Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jun 9 2015, Page 23

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - June 9, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE C3 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup winnipegfreepress. com WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, TUESDAY, JUNE 9, 2015 C3 CLASS emerged from the evening half of the opening- day doubleheader of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup at Investors Group Field. It decided the contest, in fact, 3- 1 in favour of the U. S. over Australia before an announced crowd of 31,148. Two goals from Megan Rapinoe helped the Americans, who looked to be in a life- and- death struggle with a 1- 1 deadlock at the half. “ A couple of bits class in the end; Rapinoe changed the game, and ( Sydney) Leroux,” said Australian coach Alen Stajcic. “ So they deserved their victory and I’m really proud of our players for our performance but it’s not enough. “ We need to regroup and improve for the next game and learn from this game.” Stajcic had many reasons to like his side — especially given the pluck and the attack shown in Monday night’s first half — but when Leroux deftly set up Christen Press for an easy goal at the 60- minute mark, and then Rapinoe went for a long run down the left side and a wonderful smash back into the right half of the net at 77 minutes, that was that. “ Megan thrives in these big games, big moments,” said U. S. coach Jill Ellis. “ She’s got ice running through her veins but a lot of passion inside of her. She’s a game- changer and that’s what makes her special. “ I think sometimes when you have teams that are neutralizing each other, you look for those special players to step up. I think we’ve got quite a few of them but certainly tonight she did. “ She had a tremendous impact on the game for us.” The result put the U. S. in control of Group D after its first day of games, with three points. Rapinoe, the 29- year- old from Redding, Calif., was hardly worked up about the effort after its conclusion. “ Little bit of a shaky game for us, especially the first 30,” she shrugged. “ Hope ( Solo) came up absolutely huge for us, three saves that I don’t think anybody else in the world could make. “ I think we settled in a little bit more. A little choppy but I think you could tell we were a little bit nervous.” Those were only part of the explanation of the first half, when Rapinoe struck on a deflection off an Australian defender at 12 minutes, but the Aussies countered with a sweet set- up converted by Lisa De Vanna 14 minutes later. In that half, the Australians forced Solo to be excellent. Samantha Kerr’s blast from the centre of the field was nicked by a leaping Solo, then off the cross- bar, in the 21st minute. “ I think we’re better than we played today and got caught kind of going a long when we needed to settle it down,” Rapinoe said. “ A bit nervous the first game of the World Cup, lots of pressure and all that.” Stajcic rejected the idea that the Australians paid too much respect to the Americans. “ I thought the players had a lot of belief they could win today and I thought that showed in the first half,” he said. “ I said we’d come out at them and attack and not sit back and not let America dictate the game and I thought we did that. “ So that’s why I’m really pleased with the effort and the spirit and the execution. A couple of fantastic saves ( by Solo) and they win you games, don’t they.” tim. campbell@ freepress. mb. ca MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ngozi Okobi begins the Nigerian comeback with a goal to open the second half, sprinting past Swedish defender Nilla Fischer. S URPRISE and shock marked the first match of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup at Winnipeg’s Investors Group Field. In Monday’s afternoon contest, Franscisa Ordega’s speedy run in the 87th minute lifted Nigeria into a 3- 3 draw with Sweden in the Group D opener and it was clear elation for the Nigerians. Ordega booted home the run with her left foot, taking a marvellous pass from teammate Ngozi Okobi up the middle. “ For us, we don’t think about the ratings,” beamed Nigerian coach Edwin Okon, his team the underdogs against the Swedes, who are fifth- ranked in the world. “ We look at what we do in the pitch with and without the ball.” The Nigerians put their quickness, speed and skill to work, scoring three second- half goals to erase deficits of 2- 0 and 3- 2. “ I’ll tell you this, the game was different from what you saw,” said Swedish coach Pia Sundhage, who was calm and collected after the disappointing result. “ But I do understand some of the players — it’s their first tournament and the opening game. “ Still we were 2- 0 ahead and at half- time we had a good feeling. However, we were a little bit unlucky and not so skillful and that’s why we gave up two goals and had to chase again.” Sundhage didn’t dispute her defenders had trouble with Nigeria’s speed at times, leading to a busy afternoon for goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. “ We tried to avoid 1- v- 1 situations and unfortunately we had too many 1- v- 1 situations, and I give credit to the Nigerian players because they are good 1- v- 1 and they are tricky and created chances but being skillful 1- v- 1,” Sundhage said. The Swedes have been slow out of the gate before, Sundhage said. “ If you know your history, it’s been like this many times for the Swedish team.,” she said, vowing, “ We will do better.” Okobi was chosen the player of the match having also scored five minutes into the second half to get the Nigerians into their flow. “ I was so very excited because this was my first outing for the senior national, senior World Cup ( team). I know more to come,” she said. “( The result) wasn’t a surprise to me because all I felt was to beat Sweden. Our mistakes brought goals to them. To beat Sweden was what we had in mind.” Okon was clearly the more enthusiastic coach postgame, but he avoided sounding cocky. “ No team in this competition is a pushover,” he said. “ It’s 11- v- 11. It is the girls’ to decide.” He said he implored his players to keep fighting at the half, when Sweden led by two. “ It’s not over until it’s over,” he said. “ You fight to the end. They’re a good side. I said it yesterday. It was unfortunate. I consider those cheap goals ( in the first half). We’re going back to work on it. “ In the dressing room ( at the half), I said to the players, the mistakes had come and in the 45 minutes they got two goals. We can use ( the next) 45 minutes to get five goals if we work at it.” Okon was given the opportunity to say his team was better on Monday, even that others ought now to consider them a threat, but he wouldn’t go that far. “ I won’t feel disappointed because we were coming from behind against a good side,” he said. Nigeria plays Australia on Friday, while Sweden will meet the USA. tim. campbell@ freepress. mb. ca A Swede start for Nigeria Gutsy comeback earns African underdog a draw By Tim Campbell Yanks win with class after scary first half By Tim Campbell IT was a trial by fire, sort of, a young Australian making her World Cup debut against a firestorm of roars and a U. S. team that always cranks the heat. That’s not how Katrina Gorry thought about it, though. Before, during and after Australia’s opening loss to the Americans, the star midfielder stayed composed. “ In our heads, we just take away the stands and it’s a match we’ve played over and over,” Gorry said, on her way out of the stadium on Monday night. “ We’ve been soaking in every hour of every day. Today was pretty exciting, preparing for such a big match, but stepping on that field it was just like another match.” And yet, the moment was more than just a match for Gorry, all of 22 years old, and a World Cup athlete now after joining her national team three years ago. Which means it is the first World Cup for her family, too — and no ocean could have stopped the core of the Gorry family from watching her take the pitch in Winnipeg. Theirs is a big, blended family, one that spilled into nine children in total. They have great big Christmas gatherings. They all rally behind her. So there they were on Monday, couldn’t miss ’ em, yellow jerseys proud and bright in a sea of American stripes. Five of Gorry’s family members made the 26- hour flight from their home in Brisbane, to the heart of Canada. And while they waited for the evening game to start, they basked in the wonder of it all. “ It’s very emotional,” her mother Linda Gorry said, blinking back the tears. “ The whole family sticks together, and it’s actually inspired a lot of the younger children as well. It’s following her dream, and we’ve all been able to support her. It’s good to see her following her dreams and making it.” After all, they still remember the teensy 10- year- old girl who once turned turned to her stepmother, Michelle, and said “ one day, I’m going to play for the Matildas.” It seemed like such a long shot, then. Gorry always excelled on the pitch, Linda said, but she was also small: today, “ Mini” is not a whisker over 5- 1. When she’s matched against players such as 5- 11 American striker Abby Wambach, as she was on Monday night, the size difference is striking. Somehow, Gorry learned to make that work to her advantage. It’s the little things that make her game stand out: the nimble skill with which she outworks her opponents, the battles she puts up for turf — and often wins. She is a spitfire on the pitch, and she can kick, with 11 international goals in 31 games. On Monday night, it was how she slipped between a dribbling teammate and an American defender who was trying to chase her down. Dances like that prompted fans back home in Australia to tweet sentiments such as, “ Katrina Gorry is a joy to watch,” and though she was sometimes quiet on Monday night... she was. To reach these heights was never easy. There’s very little money in women’s soccer in Australia, so even though Gorry is the reigning Asian Football Confederation’s player of the year, she still lives at home and works full time at a coffee shop to make ends meet. On the other hand, her talented brother, 17- year- old Lachlan, could soon sign a pro contract in Australia; if he does, he will immediately make more than she does in the sport. And maybe that’s where family becomes that much more important, to help build a more solid foundation on which to launch her goals. In Winnipeg, though, they will mostly offer distant support: the Gorrys will barely get to see Katrina, as she descends deeper into the World Cup bubble. They were able to see her for about 30 minutes Sunday night, and hoped to steal a few more after Monday’s game, that’s all. That’s fine with them. By now, they know the drill. “ You just don’t get to spend time with them,” Linda said. “ You just are there, they know you’re there, and I think she loves it that she knows that the family is here.” Yes, she did. “ It’s so exciting to have such a supportive family,” Gorry said, and smiled. “ They travel with me pretty much everywhere, so I’m pretty lucky I’d say.” melissa. martin@ freepress. mb. ca Gorry thrilling fans here and Down Under Aussie midfielder ‘ a joy to watch’ By Melissa Martin C_ 03_ Jun- 09- 15_ FP_ 01. indd C3 6/ 8/ 15 10: 56: 09 PM

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