Vanina Correa: Our 2019 World Cup Favorite
The player that won my heart at this World Cup cycle is Argentina's goalkeeper Vanina Correa.
Coming into the World Cup, Argentina was the 37th ranked nation in the world. Between 2015 and 2017 the team dissolved and did not exist. (The Women existed, just not the team.) Argentina had struggled to qualify for the World Cup in the past and had to play a play-in game against Panama just to make the trip to France this time around. Once there, they got the unlucky straw that drew 2015's World Cup Runner-Ups Japan.
Japan was one of the pre-tournament favorites and Argentina was supposedly just lucky to be there. So after having never won a game in World Cup competitions (0-6), Argentina tying a world powerhouse was a small victory in itself because they had earned their first points. A tight defense and a stellar goalie turned away the Japanese. That goalie's name? Vanina Correa.
Things didn't get any easier for Argentina as they then pulled #3 ranked in the world England. I watched as Correa, with laser-like focus, track a penalty kick right into her palm. The ball then bounced away and hit the post and away from danger. She had altered the trajectory enough to keep her team in the game. She made more great saves, including one on a one on one breakaway. The 1-0 loss doesn't quite capture how dominant Correa was, considering that she faced nearly 20 shots.
With the Win, England clinched a spot in the next round. Even an Argentina win in the next game wouldn't guarantee their advancement....
Then early in their third game against Scotland, Correa made an A+ save diving to her right. As she laid on the turf, Scotland corralled the rebound, made a quick pass, and scored.
You see that face when Correa stood up? That's the face you make when you know your World Cup is over.
At some point, if your offense scores 0 goals in a soccer tournament, you ain't winnin' crap.
Unfortunately, Argentina conceded a second goal off of a cross. Correa got a hand on a point blank header, but it still went in. Argentina was down 2-0 and things were looking bleak.
Early in the second half, Scotland lined up for a corner kick and crossed the ball to their forward. The forward sent a line shot at the net and Correa made a spectacular save diving to her left. The ball bounced off of her hands, off of the goal post and right to the foot of an awaiting Scottish forward. For the second time in the game, Correa had made a world class save, only to have the rebound bounce to the foot of the opposition. At this point, Correa was simply unlucky.
Then something magical happened. At the 74th minute, with Scotland sending numbers back on defense. Argentina scored their first goal of the tournament. With nothing to lose, Argentina forced the attack. At the 79th minute, Argentina narrowed the gap to 3-2. At the 79:20 mark of the game, you heard the announcer scream "Argentina will just not go away."
Desperate to hold onto the lead, Scotland started playing dirtier. In the 85th minute, Scotland earned its first yellow card. Then a second yellow card a minute later. At the end of regulation, a Scottish Defender clearly took out an attacking Argentine forward just short of the Goal Box. The ref waved "play on." VAR, on the other hand, rightly awarded a penalty kick.
Argentine forward Florencia Bonsegundo stepped up and had her Penalty Kick blocked. But hold on, the Scottish goalie jumped off her line and earned Scotland's third yellow card in 5 minutes. Bonsegundo drilled the re-kick in for a goal.
And with that 3-3 tie, Argentina knocked Scotland out of the tournament with a third place finish. A third place finish that no one projected. Tenacious Vanina Correa had given her team a chance to win.
They just didn't.
Why the down tone? I thought Argentina was eliminated. At the Men's World Cup, the top 2 teams in each group advance.
I learned while typing up this article that in the Women's World Cup some third place teams advance. After scrolling through group results, it is still doubtful that Argentina will advance.
But there's still a chance.