Monday, August 6, 2012

Japan - France Women's Olympic Semifinal

A clash of truly tricky and skilled teams! A chance to see some of my favorite creative players in the women's game in action. 

France v Japan, naturally. 

France: Bouhaddi; Renard, Georges, Franco, Bompastor; Soubeyrand, Necib, Bussaglia; Delie, Thomis, Thoney

Japan: Fukumoto; Kinga, Iwashimizu, Kumagai, Sameshima, Sakaguchi, Miyama, Kawasumi, Sawa; Ohno, Ogimi

Japan should take it, but never count the Frenchies out - especially since they can match Japan skill for dribbling skill in team passing.What they lack, however, is that mental toughness and extra confidence that Japan has. 

3 - They've kicked off, and so far, both teams playing pretty cagey. Japan seeing most of the possession. 
5 - And Japan gets off a smooth pass to free a player - but she loses the race to the box as the French goalkeeper comes out. 
7 - Necib with an outside shot and the goalkeeper, Fukumoto, spills it, but it able to gather up the ball, as no French players were near to knock the rebound in. 
9 -Ohno nearly catches up to a long pass, but not quite. She's quick, but not fast, if that makes sense. 
10 -Japan controlling play more now, making ball possession the top priority, frustrating the French.  
 11 - Oui! No, no! How did Necib not shoot? She was in the box with the ball at her feet. No killer instinct there. See Morgan, Alex, for that. Too bad, because Necib is an artist with the ball. Still, the French team need predatory, not pretty, today. They set Necib up well with their passing, but then she dropped the ball with dallying. 
13 - Renard gets a yellow for kicking the pesty Ohno. 
14 - Bompastor with a cross that is enticing, but Japan clear their box nicely. 
17 - Japan still has most of the possession, but France definitely has opportunities to advance.  
19 - It's great to watch the nifty passing of the Japanese players. They're wearing blue, and France are wearing white. 
23 - Still, Japan not really threatening France, who clamp down when the blue shirts get near the box.
27 - Until just then, when Japan was right on the edge of the box, but France swarm in and clear before the shot comes off.  
30 - Thomis is especially shouldering a lot of the defensive work for Japan. 
32 - GOAL! Bouhaddi error! Miyama sends in one of her soaring free kicks and Bouhaddi fluffs it, letting it slip through her fingers. Ogimi takes advantage, as the French defenders seem confused after Bouhaddi's error. Her poke puts the ball in the net. 1-0 Japan leads. 
36 - Ogimi did what Necib did not, taking advantage of the moment, effectively, if not artistically. 
37 - Throw-in for France, leads to Fukumoto punching the ball out of her box, but France unable to follow-up on the chance.  
41 - France, meanwhile, are frustrated, working harder, but putting the final ball long far too often. That makes it easy for Japan.  
43 - Meanwhile, Markgraff, on the commentary with J.P., is frustrated with France's one-dimensional attack. The ball keeps going to Thiney and nobody else. 
45 - Now France has the ball in the box, but the shot by Delie is blocked.  

Halftime! Japan is on their way. 

Markgraff calls out the French for being timid.  

Seriously, NBC? You couldn't make the halftime trivia question remotely related to the sport the fans are actually watching? For those who always wondered, Bangladesh is the  largest country, by population, to never have won an Olympic medal. 

46 - Miyama skies a shot over the bar. She did that a lot while playing for L.A. She's got serious skills, but sometimes would get the yips in front of the goal. 
49 - Miyama is money on freekicks, however. She punts it perfectly to Sakaguchi, who heads it perfectly into the corner in the midst of befuddled French defenders. 2-0 Japan. 
50 - France finally earns their first corner, but it's probably too little, too late. Yes. It leads to two shots by France, but the first is blocked and the second way high and wide. 
52 - Frustrated France is now getting a bit pushy. 
53 - Oooh, a shot by France! Saved, but out for a corner. 
54 - Doesn't lead to a decent shot, though. 
60 - Injury on the field. Japan's 17 limps to the sideline, but she looks fine.  
63 - Another decent chance for France wasted as the shot from Necib goes way high.  
67 - LeSommer goes too high as well. 
68 - Ohno in the box, with some nice cutback moves, but George finally makes the stop. 
69 - Another high shot from France.
71 - Necib in the box - this time she shoots, but  Fukumoto is on it, with no rebound. Nicely done. 
72 - France shooting at everything now, but rather wildly. Japan stoically is weathering the storm.  
76 - GOAL! Until now. LeSommer takes a quick one touch on a Thomis pass and it's all net. 2-1 - Japan still leads, but with a small cushion.  
78 - Penalty! LeSommer draws one from Sakaguchi, the veteran. The French player put on a wily move in the box. 
79 - Captain Bussaglia takes the penalty - yikes! WIDE! France dies a little. So much for the miracle comeback. 
80 - LeSommer with a half-bike in the box - almost a goal as the rebound is barely stopped by Fukumoto.  
82 - Bouhaddi out of the box,  half clears the box. France goes right back o the attack, gets a corner. 
83 - Japan are backed in, but they finally clear it. 
86 - France flailing away, finally without timidity, but still without accuracy, as yet another shot goes high.  
89 - Time is running out for France.  
90 - After France takes another corner, Japan spring an outlet, but the final shot goes off the near post. Japan nearly shut the door. 

Quezalti Alvarado of Mexico is almost ready to blow the final whistle. France is out on one last attack, but Necib's tame shot is an easy catch for Fukumoto. France has a couple of final shots blocked, but finally the whistle peeps. It's over. 

Japan goes to the gold medal match. It's expected, and deserving, but France will rue missed chances for quite a while.