There was a mini Twitter spat earlier today between Peter Schaad (Whitecaps radio announcer) and Ingrid Green (vocal supporter of women’s soccer). Green was upset about the lack of awareness of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers that start tonight at BC Place and seemed to implicate the media in this. Schaad pointed out that it was the CSA’s job to promote events and not the media’s. As often happens in a 140 character universe there was some misinterpretation followed by some retraction but the fact remains as I sit here in BC Place before the Costa Rica v Cuba games…there may be more players, officials and CONCACAF flacks than spectators.
The subtext is whether there is still a perception that, regardless of performance levels or the overall quality of the game, women’s soccer should be ‘promoted’ by the official and/or unofficial media. That people should come out and watch it whether it’s good or not. Promotion in this context strays perilously close, for me, to pandering. We should not feel obliged to support something. You support because there’s an internal, intrinsic desire to be involved in it to some degree.
Something I’ve engrained in my players is accountability. You will be told when you do something wrong. You will be told specifics and you will be expected to take it in and work on it. You won’t be berated and it won’t be personal but you will be held accountable if poor play persists. By creating that standard they know that when they are praised, and they are praised far more than they are criticized, they will know it’s genuine and not a celebration of mediocrity.
That needs to be the case for women’s international soccer. Say it’s good when it is and use a critical eye when it’s poor. My coverage of these games will be well short of boosterism and cheerleading and long on trying to pick out the elements of the game that work well and that need work.
Costa Rica v Cuba - First half notes (posted at half time)
- Costa Rica (CR) seem to playing 3-4-3 in attack with one of the four as a false nine. Defensively looks like they drop to a 4-3-3 with two holding mids.
- Cuba (C) technique is poor. Short passes rocketed to shins and higher. Even early resorting to lumped ball to lone striker ably dealt with by CR centre backs.
- 1-0 CR. First time CR got in behind Cuba #3 (slow) resulted in good cut back and nice slot from false nine following up into the box. CR far more athletic and technical.
- It’s been all CR, then all of a sudden CR centre backs sit off the C striker (11) and she plays a nice ball to overlapping wide mid (8) who crosses back to 11 and a goal is saved only by diving CR player blocking a shot labeled for goal.
- CR can’t let 11 receive, turn and run at them. It’s the only time they’ve looked remotely dangerous.
- Every midfield knockdown is being won by CR. This is crucial in girls/women’s soccer because there’s so many of them. Dominating the second ball is crucial to success.
- CR LB has to wake up; only danger is coming from runs behind her by #8.
- CR literally win every knockdown off C goal kicks
- When you are defending 80% of the game, can you afford to have your best technical players, the two most capable of maintain possession, in peripheral positions? 8 is very good but gets very little of the ball as an advanced striker. Same with 11 wide on the right. Cuba needs them in the thick of things bringing balls under control in the middle of the field.
- This is the dilemma most youth coaches face (boys and girls). Disparate abilities within the same team and how best to set them out against stronger opponents.
- Cuba would not beat a U18 girls BCPL team. Fact.
- C generally well organized defensively but a three man wall on a free kick one yard off the goal line? Left them one short marking in the box. Lucky the ball was played too close to the Cuban keeper.
- The number of CR goals in the second half will be a function of Cuba’s fitness. If the Cubans start to wilt physically it could be ugly. Can easily see this ending 4 or 5-0. That said, Cuba attacked three times, all through 8 and 11 and looked dangerous each time.
Second Half: Second half notes (posted at full time)
- 53rd minute: Second goal 7 to 20; pinpoint pass behind C rb; first time finish. Excellent technique on both the pass and finish.
- Cuba already starting to look ragged defensively. They have to keep their shape. They’re only getting beaten by very well played balls and CR really aren’t hitting that many of them.
- 8 for Cuba comes close again. Persistence and technique met with bad luck as two chances blocked by gk and defender in succession. Cuba have ability up front, they just lack the means to advance the ball into the attacking third with regularity.
- Clear breakaway for CR (good save by gk) a minute after Cuba almost score is indicative of Cuba’s increasing defensive breakdowns.
- Classic fatigue indicator: gaps between mids and defenders becoming too large. Game starts to turn into two five a sides and that doesn’t work for Cuba.
- Costa Rica off the bar from 25 yards in the 68th minute. No pressure on the shooter.
- CR really starting to hone in on C weak spots. 5 is repeatedly having balls played behind her as she repeatedly shows she can’t deal with them. CR just rattled a wayward cross off the post.
- Sitters going begging here for CR as we enter the last 15 minutes
- Cuba fully reduced to the odd attack and it’s limited to the same two that have been dangerous all game, 8 and 11. CR attacking play far more sophisticated. Mids overlapping, blind runs off defenders shoulders, quickly switching point of attack. They just lack a natural, deadly striker, a fox in the box.
- Cuba really hanging on here. Clearances reek of desperation and fatigue.
- Cuban 5 finally taken off. Got lit up like a Cohiba incessantly.
- Cuba hold CR to a 2-0 win. CR have all the tools except a natural goal scorer by the looks of it. If they hope to beat Canada they’ll likely have to do a lot better with much fewer chances than they were afforded tonight.
Things I liked:
Seeing a higher standard of goalkeeping from developing nations. Demonstrating competence in goal forces teams to realize they need to break you down and not rely on ripping 35 yarders in the hopes of chipping weak keepers. CR saw early on they’d need to get behind Cuba and both their goals came from nice build up rather than speculative long rangers.
Impressive technical ability from CR. All over the field. Defenders comfortable playing out of trouble and using their keeper without a second thought. Obvious emphasis on maintaining possession. This is what advances teams through the ranks in the women’s games. Once you hit a critical mass of technical ability it allows you to overcome more physical, direct teams.
Good defensive organization from Cuba. They held their own and forced CR to play very nice passes to break them down. For a relative neophyte in women’s soccer Cuba were no doormats despite carrying some relatively weak players. Fitness was starting to become an issue but it would for most teams who have to spend three quarters of the game defending.
Seeing how midfield dominance was asserted through controlling knockdowns and the ability to play out of them. I’ve always placed a big emphasis on this and it seemed clear to me that CR put a big emphasis on being first to any sort of 50-50 in the middle third and establishing possession quickly and confidently.
Things I didn’t like
I feel the need to try to be a bit critical given my opening stance but aside from CR’s poor finishing and Cuba’s lack of attacking link play the game was good to watch. I just don’t think Cuba can afford to put their two best players up front. They were detached from play for too long and that allowed CR to really dominate midfield and put far too much pressure on the Cuban back four. As CR gradually started attacking the weak point in that back four it became a bit more desperate for Cuba.