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 17, 2023

WWC23: Spain v Sweden (Semifinal)

It's the first semifinal: Sweden versus Spain. From everything I'd seen, I expected this to be Spain's game. We had mediocre seats behind the Swedish goal off to the side.

There was a bit of rather light drizzle for about 5 minutes in each half, but otherwise it was a fine evening, albeit a bit chilly. As this was the first of two semi-finals, the initial welcome to country was a bigger event, and we were treated to a performance by the Maori.

And then it was game time. As has been the case, the opening minutes were a bit sloppy, with each side getting a feel for their opponents, but after about 10 minutes, both teams settled into their play. I would have to use the phrase "disciplined" to describe Sweden, while "graceful" or "beautiful" would more accurately describe the Spanish. Their ball skills are stunning and they sense each other's positions keenly, allowing the ball to move about the field with amazing speed. So, it became a game of Spanish possession and Sweden counterattacks. Both were dangerous, but Spain built up their attack fluidly, while Sweden was short-lived and direct.

The half continued at a frenzied pace, but the disciplined Swedish defense kept Spain out of their goal; and the blistering Spanish ball movement, kept Sweden away from the ball. And so it went, straight into half time with a 0-0 score.

The second half went much the same way and as the game entered its final ten minutes, the crowd settled in for overtime -- much as we'd done in the Spain/Netherlands game. But then, in the 81st minute, teenage super-sub, Paralluelo worked her magic: a poor clear from near-flawless Swedish goalkeeper Zecira Musovic, left the ball at her feet, and she drilled it into the right corner of the net. As someone with a flight the next morning at "stupid o'clock" I was both thrilled and relieved. Mark and I turned to each other and suggested that Spain NOT do what they had done against he Dutch and allow an equalizer.

And then, in a place eerily reminescent of my stint in Wellington, in the 88th minute, Spain let Blomqvist into the attacking third unmarked, and she did what she does best: fire it into the goal. The Swedish fans went wild, and the rest of us accepted the reality of overtime.

But then, 30 minutes earlier than had happened in the quarterfinal, and in fact, a mere 90 seconds after the Swedish goal, Spain's Carmona shoots for the third time from distance, but this time the ball hits the cross bar and drops into the goal! And just like that Spain were into the semi-finals, and Sweden faced an upcoming consolation match in disbelief. The statistics for the match tell an interesting tale: Spain dominated with 57% possession (and 72% pass accuracy) and 13 shots on goal. Of those 13 shots, only two were on target -- and we know where those ended up! But Sweden were more disciplined: only six shots on goal, but half of those were, in fact, on target.

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