We're two games away from the end of the 2019 Women's World Cup. One game really, if you (correctly) discount the bronze medal match as a dreary sideshow.
With England out and the big showpiece approaching, it feels like time for a little retrospection – so here's a quick rundown of some of the talking points.
Not in that way, we're not doing VAR chat here – but actually watching goalkeepers trying to save penalties without encroaching is a really weird sensation and it's...fun? And hell, they've gotten good at it quickly. Just ask Steph Houghton.
That Cameroon Game
This World Cup has provided some of the most surreal football-watching experiences of my life, and England's round of 16 game against Cameroon might be at the top of the list. If they'd just stopped playing and demanded the referee explain her VAR decision, that would've been one thing.
The near-walkoff in the second half, the Cameroon coach appearing to accuse the referee of bias at full time, the tears...that was all very different.
Italy Are Really Good?
Maybe – maybe – the hipsters knew that Italy would be a real force in this tournament. But having been put in a group which featured two teams in the top ten of the FIFA world rankings, the fact that Italy (ranked 16th coming into the tournament) finished top of their group and beat Australia? That was a surprise.
Aurora Galli, Cristiana Girelli and Barbara Bonansea were one of the more complete attacking units in the competition, and the way they cruised past China in the round of 16 put down a marker for the rest of the knockouts. Or they might've, if the Netherlands hadn't done them 2-0 in the next round. See you in 2021.
That Thailand Game
Never seen anything like it. Not on TV, certainly not in person, not even on FIFA. The US went into half time 3-0 up on a pretty average Thailand team, everyone was pretty happy – the reporters all had their match pieces angled and half-written.
Ten second-half goals. TEN. A second half goal once every 270 seconds of the last 45 minutes. Alex Morgan scored FIVE TIMES. Astonishingly violent.
The Best Player (Went Home Early)
Alex Morgan and Ellen White are sat at the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts with six goals apiece going into Sunday's final (and Saturday's bronze medal playoff), but they weren't the World Cup stars with the most goals in June.
Bear with me.
Sam Kerr scored five goals in the tournament, all in the group stage, before her Australia team crashed out on penalties in the round of 16. Then she went back to the NWSL and banged in a hat-trick for the Chicago Red Stars. Maybe there's something about how one player can stand out in a middling team, but Kerr's individual performances might have been the best in the tournament.
She's only 25 – watch out 2023.
World Cup News Cycle
Alright, one news cycle about Americans over-celebrating is bearable. Fine, even. We got it out the way early too, 72 hours of 'buuuuut is it okay to celebrate the 13th goal in a rout?'
Then Alex Morgan 'sipped tea' (completely screwed up the motion and did something closer to smoking a blunt, but that's fine) against England and we had to go through the whole thing again. AGAIN. In the week of the actual World Cup final.
England Missed Three Straight Penalties in Five Games
Nikita Parris twice, when it didn't matter. Steph Houghton up in replacement when it did. Narrative remains the most powerful force in all of football.