Women’s World Cup : Saturday was not a good day

The Women’s World Cup dream is over for England and Germany. But British Ambassador Simon McDonald has nothing but praise for the tournament hosts.

The start of a real sad Saturday: Englands Faye White hits the crossbar with her penalty.
The start of a real sad Saturday: Englands Faye White hits the crossbar with her penalty.Foto: Reuters

Saturday was not a good day. First, England were knocked out of the Women's Football World Cup. On penalties. Against France. I was in Bonn in 1990 when Germany did the same to England's men in Italy. No sooner had I transferred my tournament loyalty to Germany (after all, I live here) than they too were dumped out of competition to a team which finished second in its Group. But early exit allows a fan to consider the merits of the tournament rather than focus on his own team's performance.

And the tournament organisation has been first class. I went to all four England matches. All four host cities put on a magnificent show. The smallest crowd was 19,000 people - on a Monday afternoon in Wolfsburg before the daytime shift had finished. At each subsequent match the crowd was larger, climaxing with 26,000 in Leverkusen.

In Dresden and Augsburg, the city authorities had arranged events in the margins of the competition. Brazil won Augsburg's Peace Cup competition (some consolation for losing to yet another second placed Group team in the Quarter Finals?)

In all four cities, they proudly showcased their stadiums - state of the art, carbon neutral (in the case of Augsburg), fit for the Bundesliga (Augsburg and Dresden have won promotion). The atmosphere was welcoming, relaxed and friendly. Despite the lack of German participation (we really should have finished second in our Group to guarantee an encounter with Silvia Neid's Maedels) the crowd was enthusiastic and appreciative. I must make an exception for the penalty shootout: I guess we were close enough to France for the stadium to be filled with vocal Bleu support - but the hissing as England strikers took their shot was out of order.

British Ambassador Simon McDonald is not only a Royal-Wedding-Fan.
British Ambassador Simon McDonald is not only a Royal-Wedding-Fan.Foto: dpa

But the lasting memories are overwhelmingly positive. The team from the FA were purring with pleasure at the training facilities and team hotels - as good as anywhere in the world. The tournament raised the profile of the game and the competition as the game's premier competition. One experienced commentator said that Germany had not played worse than in 2007 or 2003 when they won; it was that the other teams had caught up.

And it was wonderful to witness Germany's sporting spirit after losing. No diminution in enthusiasm or audience - rather exultation in players performing at the top of their game, a game which Germany in its organisation of this tournament has elevated to a new level. Thank you, Silvia and Steffi and Birgit and the legion of helpers behind you!

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