Americans winning games but not plaudits at World Cup
EDMONTON – The United States women’s football team have won gold in the last three Olympics and have never finished out of the top four in the World Cup, winning the tournament twice.
But the women’s game is growing – and changing – at a rapid pace and at this World Cup, the Americans are hardly standing out from the pack.
For some, seeing the U.S eek out results against teams they once would have expected to thrash, is proving difficult to take.
The U.S. beat Colombia 2-0 in the second round to set up a quarter-final with China in Ottawa on Friday and coach Jill Ellis seemed a little irritated to be asked whether she was happy with the way her team were playing.
“This is the World Cup, I am really satisfied with advancing,” she said, before pointing out several positives about her team’s performance.
“I thought we stroked the ball around pretty well at times. So I am pleased with where we are.
But it did not take long for Ellis’ view to be challenged with two-times World Cup winning midfielder Michelle Akers particularly critical in a radio interview on Sirius XM.
“If she is pleased with the way we played tonight then what the hell is she doing coaching our U.S. team?” Akers asked.
Akers said that as one of the golden generation that won the title in 1991 and 1999, she takes it personally when the team appears to be below expectations.
“When we struggle or when, in our opinion, the coach isn’t handling the personnel right, the lineup sucks, the subs are sketchy, we’re not all on the same page … we take it personal because that’s our baby out there.”
The United States beat Australia and Nigeria and drew with Sweden in the group stage but never produced a dominating performance or an exciting one.
And with France playing sparkling, entertaining soccer and Germany looking slick as well as powerful while other teams adopting a more sophisticated passing style, the Americans direct approach, with plenty of high balls to 35-year-old target Abby Wambach, looks a little dated even if it has worked.
The U.S. start as favourites against China on Friday but their opponents appear well set-up to frustrate a long-ball strategy and it could be another tense night for Ellis – and her critics. – Reuters