I was so intrigued with England’s reaching the semifinals of the Women's World Cup, wondering if the Lionesses could really make up for the red cards of idiot boys like Beckham and Rooney? The sin and the splendor of Maradona? The missed PKs and the fumbled shots?
Does women’s soccer have anything to do with men’s soccer? Not sure.
Now the Lionesses have contributed their own bit to England's soccer history, giving up an own goal in stoppage time in the semifinal against Japan Wednesday night.
I’m an American with an Irish passport, and me mum was born in Liverpool -- and I have loved the Azzurri since 1982 -- but this had nothing to do with nationalism or patriotism.
Caring just a little bit about England in footy seemed akin to a baseball fan rooting for the Red Sox for decades, or rooting for Cleveland in anything. Just get it over with. Now it goes on and on.
The start of Wimbledon reminded me of national complexes I have known – going to London in June and seeing head-hanging in cricket, rugby,tennis and particularly in soccer.
Ah, yes, England once won a World Cup. The best sports documentary I have ever seen was about the 1966 World Cup – England beats West Germany! At Wembley! Every four years, the “green and pleasant land” goes through agonies I remember from my tormented childhood as a Brooklyn Dodger fan.
I thought about English football disasters I had witnessed:
On June 30, 1998 David Beckham petulantly kicked Diego Simeone of Argentina and got himself kicked out of a round-of-16 match. England lost the shootout. (Of course, Simeone developed the staggers from the minimal contact, but what was he supposed to do, man up?)
On July 1, 2006, Wayne Rooney stomped on Ricardo Carvalho of Portugal for a red card and then stupidly shoved his Man U teammate Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal in a quarter-final match. (Of course, Ronaldo took a dive, but who wouldn’t?) England lost the shootout.
Any England fan can supply dozens of other gaffes in major internationals. I was hoping the Lionesses would be unencumbered by past horrors of the male variety and could overcome the spirit and deft passing of Japan.
Instead, Laura Bassett stuck out her foot to try to stop another Japan fast break, and she deflected the ball to the underside of the crossbar.
I'm thinking of own goals -- poor Andres Escobar of Colombia against the USA in 1994, the immortal Nicola Caricola, formerly of Juventus, poking in an own goal in the very first match for the MetroStars, thereby setting up a Ruthian Curse for that franchise.
John McDermott, in the Comments below, recalls being there when Franco Baresi, my favorite defender of all time, made an own goal for AC Milan. Occupational hazard for defenders. But in stoppage time -- of a World Cup semifinal?
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.