Star Wars, Episode IX, The Rise of Skywalker

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Monday, July 1, 2019
Issue 9.2.4 "End of the Saga"
First Semifinal - Stade de Lyon - Lyon   Second Semifinal - Stade de Lyon - Lyon
England United States Netherlands  Sweden 
England United States Netherlands Sweden
ENG - England
(The Lionesses)

The Football Association
(The FA)

USA - United States
(The Stars & Stripes)

U.S. Soccer Federation

NED - Netherlands

Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbalbond

SWE - Sweden

Svenska Fotbollförbundet

#3 | D1 | Winner | 5-0-0
2nd Semifinal ('15)
D1: Beat Scotland 2-1
D3: Beat Argentina 1-0
D5: Beat Japan 2-0
R16: Beat Cameroon 3-0
QF: Beat Norway 3-0
#1 | F1 | Winner | 5-0-0
8th Semifinal ('91, '95, '99, '03, '07, '11, '15)
F1: Beat Thailand 13-0
F3: Beat Chile 3-0
F5: Beat Sweden 2-0
R16: Beat Spain 2-1
QF: Beat France 2-1
#8 | E4 | Winner | 5-0-0
1st Semifinal
E2: Beat New Zealand 1-0
E4: Beat Cameroon 3-1
E6: Beat Canada 2-1
R16: Beat Japan 2-1
QF: Beat Italy 2-0
#9 | F4 | Runner-Up | 4-1-0
4th Semifinal ('91, '03, '11)
F2: Beat Chile 2-0
F4: Beat Thailand 5-1
F6: Lost to USA 2-0
R16: Beat Canada 1-0
QF: Beat Germany 2-1

Semifinals begin Tuesday; A women of Star Wars-themed look at the tourney

EL SEGUNDO, CA (smt) -- As I lament the end of the Skywalker saga in Star Wars but satisfied to have witnessed this great space fantasy, I start to wonder if this is also the end of the era of USA dominance in women's soccer.  Not that they don't win the tourney, but that the number of teams that can beat the USA will vastly expand more than Germany, Sweden, England, and France.  No Japan?  JPN technically tied the USA in the WWC11 Final and only won in the penalty shootout and has only beaten the USA once, in 2012.  The last time the USA lost in a meaningful match not named those four teams?  November 5, 2010 vMEX in a WWC11 qualifying match.  That's more than 8 1/2 years ago.  In any friendly?  July 27, 2017 vAUS and AUS is ranked #6 in the world.  Before that?  Dec 16, 2015 vCHN (#16).  Ridiculous success.  But with a lot more countries finally trying to develop women's soccer properly, the National Women's Soccer League still struggling, and the USA transitioning from the veterans to the newcomers (the last 9 USA goals were scored by vets Rapinoe (4), Lloyd (2), and Heath (but officially an own goal) with only Ertz and Horan appearing on the scoresheet) this could be the last year where we expect the USA to make the semifinals (though that FRA match was admittedly a major roadblock) without a sweat. 

One of things I thought of and what many fans also have reported when the awesome Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer debuted was that maybe the rise has to do with a new name for those who use the force powers for good, replacing Jedi.  The new generation who won't be bound by the strict order, lack of compassion and attachments, and leading and fighting wars. This WWC feels like the turning point where the "mid-majors" will make their move and cause the top teams headaches.  Africa sent 2 of their 3 teams to the knockout stage, ARG tied JPN and lost just 1-0 to ENG, ESP scored vUSA and just lost 2-1, and ITA and NED were surprise winners of their groups.  The rise of women's soccer is happening! 

So in honor of the last of the 9 Skywalker films (Star Wars will continue on, including the highly anticipated The Mandalorian series on Disney+ in November), here are my 9 thoughts on the WWC comparing to 9 interesting women of Star Wars (I own this book and it is great, Women of the Galaxy). 

Star Wars - Queen Amidala  England is Queen Padmé Amildala (The Phantom Menace)-  Queen Amidala was royalty but quickly shed her crown for being a tough and hard-working senator.  As the most famous monarchy on the planet, England has lost in the semifinals twice ('15 WWC, '17 EURO) and has regrouped in hiring Phil Neville last year who brought a tough approach to the team and has led them to their first SheBelievesCup and into the semifinals where he says England has to stop being a semifinal team.  Will he succeed?
Star Wars - Jyn Erso  Spain is Jyn Erso (Rogue One) -  This reluctant rebel led a group of people on a suicide mission to steal the Death Star's plans and gave this speech:  "If we can make it to the ground, we'll take the next chance. And the next. On and on until we win... or the chances are spent."  And, boy, did Spain take their chances.  In 3 group stage matches they took 65 shots but only scored three times and two were on penalty kicks and won just once. 
Star Wars - Princess Leia  USA is Princess Leia Organa (A New Hope) - This no-nonsense young heroine was very smart and capable and didn't care about what other people thought prompting Han Solo to remark "No reward is worth this" and continued this confident attitude in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  The USA is so good they blatantly celebrated routing a bad team and didn't apologize for it.  Now they are two wins away from their 4th WWC title. 
Star Wars - Aayla Secura  Australia is Aayla Secura (The Clone Wars) - The fan favorite in the comics was actually brought into the movies (Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) by George Lucas. Appropriately for this WWC, Twi'lek's have a French accent. One of my favorite characters, this Jedi Twi'lek was a great warrior whose response to the question are all Jedi so reckless was "Just the good ones."  LOL.  Are all women's soccer teams so reckless?  Just the good ones.  AUS is ranked #6 in the world yet you never knew with AUS what you were going to get as they came into the tourney losing three straight including scoring 3 times and still losing 5-3 to USA.  And the WWC was the same as AUS blew a 1-0 lead to ITA losing in stoppage time, came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat BRA and came back to tie NOR in Round of 16 only to lose badly in the PSO.
Star Wars - Torra Doza Japan is Torra Doza (Resistance) - This daring and young 15-year old Ace pilot wants to explore but is kept in check by her father, similar to Princess Jasmine from Aladdin.  The Japanese team is the second youngest in the tourney and the federation was more concerned with doing well in the Olympics in 2020 hindering this team's growth.  After an upset by tying ARG and losing to ENG 2-0, JPN finally showed their style of play but an unfortunate handball did them in vNED. 
Star Wars - Rey Netherlands is Rey Skyw..., er, Rey (The Rise of Skywalker) - A scavenger who grew up from a "nowhere" planet, Rey soon realizes it doesn't matter what her heritage is or was and that she can grow into a powerful Jedi pretty quickly as it turns out!  The Netherlands has a long history with soccer, but their women's team, not so much.  NED only first qualified for the 2015 WWC, never have participated in the Olympics, and didn't qualify for the first 9 UEFA EUROs.  But in 2017, they suddenly won the EURO and this year are in the Semifinals.  Can this fast rise to the top continue?
Star Wars - Ahsoka Tano Scotland is Ahsoka Tano (The Clone Wars/Rebels) - Introduced as a Padawan to Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka was derided by fans as unnecessary but over the course of five seasons, she earned respect and is now one of the most popular characters outside the film saga.  She had reflected "Being a Padawan is harder than I thought".  Scotland was making its first appearance in the WWC as a little sister to ENG and earned respect losing 2-1 to ENG, scoring vJPN, and scoring 3 goals in a tie vARG.  Blowing a 3-0 lead to ARG kept them out of the R16 but now, since ENG qualified for the Olympics, some Scots could now make the Great Britain team that will participate in 2020. 
Star Wars - Paige Tico Megan Rapinoe is Paige Tico (The Last Jedi) - As a gunner, Paige was the last hope for a fleeing Resistance, and in the clutch, she was able to destroy the First Order's Dreadnought, sacrificing herself and allowing her sister Rose and others to live.  When you need a big play, you can always count on Rapinoe.  Whether it's her amazing powerful cross in the dying seconds for Abby Wambach to head in for the tying goal against Brazil ('11 QF) or her scoring USA's last four goals in two one-goal wins, Rapinoe may be slower than before but it only takes that one time to shine. 
Star Wars - Maz Kanata Respect for Women's Soccer is Maz Kanata (The Force Awakens) -  This pirate queen is odd but usually has words of wisdom such as "Dear child! The longing you seek is not behind you, it is in front of you".  This pretty much encapsulates the status of women's soccer, that however wronged respect for women's soccer has been, the time is to concentrate on the future and see the progress and not wallow in the past.  TV ratings are way up in a lot of countries, attendance is up for key women's matches, sponsors are matching what they would give to the men's national team, Nike is actually designing kits specifically for women (thus, I think I need to buy an XXL to fit it them now!), and so on.  The key to FIFA's heart is money.  Always has been.  Show FIFA the profits and FIFA may actually start promoting the women's game properly.

I want this USA jersey!...

Other Themed Retrospectives:  WC06 (Les Misérables), WC18 (Greatest Showman)

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