I’ve got another round of World Cup obituaries, and which I feel the earlier exclamation point doesn’t set up for at all.
Ramble of the Day
This stage of any tournament is inherently about elimination, and the weekend pulled out four as the Round of 16 officially began. First came a Nigeria side that was beaten by Germany with few complications, but had impressed earlier. Particularly in a narrow defeat in which they had the French stifled, Nigeria had proved it was a defensively organized team that was easy to root for. The team ultimately lacked a bit of attacking connections, and eventually paid the price for it, but its efforts will probably be remembered until they play again.
Next to leave France was Australia, capping off a disappointing tournament. A popular dark horse candidate to win the World Cup, the team instead showcased an inconsistent defense that sometimes canceled out the efforts of the team’s stellar attackers, including Sam Kerr. Good collective performances came and went, but the team was unable to convince anyone of its potential to go deep, and it felt like a matter of time before an impressive side knocked them out.
On Sunday, the Round of 16’s other African side, Cameroon, who exited on a controversial note. Unfortunately for the team, reactions to refereeing will remain a talking point on multiple levels for longer than they’d like, and it will overshadow what was a solid World Cup. Imperfect in defense, they still managed an organized first half against Canada, and can count Ajara Nchout’s stellar stoppage time winner against New Zealand as a tournament highlight.
The last team to exit the tournament over the weekend was Brazil in what was probably the final World Cup appearance for some of the team’s greatest players. Coming into the tournament on a nine match losing streak, the team picked itself up and showcased some of the talent they had become known for. Individuals Christiane, Formiga, and Marta shone as the tournament progressed, and a Brazil side that had trouble before the tournament’s start gave France, one of the favorites to win it a tough spot. At times ruling the midfield and with opportunities to take the lead, it wasn’t meant to be. The lasting moment, though, comes from Marta’s parting message:
"Cry in the beginning so you can smile in the end"— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 23, 2019
Marta's message for Brazil's next generation will give you CHILLS. pic.twitter.com/waDAFlgM4F
tl;dr: Out go Nigeria, Australia, Cameroon, and Brazil.
Links of the Day
The U.S. players and the U.S. Soccer Federation have agreed to mediation in the team’s gender discrimination lawsuit.
Nigeria’s Samuel Kalu collapsed from dehydration on Friday, missing the team’s Africa Cup of Nations opener but is in “stable” condition.
Fernando Torres has retired after an 18 year career.
Cuba’s Yasmani Lopez defected after his side lost to Mexico in the Gold Cup last week.
Today’s longer read: Nick Ames on Africa Cup of Nations newcomers Burundi after surviving a civil war for ESPN