Eight World Cup matches were played over the weekend, and apart from a disappointing 1-1 draw by the much fancied German team with Italy, and what looked very much like the appearance of former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman playing in goal for the Italians, there were few surprises.
Germany, for all their midfield strength and speed on the ball, were lucky not to lose to Italy, whose veteran star Antonella Carta hit the crossbar with one long-range free kick and generally seemed in a different class than everyone else on the pitch. Both teams now have to face Brazil, 7-1 routers of a hapless Mexican side, and a pretty good bet for the semifinal. The U.S., on the basis of their solid victory over Denmark, should probably be Brazil’s opponent in the semis, as long as they can avoid trouble with a talented Nigerian team, who won 2-1 over North Korea, and then subdue what looks to be fairly mediocre German or Italian quarterfinal opposition.
No big shocks on the other side of the draw either. In Group C, boring Norway won their seventh straight World Cup match against Russia, while in Group D, China clashed with one of the stronger teams, Sweden, and came back from one goal down to win 2-1. Both teams should advance to the quarterfinals, though they will have to get by the Black Queens of Ghana first. Ghana only drew 1-1 with Australia this weekend but managed to get one player sent off and four booked for a series of eye-watering challenges. “Ghana is noted for that type of play,” said Australia goalie Tracey Wheeler after the match. “It reminded me of the men’s World Cup.” Not surprisingly, Ghana’s coach had a different point of view. “I cannot comment on the refereeing,” said Emmanuel Afranie before proceeding to do just that. “But I thought that the slightest attention drew a card.”