June 18: Matchday 12
Jamaica 1 – 4 Australia
Italy 0 – 1 Brazil
It was a day for chaos. While it didn’t end up quite as bonkers as it could have possibly gone, it was still a thrilling day, with goals pouring in and positions changing several times.
Ultimately, Australia got the goals they needed to haul down Brazil’s edge in goal difference, thanks to a Sam Kerr scoring spree, and were able to ride the ‘goals scored’ tiebreaker into second place. That’s potentially a big difference, since this pits them against Norway in the round of 16, rather than Germany or France – which is who Brazil will now be stuck playing.
I had the Jamaica-Australia game on my other screen and only paid it minimal attention, so I can only speak in the broadest strokes. But once again, Australia looked fragile basically everywhere except their center forward. But when your center forward is Sam Kerr, it can paper over a lot of deficiencies. I certainly wouldn’t bet on them to go far in the tournament on the evidence of their three group stage games, but I also have learned that it’s rarely wise to bet against teams who have Sam Kerr.
Jamaica got their goal, and perhaps even more importantly, turned in a high quality performance. They certainly could have done more to deny Kerr on several of the goals, but in terms of overall play, they looked legitimately solid. They didn’t get any points, but that really shouldn’t be the measure of their tournament. As I think I said back in the winter when talking about this team with Ana De Souza on the on the Futbol Ace podcast, they were put into a very tough group, and it was always going to be tough. But they played well, and should definitely be proud.
In the day’s other game, which I watched far more closely, Brazil came away 1-0 winners, which is probably a mildly flattering result on the evidence of the whole game, but certainly not unfair. Italy were the better team in the first half – though both teams had very good chances – but came out pretty flat to open the second half. With Brazil pushing more and more aggressively, it only felt like a matter of time before they scored. And then they did, though it came on one of the softer penalties you’re likely to see. I don’t think it was clearly wrong, but Debinha fell very easily, and the play looked far more to me like a standard shoulder-to-shoulder play.
Then came the penalty itself. After the recent controversies, everyone paid close attention to the question of encroachment here. But, not enough attention to actually do anything about it, apparently.
Definitely no encroachment here. Nope. pic.twitter.com/552DpUem5J— Charles Olney (@olneyce) June 18, 2019
Brazil played…well enough today. But it wasn’t a particularly impressive performance. And given their date with either Germany or France, they’ll need to be far better (or extremely lucky) if they hope to go any further than the round of 16.
Meanwhile Italy definitely showed that they aren’t a fluke, but also showed that they’ll probably end up the weakest of the group winners. Bonansea had a fabulous game, and Girelli was excellent as well, but their other attacking options looked overmatched and their wide defenders looked extremely exploitable. Brazil didn’t do nearly enough to capitalize, but it’s hard to see Italy being able to cope with some of the truly deadly wingers in this tournament.
– I tweeted about this during the games today, but the number of obvious and flagrant rules violations that happen in every game stands as a categorical rebuke to the argument that ‘the referees are required to enforce the letter of the law.’ When it comes to things like players preventing quick free kicks (an automatic booking according to the laws of the game), keepers holding the ball for more than six seconds, players cheating wildly on throw-ins, etc. the referees let things slide. They could also let it slide when keepers come one inch off the line if they wanted. It’s a choice not to do so. Whether you like that choice or not, it is a choice.
– At the end of Italy-Brazil, we were treated to the bizarre scenario where Italy were losing the game but assured of winning the group if they just kept it at 1-0. But instead of trying to kill off the game and preserve their group victory, they continued to fly forward searching for an equalizer. It was really fun to watch, particularly because it’s so antithetical to the attitude we’d expect from the Italian men’s team.
– I’ve been a huge Jamaica fan since I saw them in qualifying last fall, and I’m thrilled they found a goal. I wish they could have scored some more, but I think they should be proud of what they accomplished. This team effectively didn’t exist two years ago, and even nine months ago were a haphazard group of individuals trying to learn to play together. They built a genuine team, and I really hope that lasts. I wouldn’t want to bet on the Jamaican Football Federation giving them the support they deserve, but I hope their supporters can do enough to hold all the suits’ feet to the fire and force them to do what’s right.
– Featured image is from the Jardin du Luxembourg, which was very nice, but did not have the children’s playground that was anticipated. Fortunately, my friend’s kid is extremely chill and had plenty of fun digging around in a sandpit.
I’ll be previewing Group E over at Stars and Stripes FC, so look for a post there tomorrow morning. The tl;dr is that Japan, Scotland, and Argentina all need to win. Draws do nothing useful for them. England can top the group with a draw, but after two unconvincing performances, they’re going to want to get everything clicking. So in theory we should be treated to a couple cracking games.