Women's World Cup: 5 Reasons the Women's World Cup Is Better Than the Men's
The 2011 Women's World Cup was three jam-packed weeks of football in Germany, and all 16 teams provided at least one moment of magic for the viewers.
Like anything associated with FIFA, there was some controversy in the tournament, but nothing really got in the way of the football.
Host Germany put on a great show similar to last summer in South Africa, and while both tournaments are rather fresh in our minds, let's look at five reasons why this Women's World Cup was better than the Men's.
5. Referees Admit Their Mistakes, Don't Make Huge Ones
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In the group game between Australia and Equatorial Guinea, referee Gyoengyi Gaal missed the most blatant handball ever.
Guinea defender Bruna believed a free kick had been awarded, so she simply picked up the ball in her penalty box. When there was no whistle, she put it back down and kept playing.
Gaal apologized for not calling a penalty immediately after the game, and Australia won and advanced to the quarterfinals anyway, so no harm done.
There were some contentious decisions in this tournament as usual but no phantom offside calls or cards like last summer in South Africa. And referees didn't refuse to explain themselves when even they knew they were wrong.
And this coming from the so-called less experienced referees.
4. Every Team Had Something to Show
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Teams like North Korea, Mexico and Colombia may not have notched any wins in the World Cup, but they, like every team this summer, showed signs of having something great.
Mexico's 16-year-old keeper Cecilia Santiago is better than that 4-0 thrashing to Japan showed and can push Mexico up in the world order quickly.
No one on North Korea was over 25, and they were able to hold their own against Sweden and the US for most of the match and even gave the two some serious problems in the final third.
Nigeria was also very impressive in holding powerhouse Germany to just one goal and defeating Canada, who still had Christine Sinclair, no matter how poorly they may have played.
Just about every team left Germany with something to brag about and build on.
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Unless you were surprised at the manner in which France and Italy fizzled out of the World Cup last summer, the 2010 World Cup pretty much went according to the script.
The 2011 Women's World Cup was a different story.
Brazil was supposed to be facing the US or Germany in the final. How could anything prevent that?
However, Germany were held in check most of their tournament much to everyone's surprise, and they and Brazil were out by the quarters.
Canada crashed and burned almost from the first kick, while Australia, Sweden, England and France all had surprising runs in the tournament and will look to build on that in the near future.
Eventual winner Japan pulled off the biggest upsets by defeating both Germany and the US with some flashy football and never giving up, no matter how down they seemed.
2. More Parity Among the Teams
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The US, Germany and Brazil are the big three no more. Sure, they'll still be big teams come 2015, but they won't be alone.
France has a young, speedy and technically gifted squad that will surely improve with the experience gained this summer in Germany.
England also has some young stars, and if the Three Lionesses can just figure out their style, they'll be a danger.
Sweden's surprising run also put Germany out of the 2012 Olympics, giving room for more teams to break out next summer.
Japan especially showed that No. 4 is not all that far away from No. 3.
This World Cup showed that women's football is becoming a more even playing field where every team is a match for anyone.
1. An Exciting Final
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After the absolute bore that was the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands, the US-Japan final matchup was a not just a great match, but it was a breath of fresh air for football.
It was an end-to-end game full of last-ditch tackles and goal-line clearances, and Japan's ability to tie the game when they were surely beaten twice was a welcome sight for any neutral fan.
The final was full of chances and heart-racing moments for both sides, and it was never dull for a minute.
An appropriate way to cap off an enthralling three weeks.