Boring, unwatchable, “not worthy”, slow and on and on…we’ve all heard the criticism of the women’s soccer game. Some of it is frankly true, and some of it has been on display at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
None of it was on display late on Tuesday night as Japan and the Netherlands clashed in the final round of 16 matchup. With a date against upstart Australia awaiting the winner, the two sides could’ve clammed up and played it safe.
Instead, Japan and Netherlands put on easily the most entertaining match of the round of 16 and quite possibly the tournament. Somehow the game ended 2-0 to the favor of the reigning champions of Japan, but the scoreline wasn’t the important part of the match (unless you had a vested rooting interest).
For the neutral and casual viewer, the two sides put on a show that won’t soon be forgotten. It had drama, intrigue, fast play and intensity from the opening kick to the final whistle — something not too normal for a match with this much on the line.
The upstart Dutch could’ve been nervy playing against the reigning champions and having little history at this level to speak of themselves. What happened instead was a Dutch side not afraid to attack — and attack they did from the opening whistle on.
It led to an ascetically pleasing match and some incredible highs and lows. When things were great, this game was must-see television and when things went horribly wrong it was with spectacular results.
The lows started with the Netherlands wasting a massive chance in the opening minutes of the match. With a great through ball played, the Dutch appeared poised to at least test the Japanese goalkeeper. Instead, this happened:
Just minutes later the Japanese appeared to have its own bad luck, kissing a shot off the crossbar. Except, the Japanese weren’t done with the attacking and they slotted home the rebound for a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute of action.
It would take another 68 minutes for the match to see another goal, but there were plenty of great opportunities in between. There was also great individual effort, great team speed and pretty much “total football,” if you will.
Japan survived a huge scare of it own doing, with goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori pulling off a brilliant save of a potential own goal from point-blank range and also being in position had the rebounded shot gotten through the defense too.
In a theme constant of this match, Japan took advantage of a Dutch missed opportunity and created one that mattered even more just minutes later.
The great moments didn’t stop there though, as Japan came back and netted the eventual game-winning goal in the 68th minute. It just so happened to be potentially the greatest goal of the women’s World Cup….ever.
But, the game wasn’t done entertaining…and this time the Netherland’s tireless effort at getting on the scoreboard paid off with a goal at the death of the match.
Oh, and nearly 10 seconds after kicking off, the Dutch side also decided to put a final scare in to the Japanese side with a series of impressive passes and runs that ended with a stubbed shot and some great goalkeeping.
Let’s just say this, if you weren’t entertained by this match…found it boring or unwatchable…either you’re lying to yourself or just not a fan of soccer (in which case, how did you find our little corner of the interwebs).
For a tournament full of wholly unwatchable moments, Japan and the Netherlands put on a show to remind us exactly why they call it soccer “the beautiful game.”