Women's World Cup: Bracketeering; or, Don't Mention The War

Remember "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns?" Early on Batman gets his ass handed to him by the Mutant Leader.  It's a complete mismatch.  Batman is old and overconfident, the Mutant Leader is younger, faster, stronger - Batman was lucky to survive. 

So anyway, Batman sets up a rematch. The Mutant Leader has to slog through a sewer, fall down twenty feet, and then face Batman in a pit of mud.  The mud slows down the Mutant Leader, taking away his speed and skill advantages.  Then this happens:

Cool, huh?  Anyway, let's talk about soccer or something.

The US did have an easier path to the semifinal than Germany, come to think of it.  Germany had to beat France, in penalties, after overtime.  The US had to beat China, a nation whole talent pool might have been EVER SO SLIGHTLY affected by twenty years of a one-child policy acting as an anti-Title IX, to say the very freaking least.  Before that, Germany handled Sweden, a team we worked together with in the group stage to stink up the Northern Hemisphere.  We met Colombia, and perfected our strategy of playing against teams with 10 players and a third-string keeper.

But here we are - as the saying goes, tanned, rested and ready.  Even Rapinoe got to rest up for this.  We really, really should win.

Not everyone agrees:

I had no idea Steve Bing felt so strongly about women's soccer.

....he's a California billionaire who had a paternity suit a few years ago with Elizabeth Hurley.  Look, it was either him or Bing Crosby, and he's been dead for YEARS now. They were the only two Bings I had heard of off the top of my head, and it wasn't like I could run a Google search for "Bing," could I?

Even with the non-level playing field - one might even call it artificial - it is exciting to see Germany play the United States in competition above Algarve-level.  Brazil and Japan, more than brackets, have conspired to keep these teams apart in big tournaments since the 2004 Olympics.  That game was a typically epic encounter, and since it was the Olympics and not the World Cup, the US won - it was so long ago, Heather O'Reilly had the winning goal, and Abby Wambach played the entire game.

That 2004 game was entirely too late to revive the WUSA, nor did it prevent the US from imploding three years later.  But it is technically Germany who is out to avenge the last loss, not the United States. 

At least Germany didn't have to make an idiotic travel distance - this is their second game in a row in Montreal.  But the US only had to schlep from Ottawa, which, if I recall my Canadian geography and transportation infrastructure correctly, is only a quick caribou ride away.  And Montreal is close enough to Canada's unsecured southern border that it might EVER SO SLIGHTLY be a home field advantage for the Black, White and Neon Green.

It just lines up too well for the United States.  Ellis has played the schedule perfectly.  Alex Morgan a concern coming into the tournament?  Play her sparingly.  Nigeria running out of gas?  Put in some veterans to get them some playing time.  Worries about defense? The bracket and red cards will take care of that.

Yes, now it can be told.  Hope Solo has rolled up a record-setting World Cup performance thanks to a consistent, intelligent strategy of not playing anybody.  Sweden, Nigeria, Colombia, and China combined to force Solo to make six saves.  (Solo had five against Australia.) 

This usually would suggest that the US will collapse once someone is strong enough to challenge, but I'm not so sure.  Solo really is as good a goalkeeper as advertised, and nothing helps a makeshift backline like confidence.  Germany had to work like crazy to escape France.  If the US can go a half or so and keep Sasic off the scoreboard, fitness and confidence will tilt towards them in a big way.  Germany comes into this game worried and vulnerable, the US overconfident well beyond the point of annoying.   

Yes, we're going to wear black and white, while Germany will wear red.  This is a stupid, stupid day for soccer.  So of course the US will win.  In fact, 2-0 with an Abby brace, just to put the cherry on it.

Thus saving the tournament.  Edmonton, already failing to cover itself in soccer-supporting glory, is going to be a freaking tomb for Japan-Canada's Mother, and a Japan-Germany final would have more no-shows than the Donner Pass Family Reunion. 

And the truly funny thing is, the brackets weren't even rigged for the US as much as they were for the benefit of Canada.  There's just no helping some people.