years in France.