Saturday, August 11, 2012

Olympics 9: Women's Footie Final

The grudge match. The USA, the most successful team in women's football history, were left in shock by a penalty shoot out defeat to the Japanese in the final of the last world cup. A gold medal was on offer at Wembley and the Americans were out for revenge.
After a bit of a debacle getting into the stadium where a rude Wembley employee prioritised assisting an NBA star over a heavily pregnant woman (the first example of thoroughly unhelpful assistance we have encountered at the games), we walked out into the top tier stand and were greeted by a wonderful scene. Over 80,000 fans to watch a women's match. A world record and great to witness.
There was a real contrast in style between the sides. The Japanese were all about slick smart passing. A real fluidity to their play and a pleasure to watch. The Americans were more about pace and power. Unfortunately, the more rugged approach of the USA gained them an early goal which meant the Japanese were facing a real uphill struggle.

At least half of the crowd were flag waving Americans who basked in their side's early success. I know I have said it before in this blog, but it is a real pity they cannot learn a new chant. After a while "U S A, U S A" does start to grate. That said, they were really up for it and the USA takes a lot of credit for being the driving force behind women's football. There were a good 10,000 Japanese as well. Shouts of "NIPPON, NIPPON" rang around, taken up by the majority of the Brits in the crowd, as always supporting the underdog. The Japanese lady next door to us was so happy when we chanted along with her. This spurred on our already obvious support for the Japanese side to the clear and comical annoyance of the large American on our other side.
Enjoyable as this match was, it could not keep us away from Mr Bolt. We and I would guess a quarter of the stadium congregated under TVs in the refreshment areas at the start of the second half to watch the Jamaica 1-2-3 in the 200m final. An awesome performance from the big man.
While we were gone the USA had added a second and things looked desperate for the Japanese. This was a real test of character as the Japanese had had the better of the first half, hitting the woodwork twice, but were now two behind. What was their response? A goal. The Japanese then pressed on for the equaliser showing real spirit, but it was not to be. The Americans got their way and they retained their Olympic title.
A top evening and a real showcase for the women's game. It puts the half-arsed mostly under-23 men's competition to shame. It has come a long way in a short time and Sepp Blatter tried to grab some of the glory taking part in the presentation ceremony. We had left by then, but I was delighted to hear later that the crowd booed him en masse. The success of women's football has been achieved in spite of rather than because of such backward misogynists.
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