Tuesday Pop Review- The Women’s World Cup

Hello all, and welcome to the evening edition of your Tuesday Pop Review!  Hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday weekend.

I want to start today with a new feature.  One of the humorous aspects of writing a blog is noticing the statistics of how many people are viewing and, more interestingly, how they find your site.  On WordPress, we receive a list of “search engine terms” that are used to find the blog, some of them being quite funny.  So, every day we will give you the “Google Search of the Day.”  Yesterday, the Google Search of the Day was “poker meilleure bluff.”  After hours nanoseconds of internet research, I learned that “meilleure” is a french adjective meaning “better.”  So, someone used a hybrid French phrase to look up tips on bluffing and, alas, stumbled upon the Thursday poker blog!

For today’s Pop Review, we make the rare choice of addressing a sporting event before its conclusion, mostly because I figure not many of you are watching and perhaps you should be!  The Women’s FIFA World Cup began last Sunday (June 27th) from Germany, with ESPN showing each match live in their entirety, typically during work hours.  Though I have rarely watched much soccer, I have started to become a bigger fan and am always riveted by the World Cup format and the excitement it brings.  While yes, the women’s event is less publicized than the men’s event (which Spain won in 2010), it is definitely worth watching for a few reasons:   One, unlike the men’s event, the U.S. is actually a major contender!  You may remember the 1999 World Cup victory on U.S. soil secured on a penalty kick by Brandi Chastain against China.  Unfortunately, we only seem to remember her controversial celebration of ripping off her jersey after scoring the goal, overshadowing some brilliant soccer.  Now, the U.S., ranked #1 in the world, compete against the world’s best, including 2-time defending cup champion Germany on its home soil.  Though there is a clear difference in athleticism from the men’s game, it still looks like soccer out there.  The skill level is high, and the scoring has been a little more creative with the ladies having additional room on the field to operate.  The field is the same size, but there seems to be more traffic in the box in the men’s game due to the sheer size of the athletes.  The women appear to have more room to pass and juke near the goal than we’re used to seeing in the men’s game.

Another difference is that only 16 teams qualify, unlike the 32 teams that now grace the men’s world cup.  This means a much shorter adventure through group play, as the four groups of four are set to complete group play in about a week and a half.  The top two teams in group play advance to the quarterfinals, leaving only a 4-game march to the Cup.  The U.S. team has been the most dominant of any thus far, clinching their spot in the quarterfinals after two matches.  Another fun aspect of the event is that ESPN has learned its lesson from earlier days by using full-time soccer announcers to call the matches.  In the early days of coverage, we would see familiar faces calling an unfamiliar sport.  Now we get British guys we don’t know, but who live and breathe soccer.  The coverage is thus superior to what it was a decade or so ago.

I also find the event to be an eye opener in terms of the global status of gender equality.  For starters, men’s powerhouses Spain, Argentina, the Netherlands and Italy didn’t even qualify for this event.  Even typically powerful teams like Mexico and Nigeria are weaklings in the event.  Typically, the strength of programs is directly proportional to the amount of money put into it for high quality coaches, equipment and facilities.  With the US and other European teams dominating the event, these nations are proving to be the most progressive in the area of equality.

I have found myself DVR’ing matches and avoiding scoreboards to enjoy the games.  With football and basketball in a work stoppage, baseball in the middle of its dog days, it’s time to give soccer a fresh look.  Hey if nothing else, it’s a chance to root on the U-S-A!

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