Tuesday, September 11, 2007

2007 FIFA Women's World Cup Running Diary: US 2, North Korea 2

Welcome to my not-so-live Women’s World Cup blog. Ok, so let’s call it a diary instead. Here I will chronicle to the best of my abilities the US Women's National Team's journey in China to capture their third World Cup...from my living room couch. Anyway, here go...

Barely slept last night, and tried to figure out why. After all, I took sedatives to quell my excitement for this match, and also to get enough sleep to wake up at 5:00am. I figured out the culprit: my contacts were left in. ARGH!

Anyway, I “woke up” (technical term)/got out of bed (reality) at 5:05am ET. I’ve got a bowl of uncooked oatmeal waiting in the kitchen, but can’t cook it now because my stinging eyes are fixated on the tube.

First Mia Hamm reference by Julie Foudy at the 14:55 mark in the game. Actually, I probably missed the first at the top of the hour. I’m sure of this.

Foudy, 16th minute: “She (Kristine Lilly) was detained by North Korea.” What? Isn’t it too early in the day for political connotations? I know it’s 5pm in China, but Julie, my poli sci mind wasn’t prepared for that one. Yaaaaawn!

5:20am ET: I’m just trying to catch up a bit here. My mind is definitely not processing at its optimal speed at the moment.

The game’s surprisingly still dead even at 0-0 at the 18th minute mark. I guess the mystery surrounding North Korea is living up to its billing. The US usually figures out their opponents quite quickly. Kudos to Graham Hayes (who actually reported on this very topic) on his fantastic WNT reports on espn.com.

Side note: I’d be wearing my Carli Lloyd white WC jersey right now, but the online store I purchased it from sent it to me marked up. I asked for a direct exchange, and instead, they refunded me minus shipping. I knew after that, I wouldn’t get it back in time for the WC. Imbeciles.

O’Reilly nice shot to fight off defender and fires a sharp angled shot in 19th minute. Unfortunately, it was batted away.

Foudy impressed with North Korea at the 20th minute.

Yay! First Carli Lloyd sighting in the 21st minute as she was unceremoniously fouled near the halfway line.

Sun Hui Ho now coming out in 22nd minute after being injured minutes previous.

Wow, that rain is really coming down, and it nearly played to US advantage with Cat Whitehill’s free kick nearly finding the back of the net in the 22nd minute. The ball is really skipping off the wet surface a lot.

25th minute: Foudy and Dellacamera discussing that Hope Solo was a forward in high school, which is why she’s so good with the ball at her feet. I didn’t know that! (Big surprise, I know)

26th minute: Un Suk Ri takes a very, very threatening shot that skips just wide of a diving Solo. In a related note, my heart skips as well before shot rests outside of the net.

Another threatening free kick in the 28th by the WNT. Corner kick by Lopez marinates in the box for bit, but does not find the back of the net.

Oooooohhhh….29th minute, Solo dropped the ball after an initial quick save…this rain is really causing havoc on both keepers in this match.

Non-soccer related side note: Looking at my fantasy football statline on the espn2 bottom line. McGahee and Gore did not do well enough for me to win in either one of my leagues…grrrrr….anyway, back to football football.

32nd Minute: WNT still searching for a prolonged attack after just a few cameos in the North Korean end. It won’t be long before they get through though.

35th minute: A little bit of banter between Foudy and Dellacemera talking about WNT’s draw in the Group of Death. Though the US is ranked #1, Sweden is #3, North Korea is #5, and Nigeria is #23. Perhaps death to a lesser side…but not the U.S..

Nice sequence in 37th after Lilly tries to push the ball past the North Korean keeper after shaking a defender.

By the 39th minute, Solo is really being tested with another NK shot that sailed just wide of goal again.

41st minute: Chalupny threatens deep in NK end, setting up a Lopez corner kick and….OH MAN! Off the bar!!! Abby Wambach powerfully heads ball after outjumping two red defenders. Shot clanks right off of the bar and straight back down, mere inches from the goal line. Sooo close! Hands cradling the back of the head….

Tactics note: I’m kinda surprised that after a few unsuccessful corners, the US doesn’t mix it up and play it short for once. They were so good at that during the send off series this summer that I’m at a loss as to why they won’t try it now.

North Korea is really, really giving the US run for its money. They’re beginning to really pressure again in the waning minutes of the half. And boy do I need a coffee right now…but I must return to my slumber after the match is over in order to compensate for the sleep deprivation hours before the match.

Rain is really starting to drench the field, players, fans, and Greg Ryan (quick shot of a drenched US WNT manager).

Christie Rampone yellow carded in the 45th minute for late tackle near midfield.

Two minutes of stoppage.

I’m still tethered to the laptop right…just about to heat up the oatmeal momentarily. Still kinda dark outside at 5:46am ET.

And at 5:47am, whistle blows at first half. Time to cook the oatmeal and use the bathroom. Coming up: Halftime report with Rob Stone and Heather Mitts.

Weather conditions favor US? According to Heather Mitts, this is the case. After a quick three sequence bit about the game, a quick piece about JaMarcus Russel signing with theRaiders, thus concludes the quickest halftime report ever. Guess there isn’t much doing at 5:49am ET.

Random observation: With the sun yet to come up and the house perfectly quiet except for the TV and my incessant tapping of the keys, it feels alot like Christmas morning, when my brother and I used to wake up before the sun to open up the presents under the tree. A good omen for the US? I hope so….

Second half starts, and the it’s starting to get light out at 6:04pm.US pressuring early on.

Side note: Nice shot of Kristine Lilly’s husband, Dave, in the stands, sporting a cool US Hockey jersey with her wife’s name, number, and captain’s “C” . Nice idea for the male US WNT fan. (Note to self: check eBay for USA hockey jerseys and follow suit with a Carli Lloyd #11 model.)

Speaking Lil’, 49th minute, Lilly launches a long-distance shot right on the NK keeper.

6:08am ET, 50th minute: YES!!!!!!!!!!!! Abby takes the ball and fires a close range shot that through the keeper and into the net!!!!! Ands just as I was about to complain that Solo is getting way too much face time because of the continued North Korean pressure. (Actually, I can’t really complain about Solo’s face time…she is a cutie.)

The US is 48-1-1 when Abby scores. Another good omen?

53rd minute: Dangerous free kick for Lilly from above the “D” near the box. Argh...the shot rockets just wide of the far post.

US is really beginning to look like the US of old, and is establishing the attack in the 53rd.

55th minute: Oooo-oh-oh-oh-oh-OH……Solo harnesses a menacing ball close to the goalmouth. Abby goes down during the sequence, and is bleeding pretty bad from the forehead. Oh no….doesn’t look good.

57th minute: Shot of Lilly gathering the troops, trying to keep the team focused while Abby’s taken care of.

58th minute: Abby out for now, and the US is down to ten players at the moment.

Seconds later: Oh crap – North Korea immediately takes advantage, as Son Hui Kil fires a rocket right above Solo that slips right through here padded fingers. She wanted that one back even before the ball thuds to the ground behind her. Dammit Dammit!

61st minute: US is really playing back on their heels in Wambach’s absence. It’s quite a tall order without their potent goalscorer.

62nd minute: North Korea is buzzing around the box when Yong Ae Kim takes a deflection off a US defender and chips the ball past Solo. 2-1 NK. Oh boy…(pulls hair and shakes head in disbelief). C’mon Abby, we need you back!

64th minute: NK is really ruling the proceedings. Abby thankfully comes back. Hopefully, she can be effective after sustaining the head injury.

65th: Chalupny takes a speculative shot that sails high off a throw in.

67th: US reorganizes the attack, and earns the corner. Play it short, play it short! Instead, the kick curls into the grasp of the NK keeper. Ugh….I’m starting to get that sinking feeling.

6:26AM ET: Chalupney spearheads the attack in the 69th minute and disperses the ball to Lilly and the pass deflects off of NK defender, and right to Heather O’Reilly and BANGS IT into the top corner of the net….YESSSSSS!!!!!! 2-2!!!

71st minute: Foudy states that the US needs a point off this game. No thanks, Julie - I’d personally like three!!!! After all, there’s still 19 minutes left! Have some faith! (Note: said faith was slowly waning after NK’s 2nd goal. I’m a Red Sox fan, that’s all I can say.)

73rd minute: Whitehill is racing around like a Ferrari in the midfield. Her engine is def firing on all cylinders.

74th minute: NK starting to organize an attack of their own. C’mon ladies – keep the defense tight! Ball meanders in the US zone before a skipping shot finds Solo, who adeptly corrals the ball to finish the NK attack.

6:34am ET: 13 minutes to go in regulation. Man, what a match. A lot more entertaining than last year’s Men’s World Cup, save for the US-Italy match.

Side note: Greg Ryan’s voice is clearly audible on the sidelines, as he barks instructions to his side in the 78th minute. Fire ‘em up Greg!

80th minute: NK spearheads another attack, and it fizzles out soon thereafter when the ball trickles past the goal line.

83rd minute: US looking to attack. I’ve never realize what a security blanket Lilly can be, as I start to think “just give it to Lilly, she’ll take care of it.”

88th minute, NK looking for a go-ahead, US fails to clear the ball, and now, the US is back playing on its heels. C’mon Ladies!!! To borrow a phrase – “COWBOY UP!”

US counters in the 89th…and the ball goes right back NK soon after. Drama level = high. Oh how wish it were a 5-2 US bore so I hit the hay with the nerves calmed.

Four minutes of stoppage time awarded. Let’s go Ladies!

92+ minute: Whitehill free kick to Wambach, who directs the ball just wide of the far post. And now, Ryan goes with Natasha Kai in an effort to rejuvenate the attack.

OOOOOOOOOOOOH!! My hands are shaking! 93+ Solo SAVES two consecutive shots (and pretty much the game) to keep the score even at two apiece. Yikes. NK is potent, and luckily, the US has a world-class keeper.

At 6:53am ET, the whistle blows on the match. 2-2 draw. Oh man…that’s it. Well played, well played by both teams. NK showed up with all of its horses, keeping the US at bay for much of the match.

6:55am ET: Back to bed for me…without the contacts this time around. A stretch and yawn for me, and I’m headed back upstairs.

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