Long ago (1988) I moved to Berkeley and started sending a monthly "newsletter" to my Boston friends. When I returned to Boston (1993), I continued the tradition for about five more years (or until I had kids). Looking back, I realize that I was actually blogging. Each newsletter contained anywhere from a few to several blog posts. Having been silent for the past decade or so, I've decided to resume these activities. Don't expect anything profound -- I tend to focus on what I find entertaining or amusing and perhaps sometimes informative. We shall see!

Thursday, August 3, 2023

WWC23: France versus Brazil

Another day, another plane. This time we were headed from Sydney to Brisbane. Our hotel was right downtown near the river and only about a 15 minute walk from the stadium, the largest one so far -- the Brazil/France match drew 57,000, mostly Brazilian, spectators.

This time we were three rows from the top of the stadium up in a corner. The field looked a bit tiny, but we certainly had a good view of the entire field of play!

I was disappointed to hear the stadium booing enmasse when France took the field. In general, I find the women's tournament fans to be passionate, enthusiastic, but cordial and friendly. That was not how the stadium felt -- the fans booed every call that wasn't made against France, regardless of the reality on the field, and they booed every goal.

Both teams got off to an energetic start; it was clear it was going to be a pretty exciting game. At the 3-minute mark, France got a 2 on 1 break, but finished weakly into the box. Les Bleues took control and kept the ball in the Brazil end of the field. The French put together a few nice attacks, but Brazilian goalie Leticia was grabbing everything. Around the 16-minute mark, Brazil took the ball down into French territory and drew a foul about 25 yards out. The play goes correctly, but the shot is just wide, leaving us with a tense 0-0 score.

But just a minute later, a pass in from Toletti finds Diani who spots Le Sommer in the middle. I lovely pass and a header and it's 1-0 France.

History seems to invert itself - about 16 minutes later, Brazil makes a fast break, but Toletti takes down Adriana outside the box. Debhina takes the free kick, but it goes wide. But this time there is no follow-up Brazilian score. Instead, France continues to take control and look exceptionally dangerous. And then Brazil busts through, looking equally dangerous (just not quite as frequently). The half ends with France up 1-0.

The second half starts with no substitutions and a fiesty French team coming out of the locker room. But, Brazil too starts to assemble some more threatening play and in the 58th minute, they turn this back into a tie game: Debhina receive a pass from Kerolin and sneaks it past France's keeper, peyruad Magnan. It's a 1-1 game!

Around the 60 minute mark, both teams start making strategic substitutions and the game continues at a frenetic pace, with both teams fighting for every ball and every opportunity to produce something in the box. Every time a Brazilian player so much as sneezes, the fans become a raging booing mess - it's not a pretty crowd. And then, in the 83rd minute, Brazil makes a huge mistake: they leave Wendy Rinard uncovered in the box on a corner kick; Renard does what she does best: she sticks the header right in the goal past keeper Leticia. It's a 2-1 game for France.

Brazil is frantic; Marta, Monica, and Ana Vitorio enter in the 85th minute. But, not even Marta can change the game. The ball races up and down the field and the official announces seven minutes of stoppage time. And, in one of the oddest things I've ever seen in a world cup, the French coach starts losing it about 3 minutes into extra time. He starts screaming at the ref and pointing at his watch even though it's 100% clear to me (who starts a stop watch at the 90 minute mark) that there are several minutes left. He loses it so completely that the ref yellow cards him (and in my mind, he's lucky it's a yellow and he's allowed to stay on the field).

Final score: France 1 - Brazil 1!

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