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PARIS, France — Tobin Heath grew up idolizing Brazilian soccer. The art-like playing style and technical ability is what the beautiful game is all about, she said.
Brazil is no longer in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, knocked out by France in the round of 16. Many other nations Heath found exciting to watch are gone now as well. The upcoming quarterfinals feature seven European countries and the United States.
“I mean these tournaments you can’t really predict. You’ve seen these games, they’ve been so close,” Heath said when asked if she thinks so many European teams advancing signals a trend in the game. “I don’t know, as a football fan, to me, I would want to see a little bit more diversity at this point. I find European football sometimes a little boring, and I think there’s some teams that are so exciting to watch that you won’t be able to see this kind of different style, which is unfortunate at this stage because, I don’t know, I really appreciate teams that are no longer in the tournament.”
And not just Brazil. Heath said it was incredible to watch Japan play its round-of-16 match Tuesday night. Japan lost to Netherlands in the final minutes, when the referee called Saki Kumagai for a handball in the box and awarded a penalty kick to the Dutch with the score tied 1-1. Lieke Martens converted the PK for a 90th-minute victory.
Brazil lost a similarly tight game 2-1 after going into extra time against France, which will host the U.S. for a Friday quarterfinal in Paris.
Heath did talk about how difficult an opponent France will be and said captain Amandine Henry, who Heath played with on the Portland Thorns from 2016-17, is “one of the best players in the world.”
She also praise Spain, the European opponent the Americans beat in the last round. She called the physical game, which was a change from Spain’s typical possession-based, technical style, “so beautiful in a way.”
“It showed a great amount of belief from Spain to be able to change. Some people will die by their sword of how they play. But they really came into that game wanting to win that game, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. They really fought and they really played us well. In that way, I thought it was kind of an incredible gameplan, but kind of an incredible show of what it means to play in this World Cup and just what you have to do to win these games.”