The USA’s win over Brazil in the Women’s World Cup has settled the debate. It cannot be disputed any longer. The truth is women play soccer at its highest level way better than do the men.
It is not that the women play any more skillfully, any more athletically or anymore aggressively.
They just play a better game to watch. It is more thrilling. It is more high drama. There’s more scoring, and there’s less whining, complaining and flopping from the players. It is just a better game, and anyone who is not watching the Women’s World Cup from Germany is missing some of the greatest athletic thrills in a generation.
I know that this conclusion may seem a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, seeing how the USA’s win is being called the greatest match ever. You cannot ask for much more than having a team playing a man down tie the match at 2-2 in stoppage time of overtime and then win it on penalty kicks.
That may never happen again, but it almost assuredly would not happen in the men’s game. Last year’s World Cup in South Africa, let’s just be honest, was dreadfully boring. None of the matches came even close to the drama that this year’s Women’s World Cup matches have achieved. Can you even remember a memorable moment from South Africa?
Last summer’s final between Spain and the Netherlands could go down as most boring soccer match in history. Was either team even trying to score? In fairness, Spain did score once, and then spent the rest of the match playing defense.
That’s one of the big differences between South Africa last summer and Germany this summer. Scoring. Goals make the game more exciting. The women try to score while the men play defense. Defense may win championships in that other game called football, but it makes for awfully dull soccer matches.
The numbers do not lie. Through the quarter finals of this summer’s Women’s World Cup, the average goals per game is 2.5. In all the matches from last summer in South Africa, it was only 2.25. The women so far have had just one match finish with the dreaded 0-0 draw. The men achieved that ignominious feat seven times.
I am not a big fan of settling a match with penalty kicks. They are like settling a baseball game by conducting a home run hitting contest. But you cannot deny it is an exciting way to end it. Two of this year’s women’s matches so far have been settled that way – USA-Brazil along with England-France. What made it exciting was that in both matches the teams scored real goals before ever making it to the penalty kicks.
In South Africa last year, there were two matches settled with penalty kicks as well. But, as you might have expected, one of those was because Paraguay and Japan ended up in a 0-0 draw.
Then there is just the whole issue of how the players conduct themselves on the field. Despite some questionable refereeing, you rarely see the women with that “what foul” look on their faces. You rarely see a woman screaming at an official after a referee’s decision. You rarely see a woman acting like she was shot with cannon whenever she gets elbowed by another player. The women just get out there and try to score.
That’s not just my sentiment either. Esteemed New York Times Columnist George Vescey is watching the Women’s World Cup from his living room couch and noticed the same thing. He lamented the differences in the men’s and women’s game after the USA’s third match of the opening round saying, “Sweden and the United States just reminded me why women’s soccer stands by itself as a special sport. The women never stop playing. Never mind techniques or tactics. I am talking here about heart.”
Yes, the women play with more heart. The women play to win, and you win by scoring. The men play not to lose, and you do that by playing defense. I will take scoring every time.