July 3, 2019


The saddest thing about the England-USA rivalry? For most Americans it doesn't exist: Alex Morgan's celebration aside, Jill Ellis's team smothered England's passion and spirit with the most hurtful sentiment of all: indifference (Tom Dart, 3 Jul 2019, The Guardian)

The 2-1 US win in the semi-final in Lyon called to mind the scene on the Death Star before it vaporises a planet. Down on the surface it's a hive of nervous energy and excitement as the tenacious underdogs scramble to mount their makeshift defences and gutsy counter-attacks. Up in the command centre, the view is calm and orderly as the workers carry out their instructions by rote, flicking a few switches to activate the superlaser. For the rebels, it's the defining battle of their lives. For the empire, it's just Tuesday.

England dipped into derangement after Steph Houghton's penalty was saved, with Millie Bright sent off and Demi Stokes dropping the ball to concede a foul throw, while the US shepherded out the match with inevitable efficiency; doing just enough, as in the quarter-final against France.

The British media tried its best to provoke some conflict after the pre-game revelation that a couple of US staffers were found in England's hotel, touring it as an option ahead of the final. Investigating the location of the breakfast buffet and the price of a 500ml bottle of Evian from the mini-bar was shaped into a spy scandal, as if Phil Neville might have accidentally left "START RACHEL DALY OUT WIDE" scrawled on the whiteboard in the Fourvière Hotel's meeting room.

Tuesday's semi-final would be a "grudge match", declared the Daily Star; "England fury at World Cup 'Spygate' row: Manager Phil Neville in war of words with the US," roared the Daily Mail. While England were planting a St George's Cross on the moral high ground and fussing over why the Americans couldn't just read the reviews on TripAdvisor, the US simply went about their business before and during the match, paying due deference to the opposition's threat but not reserving any singular treatment for Neville's team, save for a taunt.

Alex Morgan clearly likes her tea served ice-cold. (Although someone should tell her that we increasingly prefer coffee these days.) Her Lyon Tea Party celebration was the most withering put-down since the exchange between the characters Martin and Bob, a school bully, when they meet again as adults in the 1997 film, Grosse Point Blank: "Do you really believe that there's some stored-up conflict that exists between us? There is no us. We don't exist." Having said that, the US annoying England with their celebrations wasn't anything personal: they reserved the same treatment for Thailand and Chile.

The sipping tea was a nice touch, but doesn't beat Julie Ertz telling a French player, "You tried your best."

Posted by at July 3, 2019 12:01 AM