Saturday, August 09, 2008

Liveblogging the ladies: Canada vs China

Women's Olympic Soccer - Group Stage

Tianjin, China
7:45 am ET / 6:45 am CT / 4:45 am PT

Live on CBC
Internet: CBC Olympics Live Video

Welcome to the inaugural live blog of a women's soccer match. The reasons for doing this are twofold:
  1. I was having a miserable sleep in a hot and humid room, so I was up anyway.
  2. With WCQ so close, any excuse I can find to make a post is a good one.
I'm not enough of a degenerate (any more) to drink beer before 7 in the morning, so I won't be keeping you updated on my beer intake. Maybe coffee. On that front, though, I'll admit to committing a cardinal sin last week: I bought a Trinidadian brew. At least they're not in our first round group, here at the Olympics, or at WCQ.

14th minute: OK, I'm joining the action in progress. The action has been even so far, with no close chances. Lots of posession changing in midfield. Sinclair, who appears to be playing on the left instead of starting at forward, just had a shot at goal.

Since these are the Olympics, there are surely countless places to follow text updates of the match, but if you like keeping it consistent, the CSA has its fixture page and PDF 'live' tracker.

18th: A second corner for Canada. The keeper flapped at it and missed, but Canada couldn't score.

The lineup: McLeod, Hermus, Franko, Chapman, Zurrer, Wilkinson, Matheson, Schmidt, Rustad, Lang, and Sinclair.

Like I mentioned earlier, a switch from the last time I saw the women as that Lang is playing up front, while Sinclair is aligned on the right side of midfield. If you didn't catch it earlier this week (and in a way I hope you didn't as the start time was 2 hours earlier than this morning's match), Canada beat Argentina 2-1 in the Olympics opener on Wednesday. Goals were scored by Candace Chapman and Kara Lang.

22nd: Canada is bossing things right now. They've had 3 corner kicks and plenty of the ball in China's end, but the score is still 0-0.

26th: Kara Lang is looking good so far. (And she's not playing all that badly either! Snap!) On that note, a lot of the Chinese ladies are rocking the traditional boy cut. Why get a full head of hair all smoggy anyway.

29th: The best chance for Canada so far: Nice buildup from Canada ends up with the ball on Sinclair's foot. She turns her defender, but then slips in the area with a clear look at goal. She looks pissed.

33rd: I told myself I wouldn't get excited about women's soccer, but FUCK yes! Christine Sinclair with a 'clinical finish' (thanks, Mr. De Vos) after a brilliant lobbed pass by Lang. 1-0 to the good girls.

I really like the work Candace Chapman is doing at the back.

36th: Shit. That didn't last long. XU Yuan, apparently, scores one of those goals that makes it about an inch over the line (Hermus clears it off), after beating the offside trap (Hermus played her on). 1-1 now. Seconds later, Rhian Wilkinson hits the crossbar from 25 yards.

After seeing the replay, I'm not so sure that the ball did cross.

39th: Randee Hermus gets on the end of yet another corner (6 or 7 by now) but it goes over. If Canada can regain the lead before half, it will be a deserved one.

I hate to be insensitive, but a lot of these Chinese gals look like dudes. It's a bit distressing. Speaking of communist broads, I was watching some Olympic coverage last night, and the first medals of the games were awarded in the women's Air Rifle competition. All the podium finishers were from former Eastern Bloc countries. Coincidence?

HALF TIME: 1-1. Time for a shower, and coffee. Don't change the channel.

So, as I was soaping myself in the shower, I had a thought about Kara Lang (no you pervs, not THAT thought!). The little game she is playing with Christine Sinclair reminds me a lot of how Rob Friend and Dwayne De Rosario have combined for the men's side over the last few games. Like Sinclair, Dwayne plays on the left of midfield, but often drifts into a striker's position when the ball gets forward. Like Friend, Lang is good in the air and on the ground, and holds up the ball well.

Perhaps that's a sign of an info sharing pipeline, from Mitchell to Pellerud. Let's hope it doesn't work in the other direction. (For the uninformed, Even Pellerud has coached the women's side for years with a rather old-fashioned direct style which severely under-utilizes the talents on his team.)

51st: Canada keeps putting the Chinese defense under pressure. Good from Wilkinson lately on that front.

Some of the girls have the sleeves rolled up, which leads me to think: isn't it time for some more form-fitting uniforms in women's soccer, a la volleyball?

Why not something more like this?

Sinclair has a shot that lands on top of the netting.

53rd: Jason De Vos has been excellent in his brief work for CBC. If I needed any more confirmation, he agrees with me that Candace Chapman, playing in his old position, has been excellent.

This ref doesn't call anything. There have been fouls in the game, but I can only think of one that was called. The only time she had to make a decision was when she called China's goal in (usually the linesman's job -- excuse me lineswoman -- sorry, assistant referee).

58th: After a bit of thumping of the ball back and forth by Canada's midfield, Matheson gets a good chance that goes wide. Then Zurrer does some good work on the left, and the ball is scrummed around in the Chinese area before Kara Lang drills a shot off the bar.

Speaking of drilling, Ron MacLean had Mark Tewksbury on last night, talking about swimming, and Tewks said that Ron had been "drilling him during commercials" or something like that, as in, asking many questions. Ron reaction was "Don't say that!" -- a sly gay reference on the first day of the Olympics? Surely not, Ron.

Seriously, this ref doesn't call anything.

62nd: A corner to China. Is it their first? Nigel thinks so, though that's no reason to think it true. Let's just say he is no known for his accuracy -- he has always to "beg pardon" of TFC's black players because he can't tell them apart.

Brittany Timko on for Hermus.

65th: Christine Sinclair had a near break, but couldn't beat the Chinese defender for pace.

68th: A great cross into the area, and Lang gets a head to it, but not enough.

In the other game in Canada's group, Sweden have beaten Argentina, which isn't great for Canada in the case that they win or draw this match against China. I'll explore the scenarios after this one is over.

Franko misplays a ball and China gets a good chance, but misses.

72nd: Lang had a free kick from well out that hit the wall and injured the Chinese player (hit in the chest). No jokes.

Jodi-Ann Robinson enters for Diane Matheson. How long until Nigel calls her Candace Chapman?

The referee makes seemingly her first decision of the evening for any sort of pushing foul, against Robinson. Semi-dangerous free kick for China. Poorly marked, and a free header goes off the crossbar.

86th: It's been a while, but the match has been scrappy and it looks like players are running out of steam. A yellow card to the Chinese keeper for time wasting, quickly followed by a booking of Emily Zurrer (who's looking pretty fresh!) for a rash challenge. Her victim is stretchered off.

There was just a play where a Canadian player was fouled on the ball in the middle of the pitch, but the referee was literally looking the other way!

Kara Lang comes off late, for Jonelle Foligno. I was going to make a remark about the substitute's appearance until Nigel ruined it for me by saying that she is 17. We're into injury time, 5 additional minutes.

94th: Erin McLeod makes her first good save, very late. It looks like it will end in a draw.

FINAL: Handshakes. A 1-1 final, and although Canada probably deserved better, they also looked close to losing it late. I was impressed with Canada's play under the circumstances: heat, humidity, smog, "hostile" environment (although chants of "CA-NA-DA" were audible throughout).

The formula for advancing is simple: draw or beat Sweden. They might advance with a loss due to goal differential or being the best-placed 3rd place team, but it would be disappointing if it had to come to that. For reference sake (because they aren't worth much else) Sweden is ranked 3rd and Canada is 9th in the FIFA women's world rankings (China is 14th).

That's all for now. Be sure to be back in 11 days for our next, and far more important, live blog.

[CBC summary]

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