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Yanks Renew Rivalry 1.0 with England

July 2nd, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

For a century, it’s been “the special relationship” pretty much nonstop. Great Britain and the United States, the Two Great English-Speaking Allies on opposite shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

We helped the Brits avoid German domination in the 20th century. Twice. In return, they threw in with the Yanks on the succession of small wars that darkened the past 30 years. Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq again, the Islamic State …


It got so that most Americans forgot the early years. The years from about 1774 till 1815. A couple of generations, actually. Back when Britain (which currently includes England as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) spent a lot of time and treasure trying keep their American colonies from breaking away to form a new nation. And made a point of burning down Washington D.C. during the War of 1812, when the Brits became the first and (still only) foreign power to invade the continental U.S.

(The lyrics to the U.S. national anthem recall an incident when a British fleet shelled Fort McHenry, outside Baltimore, leading Francis Scott Key to was eloquent over “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air”.)

But, hey, that was a long time ago, and rare have been the times when these two countries find themselves on opposite sides of a competition. Or a war.

Which brings us to a semifinal match of the Fifa Women’s World Cup tonight in France.

The US versus the UK for world domination of … women’s soccer.

Someone will be gloating and someone else will be glowering when this one is over, at about 11 p.m. here in France, about 2 p.m. in California.

It is an interesting matchup, and probably one that will decide the victor in a global competition both countries now care about, and more than a little.

How did we get here?

On the men’s side, England always cared more about “football”, as played by the men. That would be soccer, and it is the No. 1 sport in Britain (well, England, actually), but no better than the No. 5 sport in the U.S.

Not to say the U.S. men haven’t had some success against the English, if we think back to the shocking result of England v USA in the 2010 South Africa World Cup. A 1-1 draw that set the stage for the Yanks winning the group, with England second.

But that did not sting England much, because everyone still knew they had much the better side, and they could dismiss the flukiness of that one result.

Across the sports panoply, the U.S. and England/Britain do not spend a lot of time worrying about the other. Cricket and rugby … both important to England, not important at all to the U.S. Then the panoply of U.S. sports, from baseball to basketball to American football … the Brits mostly shrug.

There was really nothing much to get worked up about.

Until Lucy Bronze and Megan Rapinoe (and friends) came along.

Women’s soccer, see, has been bossed by the Yanks since the sport arose about three decades back. England had a women’s team, from the start, but it wasn’t very good, and for whatever social/cultural reasons, the Yanks seized on the women’s game … while the English pretty much ignored it. In America, all little girls played soccer. In England, all little girls watched little boys play soccer.

Of late, however, the English wonder why their women’s team should cede status and pride of place to the Yanks. Soccer is their game, after all. Invented there, contested internally via a club system for about 150 years, and now some of those English clubs have thriving women’s teams, too.

And now the English women want to join the parade, and the Yanks stand in their way.

They will sort out their current status tonight, when England meets the U.S. in Lyon. We expect it will be a contentious, even unfriendly match, with the winner deriving great satisfaction … and the loser shattered.

Nothing that happens there will compare to the Brits hanging Nathan Hale or burning down the White House, but in its own modest way, it will find these two great allies on opposite sides of the stadium, baying for blood — or at least a decisive victory.

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