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Day 9: Recap
Straight up: 11-2-3
Hmm. Well. After some brief early fireworks for Bastille day, we got a bit of a snooze fest in this evening's nightcap. Bookie remains aware that some will disagree, but in my opinion the French-Belgium border battles basically fizzed out after Griedge Mbock Bathy's banger.
An emphatic finish from one of my all-time favorite players. After that we were pretty much done. Quite a sleepy run from the very-mortal looking Bleau. Your friendly bookie wasn't at all upset to see them not hit the line. Horrible decision on that late handball call. Can't believe I'm happy to say that Wendie Renard missed.
One of the great giants of women's football, hungry as all hell, directed nine efforts on target this evening by my count. Still no goal for the French skipper, Call me superstitious, but I won't call them favorites until she gets off the mark.
S.S.S. Tactical Breakdown
We'll talk a little France, Italy, and Iceland tonight. Do forgive the bookie for skipping over the Red Flames but there really isn't much to discuss there. Ives Serneels went with the same narrow, non-overlap 4-2-3-1 as he did on the previous matchday. It held up defensively well enough and they got a flukish counter goal off it. That's all really.
Truth be told, there isn't all that much to cover when it comes to Corinne Diacre's squad either. A couple of personnel changes in the 4-3-3 from last time. Clara Mateo took over for Sandi Toletti in midfield. Mbock Bathy took over in her usual slot alongside Renard in central defense with Tounkara making way.
It remains more or less the same 4-3-3 that the bookie projected. Okay, with all the speed in this lineup it's really impossible to tell of Marie-Antoinette Katoto is supposed to operate as a suppressed nine. I still think so as Ouleymata Sarr appeared to function as such when Katoto went off injured.
I'll throw it up so you can take a look.
Lineup—France—Match Two (4-3-3) (7/14/22)
Twenty-one to two total attempts from the French this evening. Two solid goals. Renard looking as imperious as ever. Belgium still able to maintain around 40 percent possession, yet decidedly unable to get past the halfway line with any conviction. Diacre's side well drilled in set pieces if not a tad timid in open play.
Fairly blasé talking points from a very blasé match. It just didn't do it for your friendly bookie. Very little entertainment value. Nowhere near as engaging and intriguing as the earlier kickoff. We might as well jump straight to the grades, which are largely favorable.
Grades—France (Match Two)
Greidge Mbock Bathy
No one did anything majorly wrong, though Sarr did disappoint in relief of Katoto and keeper Peyraud-Magnin needed to do better on that lone Belgian goal. Eve Perisset is definitely my top player, with Cascarino not far behind. I just didn't like how flat the forward play seemed for much of the second 45.
Boring. Pedestrian. No real bite to it all apart from Renard. To whit, whaat the hell was with all those dives by otherwise respectable players like Geyoro and Bilbault in the second half? Thought I was watching the Italian men's team for a while there.
Speaking of the Italians, why don't we have a look in on the team I told you could absolutely find their way into this tournament? Have to say that the personnel/tactical decisions from Milena Bertolini were downright shocking. Five new members in the starting XI and a radical change of shape.
Lineup—Italy—Match Two (4-4-2) (7/14/22)
Manuela Giugliano and Aurora Galli--albeit two players who received failing marks in the bookmaker's scorecard--were dropped for an entirely new-look midfield. Radical stuff. Veterans Elisa Bartoli, Barbara Bonansea and Cristiana Girelli also took a seat. Bertolini threw in two cold players to run her midfield and kept faith in the scorer of the lone goal last time, Martina Piemonte, to work with Valentina Giacinti up top.
I personally was quite surprised that Elena Linari, Arianna Caruso, and Valentina Bergamaschi maintained their places. There really seemed to be no pattern to the replacements here; more of a case of throwing something random up against the wall and hoping it stuck. It didn't really. Three woefully bad Italian offsides in the first half. Piemonte spurned a golden chance.
If there was a bright spot from the opening 45, I happen to think that the Italian approach play (as the Germans put it) was "ganz okay. Replacement midfielders Flamina Simonetti and Martina Rosucci didn't run a bad set of builds at all. Given the lack of finishing quality in the final third, Bertolini was obviously going to have to throw another striker on at the half and re-format to a 4-3-3.
Glad to see that she did that. So few head-coaches have made halftime subs this tourney. When Barbara Bonaansea replaced the still-too-green Caruso at the restart, we at least knew that it was coming. Sort of odd that she waited six extra minutes of playing time to replace Piemonte with Girelli when she could of just pulled the trigger on a double change immediately.
Oh well. At least matters were progressing in the right direction. Compelling chances still had to wait until after the hour mark. When Bertolini yanked her captain Sara Gama in the 59th, most of us observers were about to go bonkers with these decisions. The equalizer even came against the run of play.
The goal was credited to Bergamaschi, but it was all Bonansea in the lead-up. No surprise to see the latter earn "woman-of-the-match" honors. The 31-year-old Juventus Lady (whom the bookie now supremely regrets dropping from the talisman role in his preview section) reversed the flow of the entire game. She kept it up, leading her team in a huge run of pressure over the next 25 minutes that saw her hit the post in search of a winner.
The Italians knocked on the door until a final spell of Icelandic pressure in the final five minutes. We'll talk a bit about that below. First, we should say that the spritely Azzure were most unlucky not to snag all three points. The subs really made a big difference, as reflected by the marks below.
Grades—Italy (Match Two)
Lucia Di Guglielmo
Working one's way up from the four disappointments who were subbed off, Bertolini has her next XI staring her in the face. As noted above, the midfield actually seemed consistently strong to these eyes. There may not be a place for Giugliano or Gama against Belgium. Certainly don't think we'll see Galli again.
An uplifting performance from one of the most important faces of women's football in her country has this team right back in the thick of it. A joy to behold how she picked her team up and carried them on her shoulders. The Italians will of course likely need a little help from the French.
Do the "Ice-Dottirs" stand a chance?
Lineup—Iceland—Match Two (4-2-4) (7/14/22)
Wow. Contrast this with what we saw from Thorstein Halldorsson last round. This was massively ambitious. Just the one personnel change with a swapped-out right back. I'm personally convinced that this was a 4-2-4, with Danny Brynjarsdottir and Sara Bjørk Gunnarsdottir taking turns as the forward fulcrum.
Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir, once again, was absolute top notch. The VfL Wolfsburg phenom was all over both of the flanks on insanely lethal rotations. We got to see her employ several of those trademark long-throws, contest aerial duels marvelously, and serve as the lone pressing player when the girls scrambled to prevent a late winner.
Sigh. And it all started auspiciously enough. The scorer of that early goal--FC Bayern München's Carolina Lea Lea Vilhjalmsdottir--went from being the hero to the goat when she miffed up that last chance to win it. Halldorsson left her on too long. She was clearly too gassed to find the requisite feet to meet that S.J. Jonsdottir cutback.
Jonsdottir herself couldn't sort her feet out on one last chance at the death. A cross from the right could have been her teams ticket to the quarterfinals. Regrettably, her touch couldn't catch up to her eyes at that point.
I know, girl. You take all the time you need.
“Riffs of the Day”—Day Nine
Reader: I'm staying the hell away from that Icelandic keeper.
Vicey: Totally with you on that one, 55-M. I'm staying the hell away from Sandra Siguroardottir as well. The "abominable snowman" is listed has to be at least 6'3''.
Reader: Where the hell to you plan to place Dagny Brynjarsdottir?
Vicey: It doesn't matter where I place her on the pitch, 45-M. She enters the "Braid pantheon" for those pleats.
It's reptilian. Love it.
Reader: So heartbroken for Vihjalmsdottir.
Vicey: No you're not, 5-M. You just want to console a cute crying girl.
Okay. I want to console her too. Poor thing was left on the pitch too long. Now she's probably a meme somewhere. My heart sank when I saw that too.
Reader: No coverage of France-Belgium on broadcast air, Vicey.
Vicey: You didn't miss much, 17-M.
You missed this.
Now you're all caught up.
Reader: Why is everyone talking about the diversity in the French lineup when I don't see a white face? It's "Film Noire" out there.
Vicey: There were actually three white girls in the starting XI today, 121-M. Charlotte Bilbault, Eve Perisset, and Clara Mateo. I know that things are different without Eugenie Le Sommer, Amandine Henry, and Gaëthine Thiney not around anymore. That's no excuse for going all Marine Le Pen.
In point of fact, that's head-coach Corrine Diacre's job. She may have gone for a darker selection, but that's merely because she has a dark French heart. Appreciate the "Film Noire" reference. Think I might be in the mood for some of that this evening.
Reader: Not bad attendance numbers for the "tiny toons" group.
Vicey: Agreed, 19-M. Four thousand at the Manchester Academy stadium translates to about 58 percent capacity for Iceland-Italy. Rotherham was about 75 percent full for France-Belgium.
Having had a chance to think about this a bit, I almost wish they had picked some more smaller venues. The sound travels better than in those cavernous catacombs we see some of these matches take place in.
Might expand on this point more in future posts.
England vs. Northern Ireland
We may not have had much luck with high Lines recently, but I've a bad feeling that this one might be another blowout. In principle, it's a meaningless battle between friends so it could be cordial.
Let's hope so.
THE LINE: England +3 Goals (debuting)
Austria vs. Norway
Reasoning for another high Line can be found in the section about to drop.
THE LINE: Norway +2 Goals (debuting)
GENTLEMEN, ENTER YOUR WAGERS