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A World Cup ‘too hot’ for male coaches

USA’s head coach, Jill Ellis (right), speaks with a staff member during a training session in Montreal… on Sunday.

USA’s head coach, Jill Ellis (right), speaks with a staff member during a training session in Montreal… on Sunday.

A total of 17 male coaches, including Super Falcons’ Edwin Okon, started the race against seven female tacticians on June 8, when the Canada 2015 Women’s World Cup kicked off. But, with two curves to the finish line, the women have proven that whatever the men can do, they could do even better, writes GOWON AKPODONOR from Vancouver, venue of today’s semifinal cracker between Germany and USA.

WHATEVER happens in the semifinal matches today and tomorrow, one female coach is guaranteed a place in the final of this year’s Women’s World Cup.

Today’s semifinal between Germany and the United States here in Vancouver will see two women coaches battling for the sole ticket, while the encounter involving Japan and England tomorrow in Edmonton, is between two male coaches.

Last Friday, Coach Jill Ellis of USA, one of the seven women coaches in the championship, floored her male counterpart, China’s Hao Wei, in their quarterfinal game, just as Germany’s Silver Neid, another woman coach, forced some bitter pills down the throat of France’s Philippe Bergeroo (a male coach) to advance to the semi-final.

Coach Ellis, it will be recalled, accounted for the early exit of the Edwin Okon-led Falcons from the race in their last group game here in Vancouver, after the Nigerians had struggled to pick a point in the first game against Sweden, a team handled by a woman tactician, Coach Sundhage Pia, in Winnipeg.

Of the seven women coaches who started the race on June 8, four made it to the round of 16, where Coach Voss Tecklenburg-led Switzerland team narrowly lost 0-1 to the host country, Canada, just as Swede Coach Sundhage Pia, and her girls, surrendered to the power play of the Germans, who won 4-1.

Though, three women coaches, Toure Clementina of Cote d’Ivoire, Valverde Ameha of Costa Rica and Arauz Vanessa of Ecuador failed to make it beyond the group stage in this year’s World Cup, many football analysts here are of the opinion that the women gave a good account of themselves in the race, compared to the men.

Perhaps, the biggest talk in town about women coaches in the Canada 2015 World Cup is the record created by Coach Vanessa Arauz of Ecuador. She has set a new record as youngest coach in a FIFA World Cup history (male and female). Arauz, 26, though, led Ecuador to a 6-0 defeat by fellow newcomers, Cameroun, in their first group game.

One sad thing about today’s semifinal pairing is that one of the teams between USA and Germany will not play in the final in Vancouver on July 5.

Coach Ellis said after showing the Chinese the exit door last week that she was confident of making it to the final, and possibly, picking the title a third time.

Against China, the Americans played without midfielders Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, two of their consistent performers in the tournament. Both received automatic suspensions after picking up second yellow cards in their Round of 16 win against Colombia.

It was the first time in American women’s World Cup history that they will go four consecutive games with a clean sheet, not having conceded a goal since the opening game against Australia in Winnipeg.

To the fans, today’s semifinal clash with the Germans, who shoved aside third ranked French team last week, will be a memorable encounter. “This will surely be the final before the final,” one of the fans told The Guardian yesterday.

The past six World Cup tournaments have been won by four different countries. The United States and Germany have won it twice, and Norway and Japan once each.

The United States lifted the crown in 1991, when they beat Norway 2–1 in China to become winners of the first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup, and on home soil in 1999, when they beat China on penalty kicks. They lost in the 2011 final to Japan.

Norway defeated Germany 2-0 to win the second edition held in Sweden ’95, but the Germans remain the only country to have won the title back-to-back. They won at USA 2003, beating Sweden 2-1, and in 2007 in China, where they defeated Brazil 2-0 in the final.

Japan broke all barriers to win the crown at Germany 2011, where they shocked USA 3-1 on penalty kicks, after a 2-2 draw at regulation time.

The Japanese, ranked number four, were all over the Australians in their quarterfinal game last Saturday in Edmonton. Though, the Aussies, who defeated Super Falcons 2-0 in their second group game in Winnipeg, gave a good account of themselves, the height advantage they utilised against the Nigerians counted for nothing against the fast moving Japanese. They will face England in tomorrow’s semifinals in Edmonton.

The Japanese are the only team to have won every game they’ve played in this World Cup, previously defeating the Netherlands 2-1 in the Round of 16.

Coach Norio Sasaki, who earned worldwide fame in 2011, after leading the Nadeshiko to unexpected World Cup glory, said at the weekend that history would repeat itself in Vancouver on



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