After the completion of today’s matches in the preliminary round of the PanAmerican Women’s Championship, the teams qualifying from PanAmerica to the World Championship are already determined. Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay will have to return to the Sao Paulo are in December.
Because Brazil is the host in December, PanAmerica will have a total of four slots, as Brazil does not count against the normal quota of three. Therefore, as nobody has seriously expected Brazil to fail to reach the semifinals, it was generally assumed that placing first or second in the preliminary groups and thus qualifying for the semifinals would be enough for the other teams. In fact, when I am posting this article, just before Brazil plays its final group game against Chile, I am still technically ‘speculating’. But my assumptions would fail to be correct only if Brazil were to lose against Chile by 23 goals or more. Should that happen, then I would politely suggest that Interpol would need to be asked to investigate.
Brazil won their group games against Mexico and Cuba as clearly as one would have expected. Perhaps some had thought that Chile would be in contention for the second place. But as John Ryan reported two days ago, Cuba shocked the Chileans in the opening match. Having only 7 players available, the Cubans complete ‘steamrolled’ the Chileans. And the Cuban women outclassed Mexico with 35-16 today, after having lost against Brazil yesterday. Should we start speculating about Cuba having a good chance against the defending champion Argentina in the semi-final tomorrow!? (It would have an impact on the seeding for the World Championship).
In the other group, Argentina did not really start out as champions. They fell behind early and just barely managed to take the lead against Uruguay before half-time. The final result was 21-14. Then came a comfortably win against Venezuela, and today’s seemingly easy win against the Dominican Republic may suggest that Argentina has found the form. The excitement in this group was set up with a draw (20-20) between Uruguay and the Dominican Republic yesterday. After Uruguay won 43-27 against Venezuela after a nervous opening in today’s first game, they then had to rely on Argentina to win by at least five or six goals against the Dominican Republic. But it seems the suspense came to an end early, as Argentina had 14-6 at half-time and then went on to win by 33-16.
We will come back on Saturday with a summary of the final results, and also an overview of the draw for the World Championship which will be undertaken immediately afterwards. But the way this event evolved so far makes it impossible for me to refrain from mentioning an idea that I have tried many times to convince the PanAmerican leaders about. The tournament format is always the same, with two groups of four and then semifinals and medal games. And the situation with qualifying for the World Championship is always the same, with either three or four teams qualifying.
In other words, the real drama is not so much around the final, or even about which teams will play in the final, because almost always in recent years it has been Argentina-Brazil. So it seems that every effort should be made to ensure that the next best teams really get a chance to be in the semifinals, rather than having one of them eliminated after the preliminary round by placing third there. We know that the strength of the teams is unpredictable from one event to the next. So the seemingly better approach would be to have the group winners go directly to the final, and to have the ‘crossovers’ between second-placed against third-placed and vice versa. Then we would feel sure that we knew who were really the deserving teams in the number three and number four positions. But perhaps Cuba will be the exception that proves me wrong tomorrow! Until Saturday…