What Hurt the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

The artificial turf did not stop the US Women's National Team from winning the 2015 Women's World Cup. ( Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)
The artificial turf did not stop the US Women’s National Team from winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup. ( Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)

What Hurt the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

By most measures, the 2015 Women’s World Cup was an astounding success. Ratings were up for television and there was plenty of exciting action. Nearly every game in the knockout stage was competitive and had some kind of exciting finish whether it was a late goal or a close game throughout. Some teams crashed out earlier than expected (Canada) while others upset their way deep into the tournament (China and England).

However, despite all the positives there were several instances where the Women’s World Cup failed to live up to expectations or was downright ridiculous. Those examples will be listed below.

1. The Referees

For the most part, many people were enthralled by the product on the field between whichever two teams were playing (except this guy). There was one on-field part of the game that really took away from the excellent contests and that was the refereeing, or lack thereof.

Yours truly documented several cases of the referees not calling fouls, penalties given despite fouls occurring outside the box (USA vs Germany), and goal kicks given instead of corner kicks among many other issues. What is so striking about the referees is that these were determined to be the best in the world. (To be fair, there are plenty of gripes about the referees and officials in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, Premier League, etc.).

That is a scary thought, but the World Cup deserves better. Why not use men to referee during the World Cup? Yes, this is a Women’s tournament, but it does not mean that men could not handle the job if they are qualified. It can be a few sets of male referees and assistants while keeping the majority of referees on the field females as one idea for the future.

Or FIFA can provide better training to the female referees and assistants. Given what we have learned in the past few months, that does not appear likely to be anywhere on the radar of FIFA.

2. “The Turf”

One of the biggest gripes this author has about the 2015 Women’s World Cup is the turf. This is not focused on how the turf plays, but rather the incessant complaining from Fox’s commentators about the turf.

This is not surprising that Fox did not like the turf being used considering many star players, including USA star Abby Wambach, sued FIFA in September 2014 over the turf. The lawsuit was withdrawn this past January, but that did not stop Fox from endlessly complaining about the turf (noted here) It was so bad that at one point a Fox analyst said the turf melted shoes.

It was known in 2011 that Canada would host the Women’s World Cup and the bid included artificial turf at nearly all of the venues. As this author documented in this article, this was a lack of foresight from the players to wait until September 2014 to file a lawsuit.

To be fair, the talk regarding turf was not nearly noticed as much in the latter stages of the tournament as it was at the beginning. Still, the fact it came up nearly ever game in the group stage makes it hard to listen to the game at times.

In the end, the turf did not matter as noticed in the final with the US crushing Japan 5-2. Whatever you want to call this tournament on the turf (an experiment?), it is now over and ultimately had little effect on the outcome.

3. The Analysts

This reason is purely personal, but accuracy is important from commentators and analysts alike.

Despite Fox’s non-stop complaining about the turf (see above), there was another area that really hurt Fox’s coverage. That was the analysts and specifically the mistakes they made. There are a ton of examples that prove Fox needs to provide better analysts.

One of the more egregious mistakes was that Rob Stone stated Canada never made the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup. That would make sense if 2003 never happened when Canada did make the semifinals.

Another analyst made the comment that French midfielder Claire Lavogez was gassed against Germany in the quarterfinal match despite coming on in the 69th minute. It did not make any sense at the time given the context of the game to that point.

One host referred to the extra 30 minutes of soccer as “overtime” instead of extra time. When trying to grow a sport like soccer the terminology is important. Imagine telling a person with no knowledge of College Football that two teams are going to sudden death extra time. (FYI, college football does not have any timed downs and each team is given a chance to score).

Even the usually excellent JP Dellacamera had a lapse in the USA versus Germany game. When Celia Sasic was awarded a penalty in the 60th minute, Dellacamera said it was the decisive moment in the match despite another 30 minutes remaining. It was not decisive, as the US would go on to score twice to win the match 2-0.

In the final between the USA and Japan, Dellacamera said the sun might have played a part in Hope Solo not seeing a shot. However, there was no direct sunlight on Solo in the latter part of the second half when the comment was made.

Another announcing flub was the own goal by England’s Laura Bassett versus Japan. When she accidentally put the ball in her own net, the announcers were completely flabbergasted as to what happened and did not appear to know what even happened. It was not until the Japan players celebrated that they were able to fully comprehend what happened and even the graphics department did not put up Japan’s second goal until well after the ensuing kickoff. For people who are supposed to tell the audience what has happened, that was a massive mistake.

Also in the USA versus Germany game, one of the commentators, Tony DiCicco said, “That Carli Lloyd was having a massive game“. However, DiCicco brought up accolades from the games against China and Colombia, which did not fit the argument of only the Germany game.

4. FIFA

Not a lot of time will be spent on this because, well, it is FIFA after all. This article by Tim Booth sums up what FIFA did wrong.

5. Availability of Some Games

This was not a big problem for the games in the knockout stages, but the group stages did not have all the games available depending on the television providers. For example, if a game was shown on Fox Sports 2 and you did not have that channel via your provider, you could not watch the game on a mobile device or tablet.

This comes down to Fox and the providers, which undoubtedly makes both sides to blame. Only the group stage was affected, but imagine a major tournament in the future (Euro 2016 or the men’s World Cup in 2018) not showing all the games of the group stage.

It should not be that way for any major tournament, men’s or women’s.

Conclusion

The tournament was a huge success for the advancement of women’s soccer and its popularity. We will not have to worry about the 2019 tournament being played on turf, as it will be on grass in France (Yay! No more complaining about the turf). We will have to deal with Fox having the rights (No!), but within four years the availability of the Fox Sports channels across most providers should be settled (hopefully).

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