Friday, April 12, 2013

2013 WCP Cup Semifinals Preview

Down to the final four. Let's hope it's equally as exciting as Wednesday night.

France vs Afghanistan, 7:30 p.m. - France looked super shaky against Nigeria, but still managed the victory thanks to some big goals. I'm guessing they tighten it up at the back and this game will be much lower scoring. Look for France to get lots of chances but for Afghanistan to get some nice goals. 4-3 France.

Jamaica vs Poland, 9:30 p.m. - I think Poland is going to continue its run and finish Jamaica off early. Poland has the best defense and has been generating big goals in big games. Its a cohesive unit whereas Jamaica is all pieces crammed together. Poland win 4-2.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Referee gets punched out!

In the very last play of the Sudan vs Poland game in Wednesday's quarterfinals, the referee got punched in the face by #12 on Sudan. The ref dropped like a sack, everyone kind of looked on in shock, the teams left the field (Sudan first, to boos from the crowd and some of the players giving the finger to the spectators) and that was it.

The sharp jab was preceded by a whole ton of events. In chronological order:

1. With nine minutes left in the second half there is a hard foul on a Poland player. Pushing and shoving happens. Suddenly a really hard push, and then a punch thrown. The benches clear. Now we see multiple shoves, a few obvious punches and a flying kick to the back by a Sudan player to a Poland player. One of the people on the Sudan bench chases the referee but doesn't get thrown out.\

2. Rough play continues for the remainder of the game. Sudan has essentially lost so they don't care. Nothing serious though.

3. Last minute of play there is a bouncing ball near the middle of the field. Chewy for Poland goes up to head the ball. #12 for Sudan jumps in the air and lays out Chewy with a crazy body check, comes nowhere near the ball. Obvious red card, seriously. Referee goes right to the back pocket and approaches #12. About 3 feet away. Brings out the red card. Reaction is instant and #12 (who is quite tall) gives a lightning-quick jab that catches the referee right on the chin. The referee drops to the ground and lies motionless.

4. Shock from everyone. Assistant referees get in there right away and clear everyone out. People make sure the ref is OK.

5. Referee eventually gets up and walks off. Not for certain, but he seemed to be all right.

6.Someone has called the cops in the meantime. At least six officers on the field and around the facility.

7. Word is that neither of the teams was allowed to leave the dressing room area until all of the spectators were gone, for safety reasons. People had already been thrown out earlier in the night for trying to fight people on the Sudan and Nigeria squads.

8. I'm guessing that charges will be laid. You can't strike a referee in front of hundreds of witnesses and think there will be no repercussions.

2013 WCP Cup Quarterfinals Preview

Historically, the night of the men's quarterfinals has always been the best. Good games, consecutively, and the stakes can't be any higher. Hopefully we're not subjected to any stinkers, but Group D is participating so we'll see.

France vs Nigeria, 7 p.m. - I don't envision any scenario in which France loses this game. France can score almost at will, has an exceptional midfield and its defense and goaltending are stellar. In contrast, Nigeria always seems to be all over the map. It has a fast and athletic squad that can't play in any sort of system and seems to give up plenty of weak goals. I still stare in disbelief when I come across the scoreline of their Canada game. France takes it handily 5-1.

Serbia vs Afghanistan, 8 p.m. - This will be the first game of the tournament that I see Serbia play so maybe they'll shock and awe. I doubt it though. Group D was weak and even that Ireland win kind of screams fluke. Afghanistan came out of the cruel Group B and had solid results against Jamaica, Laos and Germany. Even if all the Saskatoon players aren't there, I still think Afghanistan will prevail. Afghanistan wins 3-2.

Jamacia vs Ireland, 9 p.m. - Biggest upgrade for Jamaica this year was on the defensive and goalkeeping side of things. It helps to have a very strong midfield, but in past years Jamaica could never resist the urge to let the opponent score terrible goals all the time. I haven't seen Ireland play, but their roster is still a strong one and I can't imagine they would bring anything less than their A game for a quarterfinal. I'm predicting upset. ROI wins 4-3 with high potential for OT and PKs.

Sudan vs Poland, 10 p.m. - Saved the best game for last and I just hope kick-off isn't actually something like 10:45 or 11:00. That would be the worst. These two teams met in a great quarterfinal a year ago which I honestly thought Poland would win before Sudan started their roll to the championship. Poland has arguably the best defense of any team in the tournament while Sudan has by far the most electrifying attacking options. I think this game will come down to goalkeeper play and for that I'm going with Poland to avenge their 2012 defeat. Poland wins 3-2, also with high potential for OT and PKs.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Somalia Punishment

So Somalia didn't show up for its final game against El Salvador and essentially gave the middle finger to the entire tournament. Rampant specualation about what would happen to the players and the team ensued. I've heard what the punishment was from a second-hand source, but I haven't been able to confirm if it's correct or not. And good on the Organizing Committee for not openly telling everyone - I actually respect their decision to not air the dirty laundry.

That said, in descending order of how certain I am:

1. ES got the win and they made it 7-0 by averaging out the other scores or something. Didn't end up mattering in the overall scheme of things.

2. Tore up the Somalia player sheet at the sign-in desk so that nobody on the roster can get in free any more.

3. Made the team and all the players on the roster ineligible for a year. Next time they can play is 2015.

4. Banned the players from watching the rest of the tournament. Not sure about this one because I don't know how they would enforce it.

5. Suspended all the players from participating in RSA for a year. Very unsure of the validity of this because I don't know why the RSA would give a shit.

If anyone has heard something different, let me know.

Monday, April 8, 2013

2013 WCP Cup Quarterfinals Matchups

Will post a full preview on Wednesday, but for now here are the games:

France vs Nigeria, 7 p.m - Group A winner vs Group C 2nd. France has been class of the tournament so far. Nigeria barely made the playoffs in a difficult group.

Serbia vs Afghanistan, 8 p.m. - Group D winner vs Group B 2nd. Serbia surprised in the weakest group while Afghanistan went undefeated in the hardest.

Jamaica vs Ireland, 9 p.m. - Group B winner vs Group D 2nd. Jamaica has played solid defense and has many scoring options. Ireland got lazy, but ultimately has a talented squad. Rematch of Mike Collins, David Brown and Jonah Gardikiotis against old team.

Poland vs Sudan, 10 p.m. - Group C winner vs Group A 2nd. Rematch of 2012 quaterfinal that was a thriller.

2013 WCP Cup Group Stage Recap

Technically there is still one game to play, but for all intents and purposes the group stage is complete. Wednesday night the quartefinals go at 7, 8, 9, and 10 p.m. If even one game goes to extra time or kicks from the mark then expect to be watching until midnight. You better believe that the referees will let the teams get a good warm up so it's going to be a late night.

Group A
France absolutely rolled this group, including the huge win over Sudan on opening night. It really was never in doubt they would take the group after that and when El Salvador whimpered out against Sudan this thing was over pretty early. Biggest story besides France dominance was Somalia deciding it had had enough of being the group whipping boy and it wouldn't bother to play its final game.
1. France
2. Sudan
3. El Salvador
4. Italy
5. Somalia - DNF

Group B
Jamaica took this group thanks to early wins and gutting out a huge victory against Laos. Would have been even more impressive if they would've beaten Afghanistan but they were already in by that point so you can't really fault them. Afghanistan looked great the entire tournament and could've won the group had it not choked away the game against Germany. Laos was good, but not great and that's what was needed for this group. Germany tried hard, but was outclassed. Northern Ireland and South Korea gave it an effort.
1. Jamaica
2. Afghanistan
3. Laos
4. Germany
5. Northern Ireland
6. South Korea

Group C
Poland won this group running away thanks to stellar defensive play and winning ugly when it needed to. Should have tied Norway and held on to beat Canada, but that's the way this team always wins. Cruel twist of fate is that Poland now gets Sudan in the quarterfinals, the exact same matchup as 2012. Nigeria lucked out in its first game with the controversial decision to disallow a goal against Canada. That one decision effectively decided the group. Hungary somehow beat Nigeria and played well in all its games. Norway tried hard but couldn't score goals. Greece has many heritage players.
1. Poland
2. Nigeria
3. Canada
4. Hungary
5. Norway
6. Greece

Group D
Still one more game to go but whatever. Big surprise here was Serbia. It beat Ireland handily but also lost 2-1 to Scotland. I didn't see a single game in this group because I assumed they would all be boring, and I'm assuming that assumption was correct. Serbia gets to battle Afghanistan, so it was a fun run. Ireland is always hot and cold and probably should have won this group. The next three teams are all pretty equal and Djibouti tried hard.
1. Serbia
2. Ireland
3. Colombia
3. Portugal
3. Scotland
6. Djibouti

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Big Friday Recap

Didn't get to the games last night because of other commitments, but here are the results and what they mean.

Ireland 5, Portugal 1 - The win gives Ireland a 99% chance of making the playoffs as its final game is against Djibouti. Ireland can still get first in the group if Serbia loses to Colombia on Sunday. Portugal is eliminated.

Poland 2, Canada 1 - Hard for me to believe this score line, but there it is. Good for Poland. Poland is guaranteed playoffs and so is Nigeria. First and second in the group will be decided when these teams play on Sunday. If Nigeria wins, it gets first. Any other result and Poland gets first. Canada is out.

Jamaica 2, Laos 1 - Jamaica wraps up first place in the group. Laos now has a must-win against Germany (a tie might still do it, but unlikely) and needs Jamaica to beat Afghanistan. Otherwise that's the tournament.