So I know that faithful readers have been patiently waiting for my take on the current goings-on in the world of international soccer ... Though this is the off-season, of course, for most of the world’s leagues (other than our own MLS), there’s a fair bit of action out there, in particular (a) the Women’s World Cup, in Germany, and (b) the main South/Central American tournament, the Copa America, in Argentina.
Re the first: I’m not, generally speaking, much of a fan of the women’s game. Like women’s basketball, though the games can be exciting, there’s not enough skill and athleticism, usually, to hold my interest. But I have to say that the WWC games I’ve watched so far have been pretty damned good — the level of play is much higher than it’s been in the past, and some of the games — Germany-France (4-2), Sweden – US (2-1), Australia-Equatorial Guinea (3-2), and France-Canada (4-0), were fine matches, full of attacking play, near misses, great goals, and all the rest. The Germans look formidable, and will probably win it all – though my money is on Brazil (which plays the US tomorrow at noon, a match that, given the shaky back lines and strong attacks of both teams, could well be a 5-4 thriller ...).
As to the Copa America, the big news there so far has all been pretty negative. The two giants of South American soccer — Brazil and Argentina — have looked uninspired (to put it mildly); Brazil was held to a boring 0-0 by Venezuela, pegged as one of the weaker teams in the tournament (Venezuela being one of the very few countries in the hemisphere where baseball, and not soccer, is the sport engaging the most passion); And the less said about Argentina’s performance the better; salvaging a 1-1 draw against Bolivia with a late goal, and then a truly awful performance in a 0-0 draw with Colombia. Their offense is sputtering miserably (and the home fans, needless to say, are deeply unhappy); Colombia easily had the best chances in the last match and should have come away with the victory. It’s proof (if proof were needed!) of the importance of mid-field playmakers; the Argentines have terrific strikers – at one point in the Colombia game they had four world-class strikers (Higuain, Messi, Tevez, and Aguero) playing at the same time, but still created virtually no offense to speak of. Messi – the consensus best player on the planet – looks lost; without the fabulous midfield play of Barcelona’s fabulous two providers (Xavi and Iniesta), he doesn’t seem to be able to get into the rhythm of the offense. It’s been painful to watch, actually — I’m a big fan of the Argentines, and I do hope they can get their act together in time to make at least some noise in the tournament.
The dark horse in the Copa America, to my eyes, is Chile; though one should never count out teams like Argentina and Brazil, with the unbelievable talent and skill on both teams, the Chileans have played the best and most exciting soccer in the tournament so far, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they went far, and possibly all the way.