Saturday, March 31, 2012

Italy 4, El Salvador 3

First upset of the 2012 WCP Cup and its only the second game. Couldn't have happened to a better team or in a better group either. I wasn't at this game, but from what I heard Italy capitalized on sloppy giveaways from ES. I don't know if ES had its whole squad in attendance, but it goes to show that you can't have any let-down games ever, especially to start the tournament.

2012 Day 2 Preview - Sat March 31

Six big openers today and it should be a fun time, especially later tonight.

El Salvador vs Italy, 5 p.m. - I don't expect this Group D game to be too competitive. El Salvador has a good midfield and should make quick work of Italy all over the field. Italy has plenty of heart so they'll put in a good effort, but ES was a semifinalist last year and Italy always settles for 4thish. ES wins 6-1.

Northern Ireland vs Canada, 6 p.m. - Canada is the definition of TEAM when it comes to players knowing their roles. Canada has plenty of skill at every position but uses its team discipline to gain the biggest advantage. Against Northern Ireland that discipline will show most prominently in the defensive end so expect some easy goals. Canada wins 5-0.

Sudan vs Botswana, 7 p.m. - Sudan is coming off a tough loss vs Ireland but there's nothing better to cure losing woes than beating up on a weak team. Sudan probably won't put on a great show, but it also won't need to. Botswana has too many holes defensively to get an upset win. Sudan wins 5-2.

Poland vs Nigeria, 8 p.m. - This will be the second-best game of the night so don't miss it. The seasoned and hungry Poles get a challenge right off the bat against a Nigerian team eager to avenge 2011's disappointing showing. Nigeria relies on great speed and strength. Poland is methodical, patient and doesn't get phased about anything. Poland wins a tight one 4-3.

Greece vs Norway, 9 p.m. - Best game of the night and I previewed it already. Going to be a cracker.

Laos vs Afghanistan, 10 p.m. - This will be an interesting match-up for the first game of Group B. Laos may get some ugly wins but they get them consistently and they don't disappoint during the group stage. Afghanistan wants to make a splash with some new players and believes it is ready for the playoffs for the first time ever. I think the spotlight favours Laos and the 2011 bridesmaids win 6-4.

Greece Preview - Saturday 9 p.m.

The game we've been waiting a month for. This will be a fast, intense matchup between a skilled and disciplined team, and a team that aspires to be the same. Greece does not like Norway, dating back to 2007 when Norway beat a good Greek team in the quarterfinals. Greece has had some forgettable years since then, but 2011 finally saw them get back to the playoffs. It was certainly a long wait.

Norway will try and win this game through the midfield by quick-passing and shooting like crazy. The Greeks have shown time and again that they will block as many shots as they possibly can so there's no point in waiting for a golden opportunity. Bombs away and hope half the shots get through. The quick-passing will be vital as I don't expect Greece to lose many 1-on-1 battles. They'll foul before they let someone walk in from anywhere close so seeing and exploiting the gaps will be the key to victory. Greece is not a possession oriented team and Norway will need to be patient and use its superior ball control abilities.

Defensively the Norway defense needs to be ready for gangbusters runs on every Greek possession. The Greek offensive strength comes from a relentless pressure up front and puting away any major turnovers as opposed to any build-up from the back. If the Norwegians come out lethargic and flat-footed then Greece will capitalize with an early goal. If the Greeks don't score early then the Norway skill will take care of the rest. I don't think Norway will have a let-down in the first game of the tournament so don't expect a Greek upset.

Norway wins 5-2.

Ireland 3, Sudan 2

All right folks, didn't quite make it to this game last night. Had a poker game go significantly later than expected and I had to tough it out. Put yourself in my shoes and ask whether you would take $100 to NOT watch the game. Yeah, I took the money and I ran with it. My bad.

The original account I heard about the game was apparently wrong. I got the score correct but that was it. Here's a succinct breakdown - Ireland got got out to an early lead, then made it 3-0 on Ryan McCallister's amazing volley which was apparently goal-of-the-tournament worthy already. Shame on anyone who missed it. Sudan came back and made it close, but not really. I'll be there for tonight's games anyways.

Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 Day 1 Preview - Fri March 30

Only one game in the schedule today but its a good one and is must-see for any fan of the tournament. It's a Group A match between defending champion Ireland and 2011 upstart Sudan. Ireland has lost three key goal-scorers from last year but it shouldn't have much trouble replacing that output. Ireland has always had a wealth of talent and it has four titles to show for it. Sudan showed last year that it also has a great deal of talent and is capable of scoring some amazing goals. If Sudan returns the same team as 2011 then Ireland could be hard-pressed to match up with speed in the midfield. That speed was what undid El Salvador and its really unparalled by any other WCP squad. That said, Ireland aren't the champs for nothing and I fully expect them to take care of business tonight. The crowd should be big, the atmosphere should be electric, and Ireland should win. Shamrocks 6-4. Actual score was Ireland 3-2.

Opening Ceremonies at 6 Now

I believe the opening ceremonies have been changed to 6 p.m. tonight instead of the originally scheduled 6:30. Apparently this is in response to CBC wanting to air part of the ceremonies on the evening news. So everyone dress up and smile nice!
Set-up for the walk-out will be the same as last year and everyone should be getting lined up by 5:30. Don't wear jeans and try to make sure everyone on your team is wearing the same apparel.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

2012 Preview: Group D

The Contenders: Four playoff teams from 2011 makes Group D this year's Group of Death. Two former champions also makes it the group with arguably the best winning heritage. That said, not every team has a legitimate playoff chance. France should manage to get through based on pure talent. While France has lost a few key players, it should still manage to get big wins. Norway is the other team that always seems to manage to make the playoffs. It doesn't matter what the odds might be, Norway is always good for some seemingly-surprising victories.

The Challengers: El Salvador had a great showing in 2011 but the loss of Jordian Farahani will be a major blow. Combine that with the fact ES has never beaten Norway and the South Americans will be hard pressed to advance. Greece rode crowd momentum to a respectable finish in 2011 but there's no way that luck repeats. If the Greeks get even a point out of any game against France, Norway or El Salvador, I'll be shocked.

The Pretenders: Two teams that will have a tough tournament are Italy and South Korea. The Koreans are new to the tournament and are unlikely to be able to handle the pressure. The Italians are in the pretenders group every year because they combine a little skill with a big attitude. It's tough to beat disciplined teams when your team is void of that same discipline.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. France
2. Norway
3. El Salvador
4. Greece
5. Italy
6. South Korea

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2012 Preview: Group C

The Contenders: I'm guessing that 2012 will finally be the year that Poland grabs the title. This is a team that has improved significantly over the past few tournaments, has practiced hard and recruited missing pieces and now has arguably the most well-rounded squad. Poland is big, exceptional defensively and now has the goal-scoring ability that should make for easier Group Stage wins than in 2011. The actual competition in Group C will come in every game Poland doesn't play and will be for second place. I'm thinking Nigeria has the best shot to reclaim its playoff position from 2010 and not only because it beat Norway in an exhibition game. The Nigerians are incredibly fast and possess a wide variety of scoring options that a team like Germany can't hope to match.

The Challengers: Germany will make its patented run where it shows it has the skills to compete and then somehow folds and loses big must-win games. Watching Germany is always entertaining because you're never sure who will get mad at who and which player will do something that makes every spectator shake their head in disbelief. Portugal will likely field a young team that tries hard, but really won't stand a chance in this group. Expect the Portuguese to get outmuscled in most of their games but otherwise play not-too-bad.

The Pretenders: Hungary and Vietnam are both new squads and with very few exceptions, new entries to the WCP Cup do not fair well. This group will not offer easy games for either of these teams as Nigeria, Germany and Portugal will be thinking about goal differential when they play them. Hopefully by games 4 and 5 both Hungary and Vietnam will be able to show what they're capable of in 2013.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Poland
2. Nigeria
3. Germany
4. Portugal
5. Hungary
6. Vietnam

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grandparents Crying about $100 Tournament Pass

Wow. It's even worse than last year if you can believe it. The cost of a tournament pass for the 2012 WCP Cup is $100. Or only $85 if you happen to be one of the lucky few to have the time to get your hands on a pass three days before the tournament starts (limited quantity of course). If you can only get there on Friday, or if you don't have the right connections for the limited presale - tough luck.

So let's see: $85 was the cost for the pass in 2011 and it didn't include the final day, which was $10. If the 2012 price structure is the same (no idea if it will be or not) then Nana and Papa could end up forking over $220 to watch the grandkids play this year. Sounds like fun.

I personally get chapped about the whole $900 team registration fee. But really, that's peanuts compared to the tournament pass. Up to 20 players can be on a team roster. It only takes 9 spectators to equal that same amount. Still no idea what a single day pass will be either.

2012 Preview: Group B

The Contenders: This is certainly a more competitive group than Group A, but I think it's a stretch to say there are more than two legitimate playoff hopefuls. Canada and Laos made the playoffs in 2011 and I'm guessing it will be pretty much a sure thing for them to make it again. Laos made the final again last year because the team refuses to lose when the stakes are high. Canada faltered in the quarterfinals against Ireland, but after watching them in exhibition matches I think they've got a better overall team than last year.

The Challengers: This is where the group starts to get interesting. Jamaica always has a good team, but it's also a team that somehow manages to lose one or two head-scratchers every year. They get hype because Kevin plays for them, but too often this is a one-dimensional team that can't adjust to a good opponent's strategy. Afghanistan is exactly the type of squad that can cause Jamaica nightmares. Fast and good on the ball with at least one player capable of puting the team on his back. Jamaica is stronger overall, but Afghanistan will find away to exploit the small weaknesses. Colombia is barely a challenger, but they managed to beat Sudan last year so its tough to really count them out. Colombia has just enough offensive strength and just enough defensive know-how that an upset against Jamaica or Afghanistan is possible.

The Pretenders: Only one team qualifies this year and Northern Ireland won't be the worst bottom-feeder in the tournament. The team brings a lot of heart to every game and an OK amount of skill. Unfortunately, tactics and team shape matter significantly in the WCP Cup and in those two areas the Northern Irish are seriously lacking.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Laos
2. Canada
3. Afghanistan
4. Jamaica
5. Colombia
6. Northern Ireland

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 Preview: Group A

The Contenders: There are two teams that everyone is excited to see, and those two teams play each other in the first game of the tournament. Ireland vs Sudan is a matchup of two athletic, skillful teams. Sudan was the most exciting squad in 2011 in terms of sheer unpredictability. The players rise to the occasion when the crowd is on their side, but somehow disappoint when the atmosphere is less electric. Ireland is about as consistent as any team could hope to be. Four-time champions will always be a tournament favourite even if they have lost a few key players. I think Ireland will win this game handily, but I expect Sudan to score some nice goals. Ireland 6-4.

The Challengers: HUGE drop-off in quality after Ireland and Sudan, which is unfortunate because those two teams are significantly more entertaining against quality opposition. I'll give Serbia a nod and say that they're a possible challenger, but deep down I don't actually believe they'll make the playoffs. There are some decent players on Serbia, but only enough that they won't finish at the bottom.

The Pretenders: There are going to be some snoozer games in this group and unfortunately for the next three teams, they'll be the ones providing the service. Botswana, Scotland and Somalia are going to have a rough time in 2012 and the only reason they'll record points is because someone has to get them. Scotland was the whipping boy of Group D in 2011 and faired miserably. Botswana has regressed from being an OK, but never good team. Somalia is a new squad still trying to figure out who should play where and what the team strengths are. Thankfully there are three other groups to come.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Ireland
2. Sudan
3. Serbia
4. Scotland
5. Botswana
6. Somalia

Friday, March 23, 2012

One Week Until Go Time

In one week the gloves come off. The only thing that will matter is who wins and who doesn't. I love it. It makes me laugh every year when I hear the excuses about why some teams didn't make it as far as they thought. Sometimes its possible that you just weren't good enough.

While I wish the organizers would have left it until later, I'm anticipating the Friday night game between Ireland and Sudan like no other this year. Ireland usually takes a couple of games to hit its dominant stride and a 10:30 p.m. game to start off everything is the best opportunity to catch them unawares.

Sudan has the ability to beat Ireland, like it showed against El Salvador last year and in the game against Laos. Sudan also has the ability to lost to a team like Columbia. Let's hope the Sudanese step up and play to the best of their abilities. If the tournament begins with an upset it will automatically make everyone more interested.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Costs for WCP?

So last year around this time there was some debate about the costs for the WCP tournament. High ticket prices, concession prices and overall registration fees. This year not so much. Mostly because I'm not sure if any of that information has been made available yet.

We do know that the RSA and SSA fees to play are still high. The SSA fee is required for everyone, regardless of whether you play in Regina or not. The SSA fee is $23.50 and I believe is mostly an insurance premium. If you played during indoor then you were charged it at the beginning of the season, regardless of where you played. If you didn't play during indoor then you have to pay up before the tourny.

The RSA fee is for everyone who didn't play in Regina during indoor. So even if you were registered in Saskatoon and paid your full fees there, you still have to pony up the $46.40 one-time fee for the RSA. Why is this fee so high for a 3-week tournament? I have no idea. The RSA isn't paying the referees for WCP, they're collecting booking fees for the entire three weeks (including whomever else is using the back field), and the doors and all entrances will be manned by WCP volunteers. I don't even recall if there are any RSA staff on the premises while games are on.

The other thing that hasn't been discussed much is the cost of a tournament pass. In 2011 it was $75 for a tourny pass and that didn't include the final day, which was $10. That's $85 for Nana to come watch her grandkids kick around a ball and watch something she doesn't understand. Will the prices be similar this year? I'm guessing yes.

The last thing to think about is beer prices. Still no idea if they have the facility licensed (crazy if it wasn't) but who knows how much a beer will cost. It's Evraz Place that sets those costs and let's just say they're not exactly UNICEF. I'll probably cough up whatever is required because watching some games without a buzz is excruciating, but I'd like to know in advance so I can start budgeting my well-earned money.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Norway 2012 WCP Cup Roster

Mario Boudreau
David Chisholm
Steven Comaniuk
Reis Cooper
Derek Elliott
Brian Godwin
Adam Gottselig
Josh Gyurek
Sean Haynes
Brandon Holmes
Braden Husdal
Stefan Husdal
Daryl Nylen
Justin Slinn
Jared Ursulan
Jon West
Grant Wirth
Colin Wirth

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rosters Due

This was the day I was going to post Norway's final roster for the 2012 WCP Cup. Would that I could. Until we submit our paperwork tonight I don't know exactly who is good to play and who decided to sit this year out.

I do know that we're likely to only have 17 guys this year, which is one less than we wanted. However, we do have all our positions filled so we should be better-rounded than in 2011 when we were short any true striker.

I'm also pretty optimistic about our midfield. It's going to be one of our strengths again and any team with a decent midfield in this tournament has a better-than-average chance to succeed. Whether or not we can keep the ball out of the net and avoid a loss like we had to Ireland last year will ultimately decide how well the team does.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Is Afghanistan for real?

I reffed an exhibition game between Afghanistan and Botswana on Sunday night. Not surprisingly, Afghanistan won handily and controlled the tempo of the game. What was surprising was how effortless the victory seemed to be.

Botswana is not a strong team, but Afghanistan clearly showed it has skill, poise in midfield, and a capable enough keeper that even in a strong Group B, they have a legitimate chance. The main difference was Jordian Farahani in midfield. I'm not sure what enticed him to jump ship from El Salvador, but he is a major upgrade for any team at any position he wants to play. From purely a skill standpoint, Afghanistan can stand with almost any team in the tournament.

What will be interesting is to see if Afghanistan can stay organized and disciplined enough against three veteran teams in Laos, Canada, and Jamaica. Obviously, Laos has been to the show and knows how to pick apart every crack in a team. Canada is essentially the Enter roster and those guys know what it takes to win consistently. While Jamaica hasn't been that great in the past few tournaments, they're still run by Kevin and that gives them a tactical advantage over most squads.

What could be the tipping point for the Afghans? Height. Definitely not a tall team and not good at winning the ball in the air. It will be fun to see how a small, fast, skilled team will match up with power and organization. I'll cheer for Afghanistan, but I'm guessing they'll have a similar result as 2011.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Last Call for Cabaret Tickets

It's crunch time for buying tickets for the Team Norway Mardi Gras Cabaret on Friday March 23, at Envy nightclub.

We've got about 50 tickets left and more are being spoken for every day. Tickets are only $5 and drinks for the night cost $3 for shots and $3.50 for domestic beer.

To buy tickets contact Justin Slinn by email at justinslinn@yahoo.ca

It's going to be an epic night.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 Most Competitive WCP Cup Yet?

So we're finally into the homestretch - just over two weeks until the 2012 WCP Cup begins. It's too early for predictions, but its just right to start getting excited for big games and possible outcomes. Exactly one month away from super weekend when three of four groups will be decided.

Take a close look at the 2012 schedule and one thing really pops out. Every group except Group A has a legitimate chance to be wide open. In Group B, Laos has to be worried about Canada, Jamaica and Afghanistan. In Group C there's Poland, Nigeria and Germany. And in Group D we get four 2011 playoff teams in El Salvador, France, Greece and Norway.

At the very least we're in for 16 quality round robin games when you count the opener of Sudan vs Ireland. Sure there will be tons of boring ones mixed in, but at least we've got the main ones compressed to weekend nights. Props to the scheduler for knowing enough to give all the spectators at least a bit of a life and letting us skip out on week day games.

I'm pumped. This could be the best tournament yet.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Uniform Declaration and Opening Ceremonies Walk-Through

Time for some final details for WCP Cup 2012:

Wednesday March 28 is the big night for getting everything in order. Teams will need a couple reps on hand to do uniform declaration, hang the country flag and get a crash course on the opening ceremonies.

  • Need to bring the full set of both the home and away jerseys. So both tops, both shorts, and both socks. If both teams want to wear the same colours then the Away team gets first dibs.
  • Need to be there to hang the flag. I'm not sure why a rep is required for this as there is zero ceremony involved and there are two volunteers there helping to do it anyways. Maybe to make sure they don't deface your country's flag before they hang it up?
  • Need to have someone listen about where, when, and how the opening ceremonies will happen. Since there are games happening right afterwards, this is actually kind of important. They left the Ireland vs Sudan game until 10:30 that night, so if we want to get out of the facility before midnight then everything needs to run like clockwork.
  • Need to remember to get your team a flag for the actual opening ceremonies. You have to haul it out there so that everyone can see and the organizers don't provide that one.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Nigeria 7, Norway 3 - Recap

Yikes. We got tooled pretty bad last night. Nigeria was faster, fitter, and overall the better team. We were missing a bunch of players and only had two subs, so that contributed to it, but it was still ugly.

Thank goodness for exhibition season because we were giveaway machines last night. Couldn't keep the ball for anything and so had to play defense for the majority of the game and we were completely gassed by the end. The good news is our strikers played OK, so we should score more goals than in 2011. Really need to work on tightening up the defensive pressure though.

Props to Nigeria, they played well and clearly deserved the win.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

2012 Roster Submissions Due March 20

Just a reminder the 2012 roster submissions and all the forms required are due on Tuesday March 20th. It's a ton of paperwork and needs to go through the RSA and SSA so the deadline is pretty firm.

Rosters can be submitted at the Eventplex Meeting Area between 7 and 9 p.m.

Make sure all your players are registered with the RSA or else they're shit out of luck. I think it's a $50 fee or something like that.

Exhibition vs Nigeria, Sunday 10 p.m.

Norway has an exhibition game against Nigeria this Sunday night at 10 p.m. Should be interesting how this one turns out. We've been having trouble getting people to show up when the games don't matter. Usually Nigeria has a full squad so hopefully they don't crush us.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Team Norway Fundraising Cabaret

We're not calling it an official WCP party of course. That would be untrue. However, our fundraising cabaret one week before the tournament begins can be considered an epic pre-drink or an unofficial kick-off.

Mardi Gras Theme
Where: Envy Night Club
When: Friday March 23. Doors open at 10 p.m.

$3 shots and $3.50 domestic beers all night.

Tickets are $5 each and can be obtained by contacting Justin Slinn at justinslinn@yahoo.ca

We've nearly sold out of pre-tickets, but I believe it's still $5 cover all night anyways. Should be a good time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Who Art Thou, South Korea?

Covered the Greeks. Will get to the Italians. Right now I can't stop thinking about the other team that Norway will need to have a guaranteed win against to make the playoffs. Who makes up the South Korean squad?

The Koreans are a new team for the 2012 WCP Cup and so far I haven't heard a thing about which players they'll have. For that matter, I'm not really aware of anyone in Regina Soccer who has openly been saying they were planning to start a South Korean team. Are they going to have top division players? Or will they comprise lower-division players that are motivated by national pride and representing their country more than the desire to win the tournament? Either reason is valid.

Personally, I'm glad we play South Korea in our final group game. No surprises that way. The last thing I want is to have to face a team like Sudan was in 2011.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

One Month to go Until Greece

Oh boy. Time for the fun to begin. In 30 days Norway will get to play Greece for both teams' first game of the 2012 WCP Cup. Am I excited? On a scale from from 1 to The Reaction Greece fans had tying France last year, I'm about a 7. It's a big game no doubt, but there are also bigger fish to fry in the Group of Death.

Looking back at some of the comments from last years' posts, I've gotta think that Greece has a bone to pick with this game. I put out a prediction that Greece would do poorly in 2011, like they did in 2010, and that seemed to rub Greece players, or fans, the wrong way. Apparently making the playoffs last year meant they could avenge that awful loss to Norway in the 2007 playoffs.

But lets be real now -there's no way Greece makes the playoffs two straight years. Any average team can get lucky, like Colombia beating Sudan last year, but it takes skill to be consistenly good, and Greece coming out of the toughest group is pretty implausible. I won't guarantee a Norway berth either (although I really like our chances) but we've got a track record that backs us up anyways.

Should be a great first Saturday night of the tournament.