Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


MEXICO 2, UNITED STATES 1, AND A NEW ERA DAWNS

The No. 1-ranked United States tumbled to Mexico, 2-1, in Cancun in the semifinals of the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament.

A boisterous capacity crowd of 8,500 at Estadio Beto Avila revelled in a triumph that not only punched Mexico’s ticket to next year’s Women’s World Cup in Germany but improved the Mexican women’s overall record against their longtime American tormentors to 1-19-0. 

For the fourth straight tournament game, the U.S. got off to a sluggish start, and it found itself behind for good after striker Veronica Perez scored Mexico’s second goal in the 27th minute.  Although the Americans engaged in a futile, all-out assault on the Mexican goal over the next hour, they also managed to be called for 25 goals to the Mexicans’ four. 

The upset drops the U.S. into a third-place game against Costa Rica three days later for the right to play European also-ran Italy for the 16th and final World Cup berth.  That same night Mexico will face Canada, which earned its trip to the sixth Women’s World Cup by knocking off the Ticas in its semifinal, 4-0.

The U.S.-Costa Rica winner will take on the No. 11-ranked Italians on November 20 on the road and November 27 at home.  [November 5]

Comment:  America’s greatest international rivalry by far in any sport–the USA vs. Mexico in soccer–has officially spread to a whole new gender.

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THIS LILLY DOESN’T WILT

The U.S. will kick off its bid to reach the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany tonight when it takes on Haiti at Estadio Quintana Roo in Cancun in the second game of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.  The finalists of the eight-nation competition earn trips to Germany while the third-place finisher advances to a playoff against Europe’s fifth-place team.  [October 28]

Comment:  No. 1 in the latest FIFA World Rankings, the U.S. figures to breeze to a berth in Germany, although the steadily improving Canada and host Mexico might make things interesting.  The only real question is, when will Kristine Lilly appear, extending her world record in career caps to an astounding 350.

It would be easier to understand if the 39-year-old Lilly was a goalkeeper, or even a defender, relying on positioning and experience to compensate for diminishing foot speed.  But the 5-foot-4 Lilly is what’s she’s always been:  a midfield dynamo doing the heavy lifting, something appreciated by her teammates, some of whom are now a little more than half her age.

Lilly earned her first cap in 1987, four years before FIFA staged its first Women’s World Cup, a competition hosted by China that America would win.  Another world championship and two Olympic gold medals have followed.

It should be acknowledged that elite women’s soccer doesn’t revolve around powerful clubs and national leagues, so the emphasis is on international play (think Bora Milutinovic’s  U.S. National Men’s Team, which played 52 matches in the 18 months leading up to the 1994 World Cup).  Of all women’s national teams, the U.S. has a whopping 25 players, current or retired, who have played in 100 matches or more; Germany and China, at 15 and 13, respectively, are next.   Nevertheless, Lilly’s numbers are a testament to her extraordinary talent, drive and durability.

Among men, the leader is Mohamed Al Deayea of Saudi Arabia at 181, followed by Mexico’s Claudio Suarez (177) and Ahmed Hassan of Egypt (169).  Topping the U.S. list is Cobi Jones, whose 164 caps are less than half of Lilly’s.  The average number of caps on the current U.S. women’s squad is 73; without Lilly, it’s 58.  She’s the only player to appear in all five Women’s World Cups.  And, oh yes, on a team known over the years for the scoring exploits of Carin Gabarra, Michelle Akers, Tiffeny Milbrett, Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach, the little engine from Wilton, Connecticut, and the University of North Carolina has scored 130 times for the United States.