It's been a pleasure hearing so many women's voices coming from the announcer's booth during this World Cup. Perhaps my favorite is Daniella López Guajardo. My viewing is erratic because of the time zone difference, but I think she is the only woman doing play-by-play in Spanish (there are lots of women doing color commentary, and there are some fine women doing PBP in English). López Guajardo has the enthusiasm of the best Spanish-language announcers, as can be seen/heard in this recap of the great Germany-Colombia match:
In 2002, I struggled to watch all of the matches in the World Cup, because it was played in Japan and South Korea, so most of the matches took place in the middle of the night in Berkeley. I did what I could.
Now it's 2023, and the Women's World Cup is being held in Australia and New Zealand, and the same problem occurs. Probably the biggest difference is that I am now 70 years old, not 49, and while the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. So I've only seen a few complete matches live, relying instead on highlight reels and radio broadcasts (where I inevitable fall asleep).
So I have little to say about the tournament, because I am experiencing it in a cut-and-paste way.
Here's are the highlights from Panama-Jamaica, wherein Jamaica picked up their very first World Cup win:
Where were the subs?
Set aside questions about Vlatko Andonovski's selection of a starting eleven. In the particular cases of Rose Lavelle and Megan Rapinoe, there are still worries about their ability to play for 90 minutes (well, Rapinoe isn't expected to play 90, no matter what). And while it seems to some that Andonovski has people playing in uncomfortable positions, there have been injuries that he has to fill.
But at halftime, the U.S. was down to the Netherlands, 1-0. The Dutch were dominating possession, and although the Americans had a big advantage in shots taken, only 2 of their 9 were on target. No U.S. player, outside of Lindsey Horan, was having a good game.
So, as everyone expected, Rose Lavelle came on to start the second half. As usual, Lavelle was a bright spot. In the 62nd minute, Lavelle assisted on a goal by Horan to equalize.
There were tired players out there on both sides. Andries Jonker ended up making a total of 4 subs for the Netherlands, and they didn't have great games, but at least they had the proverbial fresh legs. Meanwhile, on the American side, Trinity Rodman's game got progressively worse, and it was hard not to believe it was because she was tired. The entire vaunted front line of Rodman, Alex Morgan, and Sophia Smith looked a bit under their best. But Andonovski made no further subs after bringing on Lavelle, who among other things offered a sense of what some fresh players might do to help the team.
And so, the match ended 1-1, a result that will likely send both teams into the knockout rounds. The U.S. is still atop the table. But the stalwarts of the American team are not getting much rest, so far, and that may work against them as the tournament gets into the later rounds.
There is a lot of soccer going on right now. The World Cup continues to be a difficult watch here in the Pacific Time Zone. I got to watch the USA-Vietnam match, with Andres Cantor on the call (the U.S. did their job but weren't overwhelming, credit to the Vietnamese). I've caught bits and pieces of other matches. The oddest thing comes in the middle of the night. I have my bedside radio set to the SiriusXM channel that simulcasts the Fox Sports TV broadcasts, and I have my little "pillow speaker" so I can hear without bothering my wife. So a couple of times, I've woken to the voices of Kate Scott and Danielle Slaton, not an experience I've had before.
Meanwhile, Wrexham are touring the United States, which remains rather unfathomable. They lost 5-0 to what amounted to a Chelsea youth squad, and won 4-0 to a third tier LA Galaxy team. I can't say I know what this means about the quality of play in England's fourth division (League Two), where Wrexham will play this year. Saying they aren't as good as Chelsea is obvious. Saying they are better than a team that is two levels below MLS doesn't say enough. Eyeballing it, I think it's clear Wrexham is not yet up to the level of MLS yet ... I'm not sure how the English Championship (their second level) would fare against MLS. Whatever ... it's fun seeing Wrexham play in front of their new American fans.
But the biggest non-World Cup soccer news came when Lionel Messi made his debut for Inter Miami. He came off the bench in the second half. The place was packed, including attendees like LeBron James, Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, David Beckham, and Posh Spice. A tie game, extra time, last play of the match before it went into penalty kicks, and Miami got a free kick. Of course, we know what had to happen next:
The match between Spain and Costa Rica had special significance for Bay Area fans, thanks to the announcing team of Kate Scott and Danielle Slaton. Scott has been a trendsetter for a long time, going back to her time as a student at Cal, where she was a Mass Comm major. She has a number of firsts in her career, and among other things is currently the television play-by-play announcer for the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA. We first met in the stands at Spartan Stadium during an Earthquakes match, and it has been a delight to watch her career blossom. Slaton is from San Jose and played her college soccer at Santa Clara. A former national team member, she has become well-known to local fans for her commentary on Quakes matches. It's a great thing to see the two of them working together on the national stage.
It begins tomorrow. It won't be easy to follow in real time ... the matches are played in Australia and New Zealand. Tomorrow kicks off with four matches, and the starting times here in California are Midnight, 3:00 AM, 7:30 PM, and 10:00 PM.
As usual, I will be rooting for the U.S., and then Spain. The Americans are going for their third straight championship, and they are favored. Probably the best match to watch if you only check out one will be hosts Australia vs. Ireland at 3:00 AM, since Australia has Sam Kerr. Quoting Michael Cox at The Athletic: "Everything is set up for Sam Kerr to have a tournament incomparable with anything else any women’s footballer has experienced. The obvious poster girl for a tournament played in her home nation, Kerr can reasonably claim to be the most dangerous striker in the game."
Meanwhile, here is the ad that has gone viral. I've seen it twice now, and I'm still not sure I understand it, but everyone else seems very impressed: