Japan may have ultimately fallen to a 2-0 defeat to England in its final group game, but goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita certainly stood out, as has many a goalkeeper in this tournament.
In the first half the 23-year-old made a reflex save to prevent Rachel Daly from doubling England’s advantage, while after the break she was at full stretch to push away Tony Duggan’s half volley.
The debate to make goals smaller
Female goalkeepers have long been the subject of mockery by those who wish to pour scorn on the women’s game. It is the stick which is often used to beat the women’s game. Is this the tournament which has put the goalkeeping debate to bed? Not quite, perhaps.
“It’s not sexist to call for smaller pitches and goals for women,” rang the headline on the opinion piece. In the article published on June 13, Hayes argued that the size of goals should be smaller, pointing out that the height of hurdles in track and field differ for the sexes. The average height for women in England at least, Hayes argued, was 5 feet, 5 inches, while on average English males were 5 feet, 9 inches.
US defender Crystal Dunn has disagreed with Hayes’ comments this week, saying that Christine Endler’s goal-stopping display against the US was “testament” that the goals are “exactly the size they need to be.”
Player-of-the-match performances from Argentina’s Vanina Correa and Endler in the group stages suggest goal sizes are fine as they are. Yamashita’s display supported that, too.
“Not enough respect goes to the coaches and the goalkeepers that are performing fantastically,” said England boss Neville after Correa’s eye-catching performance against his team.
“Goalkeeper coaches are often the last hired on many professional teams,” the American wrote.
Endler, said Solo, was a “one in a million” goalkeeper. The Chilean emerges from this tournament with her reputation enhanced, but so too do many others in her position.
In 18-year-old Chiamaka Nnadozie — who became the youngest goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet at a World Cup in Nigeria’s victory over South Korea — the Super Falcons had a player who had stood up to whatever came her way against France, until the teenager suffered a harsh lesson on the biggest stage of all when she was penalized for stepping off her line before Wendi Renard hit her penalty.
The same happened in Scotland’s equally dramatic match against Argentina on Wednesday.
Lee Alexander stepped off her line to save an injury-time penalty, a transgression which gave Florencia Bonsegundo the chance to retake the spot kick, which secured a 3-3 draw for an Argentina team which was 3-0 down until the final 15 minutes.
It was the first time in history a team had dragged itself back from 3-0 down at a Women’s World Cup. Victory for Scotland would have put the country through to the last 16. Instead, all World Cup debutants have now failed to progress to the knockout stages.
A technical error from Alexander proved costly, yes, but the new penalty rule introduced at the beginning of this month which deems that a goalkeeper must have “at least part of one foot on/in line with the goal line when the kick is taken” will catch out many a goalkeeper over the coming months, male or female.
For all the record scores, for all the hat-tricks, goalkeepers at this World Cup have stood up to the task, whatever size the goal in front of them.