CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying: Costa Rica v Cuba

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.

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10 Responses to CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying: Costa Rica v Cuba

  1. K says:

    It is CSA’s job to promote. Did Ms. Green consider the weather for her arguments? Even if the event was trumpeted who is going out tonight when more snow is forecast and the roads are already frozen?

    No one was ever going to watch the “other” nations anyway. There’ll be a decent crowd at Can v. USA and prob Mexico but that’s about it….

    I think having this in early January was also going to be troublesome based on the post-Christmas money-crunch many go through. I realize they needed to play it some time….

    Hey look…I’m first post again!

  2. Coachrich says:

    The WOQ is the responsibility of CONCACAF. In the lead up to the event, the CSA and BCSA had done as much as they could without CONCACAF direction, $ and etc.

    The role of amateur sports organizations such as clubs, PSO (BCSA), NSO (CSA), Regional SO (CONCACAF), WSO (FIFA) and the Olympic family is to promote their sports. Under their constitutions, agreements with various government and sports family, these organizations have a responsibility, duty and obligation to promote their sports. Like a family with a son and daughter in the same sport different gender program, a parent doesn’t question the support that they offer their child in fulfilling their development.

    The same level of balance as a family should be exercised by a amateur sports organization and how they transfer that importance to media organizations whether official or not. Until that transfer or communication link is established and maintained, amateur sports especially those for females will continue to be considered 2nd level or discounted due to cultural basis when in reality they stand on their own,

    The past FWWC in Germany in many ways was a huge success for the sport and for women who play amateur sports. It certainly wasn’t an event that was pandered too but those that organized it did so in a manner that reflected the best practices of development and promotion in a amateur sport and the balance of life.

    • Gregor says:

      Agreed. This is a CONCACAF event and it’s up to event organizers to promote their events. They try their best to co-op the media to providing coverage that benefits them (and ticket sales) but the media have their own agenda and many others trying to bend their ear. In the end, the media is, or should be, about reportage and not public relations for event organizers. That line has been severely blurred for many years though.

      Should CONCACAF commit the same resources to promoting the women’s Olympic qualifying tournament as they do to similar men’s tournaments. I don’t think that would meet approval from many economists. If you have some knowledge of what to expect from an event from previous incarnations, you set a budget that reflects that. The amount you are willing to spend to promote will be a percentage of what you expect in revenues. If a men’s tournament historically brings in 10x as much in revenues, you would expect that most budget items would likely be 10x what the women’s budget would be. I don’t think budgeting otherwise reflects a cultural or gender bias.

      Can you argue that sometimes it’s worth taking a risk if you see potential in an event to break through and have wider appeal? Yes. Was this that event? No. Bad time of year (post-Christmas, bad weather), limited drawing power (Canada and USA are the only draws and you can’t buy a ticket that guarantees they’ll even play each other) and given the main demographic interested, female youth soccer players, live outside the downtown core and most of the games are on school nights, this does not scream out that it’s an event to throw huge marketing dollars at.

      The 2015 Women’s World Cup. Different story.

    • Coachrich says:

      This event is a lead in event for the U20 and WWC but it doesn’t look like those in power took it seriously. Hence why would FIFA pick Vancouver as a WWC city when one looks at the results of this event?

      Not sure why you wanted to bring up the $ resources but it’s well understood that comparing male to female is not the way to go. This is especially true in amateur sports where programs should exist on their own merits. The last thing any parent wants to find out is that one gender or age level maybe subsidizing another, a local club maybe subsidizing the Metro and BCHPL clubs. The truth in the matter of CONCACAF and their members is they have not done what other Regions and their members have done in developing and promoting the game for females. In CONCACAF only the USA has a similar program to the rest of the top nations but theirs is mostly $ driven versus female clubs or leagues embedded with the mens side of the game so development resources are shared. The Euro nations of which there are some 35+ domestic female leagues (Germany has big $ like the US), Japan and Brazil are prime examples of how little $ is needed when NT programs are looked at as a whole with interdependence versus gender barriers.

      The news media is more of a marketing tool for themselves and those that support them. One only has to read the TMZ style headlines of newspapers these days to see it’s about selling 1st than content later. Thankfully we have the Internet now to help us sort through the noise. Again CONCACAF dropped the ball on this as they continue to do nothing compared to what the rest of the world has done.

  3. Julie says:

    I’ve read articles in one daily paper and there was even a photo of the US goalkeeper in Dancing with the Stars. Their ads say Canada, US and 6 other countries. How does the public take all this seriously? Of course most of us will only come out to watch Canada and the US. The tournament publicist should have fleshed out some human interest stories of players from the developing countries–I’m sure a lot of them had to overcome obstacles to get here.

  4. I “retracted” calling Peter Schaad & the media “stupid”… mostly because I felt the “blind & deaf” reference was accurate and sufficient. Is that the “retraction” you’re talking about? Umm ok. Fine.

    As for the weather– I was mostly referring to tickets SOLD. Canada has known for MONTHS that this hosting duty is not only a chance to see our team play but a chance to support WOMEN’S SOCCER in spirit by simply buying a $10 ticket… even if you don’t ATTEND. I don’t even want to hear the excuses for not buying tickets to support women’s soccer in this country.

  5. Gregor says:

    Yes, that’s the retraction I was referring to.

    I have to admit I’m really not sure what you’re trying to argue for. Do you feel people should feel obligated to buy a ticket to show they support women’s soccer because it’s here in their back yard? Or are you upset that the media didn’t provide, in your mind, sufficient coverage of the event to ensure people were aware they could (and should) buy a ticket?

    • K says:

      People don’t buy tickets for men’s games either. The last WCQ games in Toronto didn’t sell out. It was a similar situation to the women. Playing countries we WILL beat and that no one “cares” about (in footballing terms) with a small immigrant population from in the Toronto area.

      These women’s games were never going to sell and putting them at BC Place always guaranteed they were going to lose money in a mostly empty stadium – unless BC Place was handed over for little/low/no cost above the costs of simply opening the doors and keeping the lights on and bathrooms clean etc.

      It’s a sad, but true state of affairs. We all hope women’s, and men’s soccer catches on. But don’t kid yourself. The men aren’t selling out BC Place on a weeknight against Haiti either. Though they would have sold more than the women’s game.

  6. Cal says:

    Seattle USWNT fans making the trip to see US v Guatemala Sunday (despite conditions). Big fans of Sinclair and Schmidt as well.

    Glad to hear goalkeeping is improving across CONCACAF. Great blog.

    Can’t wait for WC 2015!

    • Gregor says:

      Hopefully the roads are in better shape Sunday than they are today. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of crowd we get for a Canada (hopefully) v USA final. If crowds stay as low as they were last night I think it will affect Vancouver’s hopes of hosting the 2015 Final. Edmonton will definitely use it as leverage to pry the final back to Commonwealth Stadium.

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