This feels like it's going to be a good tournament, eventually. In fact, were it not for my North American bias, I might already think it's a good tournament. The major problem with the tournament is the turf or the referees. It's that the co-hosts are playing bad, boring soccer for knowledgeable, unsatisfied supporters and/or demandypants whiners incapable of handling good news, depending on your point of view.
"It's a win, what more do you want?" is such a Schroedinger's cat of a question - during a tournament. If it's the final, it doesn't matter in the slightest how tedious, disappointing, or unwatchable the actual game was, as long as there's a trophy for dessert. Then, at least in the home nation, the legend takes care of the rest.
But because FIFA steadfastly refuses to award style points, the US has so far notched wins in three out of its four games. Four terrible, terrible games.
Since this isn't exactly the first time a soccer team has gutted out results to the disgust of onlookers, we can pretty much put reactions to such a spectacle in two categories.
(1) "YAY! WE'RE WINNING!" This is generally the correct reaction. You have to win games to win a tournament, winning is better than losing, winning ugly is better than losing pretty, and the ugliest trophy is prettier than the loveliest participant medal.
Actually, Akers herself found a middle ground between the two on her Facebook page:
Definitely wanted to throw up half the game. But we won. And we are through to the next round...which in a WC is the whole goal. To advance. And at this stage in the game, I don't care how ugly it is as long as we keep finding a way to win.
Well, it's not so much a middle ground as vacillating between extremes.
The main plank of the I Hate Watching This Party platform is just as utilitarian as the Winning Is The Only Thing philosophy - "If we keep playing like this, we will lose once we play a better team." Thinking we'll just switch it on when it counts is at least as illogical as using past performance to predict future results.
Frustration with the Black, White and Neon amazingly failed to diminish the next day, when Japan and Netherlands put on a delightful performance while Abby Wambach, in the background, first blamed:
"It seemed like she was purposefully giving those yellows to the players she knew were sitting on yellows," Wambach said in the media interview area after the match. "I don't know if it was just a psychological thing. Who knows?"
"I'm not in the referee's head, and that's something I definitely take ownership of and apologize for, because I don't know what the referee is thinking," Wambach told FOX. "In no way did I intend to offend her – and my biggest apologies if it was offensive in any way."
It is helpful at this point to remember that (a) both Holiday and Rapinoe's cards were entirely deserved and (b) we're talking about a game where Wambach's team received two penalty kicks and played with an 11-10 advantage for over half an hour. Wambach's coaching skills have room for improvement, but her complaining is almost Sir Alex in its refinement.
Sources close to the story have suggested that potential punishment could be very severe, with Wambach being forced to start the entire rest of the tournament.
Japan putting on a solid performance - their first really impressive show yet this year - is of course hideous news for everyone else. The Blue-And-Pink might have made the occasional mistake, like the ball bouncing off the keeper's hand, but everything else was a thing of beauty.
Four years ago, the United States kludged their way deep into the tournament, while Japan looked marvelous, and yet only one visionary from the wilderness was there to tell us that the US was in trouble. Today, it's practically common knowledge. Stop me if I've told you this, but the co-hosts have looked utterly substandard nearly every minute of the tournament, and only favorable bracketeering gives them a chance to survive the weekend. England and China could do the world game a huge couple of favors, but I don't think either are quite good enough to. No one's expecting anything else but 1-0 in those games.
The other two will be important not for entertainment purposes - although I think Japan-Australia will be an adrenaline rush and Germany-France will be glorious. The important thing will be how beat up the two survivors are. The co-hosts should get through their easier games comparatively unscathed - and the US will have Megan Rapinoe for the semifinal, spared for one game from having to carry ten women around for two hours.
So there's a very likely possibility that the Women's World Cup will have a Canada-US final. This would be financially successful, but would fans appreciate a final long on hype but woefully short on skill?