What a week. No such thing as summer doldrums in soccer. No siree! Between the Women’s World Cup, Copa America, Euro 2016 qualifiers, U.S. Open Cup and a pair of petulant superstars losing their temper, there was a lot to digest.
The Women’s World Cup is down to the Sweet 16, and here’s what we know:
1. Germany got off to a blazing start with a 10-0 win over Ivory Coast, but the two-time champion faces a daunting path to the final with Sweden in the Round of 16, a potential meeting with France in the quarters and the United States in the semis.
2. The U.S. team conceded only one goal through its first three games, in the first half of its opener, but the offense hasn’t been as potent as expected. The good news for the Americans is that the next two rounds look manageable with Colombia on Monday in the Round of 16 and the winner of China-Cameroon in the quarters. Things will get tough in the semis, likely against Germany or France.
3. France remains a very dangerous team despite a shocking 2-0 loss to the Colombian “Cafeteras.” That loss motivated the French, and their 5-0 win over Mexico proved their attack is still among the best in the world.
4. Brazil lucked into the easier half of the draw with Australia, Canada and defending-champion Japan. Marta and Co. wouldn’t face the United States, Germany or France until the final July 5 in Vancouver.
Meanwhile, in the Copa America in Chile, Colombia pulled off a massive upset with a 1-0 victory over Brazil. It was Colombia’s first win over Brazil in 24 years and ended Brazil’s 11-match win streak since the hiring of coach Dunga.
Brazilian superstar Neymar, who was knocked out of the 2014 World Cup after being kneed in the back by a Colombian player during the quarterfinals, was held scoreless, largely because of Colombian midfield enforcer Carlos “La Roca” (the Rock) Sanchez.
And that was just the start of Neymar’s nightmare. During the game, he received his second yellow card of the tournament, which knocked him out of Sunday’s final group match against Venezuela. Then he made things worse after the whistle.
Clearly frustrated with the match result, he kicked a ball toward a Colombian player’s face after the referee’s whistle and also appeared to head-butt opponent Jeison Murillo. Colombian player Carlos Barra ran over and shoved Neymar in the back. Both players were slapped with red cards, and on Friday, Neymar was handed a four-game ban and Barra two. Brazil said Saturday it would appeal Neymar’s suspension.
Neymar wasn’t the only famous player who blew his top last week. In fact, the Bad Boy of the Week Award goes to U.S. national team captain Clint Dempsey, who made a fool of himself during a 3-1 Seattle Sounders loss to the Portland Timbers in the U.S. Open Cup.
In extra time, the Sounders forward was upset when referee Daniel Radford red-carded teammate Micheal Azira for elbowing Portland’s Gaston Fernandez. Dempsey argued the call with Radford, and then proceeded to get ahold of the official’s notebook and rip it in half.
Needless to say, Dempsey got a red card. Then Friday, he was suspended for three games and fined by MLS for referee abuse. U.S. Soccer Federation rules state that “damaging the referee’s uniform or personal property” is considered referee assault, which draws a minimum three-month ban, but because he did not touch the referee it was deemed abuse.
It is doubtful he will be suspended that long, but there’s a good chance he will miss some Gold Cup games.
The U.S. Open Cup goes on without Dempsey and the Sounders with the Round of 16 on June 30 and July 1. Fourteen of the remaining teams are from Major League Soccer, and the other two are the New York Cosmos of the NASL and the USL’s Charleston Independence.
Across the pond in Europe, the biggest shocker in the Euro 2016 qualifiers was Wales beating Belgium 1-0. The Belgians are ranked No. 2 in the world, but Wales has Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, and he proved the difference. Wales now sits in first place in its group, three points clear of Belgium and five points ahead of Israel and Cyprus. If Wales earns a tournament berth, it would be its first major tournament since 1959.
▪ Strikers v. Boca Juniors: Closer to home, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers will host Argentine power Boca Juniors at 8 p.m. July 1 at Lockhart Stadium. Tickets start at $29 and are available at strikers.com
Major League Soccer: East — DC 28, New England 24, Orlando20. West — Seattle 29, Vancouver 26, Kansas City 24.
On the tube
Sunday: Women’s World Cup — Brazil vs. Australia (1 p.m., Fox Sports 1, Telemundo), France vs. South Korea (4 p.m., Fox Sports 1, Telemundo), Canada vs. Switzerland (7:30 p.m. Fox Sports 1, NBC Universo). Copa America — Colombia vs. Peru (BeIn Sport USA, 3 p.m.), Brazil vs. Venezuela (5:30 p.m., BeIN Sport USA). MLS — DC United vs. New England Revolution (5p.m., ESPN2).
Monday: Women’s World Cup — Norway vs. England (4:30p.m., NBC Universo), USA vs. Colombia (7:30 p.m., NBCUniverso).
Tuesday: Women’s World Cup — Japan vs. Netherlands (9:30p.m., NBC Universo).