Today the Guardian’s John Ashdown, who’s covering the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany for the Guardian, led off with a piece addressing the perception that women goalkeepers aren’t as good as their male equivalents. Midway through the article, Ashdown writes,
Take Sunday’s game in Berlin: Canada’s Erin McLeod was culpable for Germany’s first, utterly out of position as Kerstin Garefrekes nodded her side in front. But the cross was as inviting as a bath of warm cream on a cold day and the German striker’s miss in the second half was the greatest gaffe of the game. In the end both were overshadowed by Christine Sinclair’s sumptuous second-half free-kick anyway. More of that and there’ll be no need to talk about keepers.
If yesterday’s marquee match is any indication, there will be more of that. The stunning set-piece goal from the 28 year-old star Canadian forward underlined the well-matched skill on display. The main technical drawback had nothing to do with women goalkeepers (McLeod was solid for Canada despite Germany’s first goal) as much as some poor positioning from Canada’s defence, with the full-backs consistently caught out of position on the break. More lethal German finishing would have made the scoreline far less compelling.
Despite some poor defending in particular and Canada’s 2-1 opening game loss in general, Sinclair’s strike felt like one of those signature moments, like the Gordon Banks’ save on Pele’s header during England’s 1-0 defeat to Brazil. It was preceded by another indelible image, when, after retreating to the sidelines to get care for what looked like it could be a broken nose following an elbow to the face from Babbett Peter, Christine Sinclair shoved a member of the medical staff away in desperation to avoid any talk of substitution. She wanted to play for Canada.
All in all, it felt like a classic World Cup moment in a game packed with them: near misses, Germany’s desire to push forward in the second half despite a two-goal cushion, and plenty of sharp, incisive passes, at least in the midfield if not in the final third, from Canada. And with a packed stadium with 73,000 plus fans, it had everything you’d want in an international match at a major summer tournament.
Still, despite Ashdown’s even-handed assessment, the highest-rated reader comment on his piece was this: “Women tend not to be able to throw things, tantrums excepted, very well.” It’s clear the boring old jokes will continue to be told. Yet my hunch is this World Cup, which has already showcased a much more even technical playing field than even four years ago in China, will do much to dislodge the rampant sexism surrounding women’s football. Yes, the road ahead is long, but Sinclair’s wonder-strike and overall sporting character made it that much shorter.