Saturday, April 21, 2012

2012 WCP Championship Results

Two great games to end the 2012 WCP Cup. In the women's final Ukraine beat Germany for the third straight year in a game that saw three goals and two lead changes in the final 150 seconds. Final score was 3-2 for Ukraine. In the men's final Sudan and Laos played an intense game that saw big goals, hard fouls and a near bench-clearing fight. Crazy final two minutes and even crazier celebrating when it was all over. 3-2 final score for Sudan. Full write-ups will come sometime Sunday.

2012 WCP Cup Finals Preview

Last day of the tournament and the finals are going to be fantastic. All of the playoff games have been great to this point and I have the highest of expectations for the final matchup. By a formal request I'll preview and recap the women's final. Once a year isn't too difficult.

W- Germany vs Ukraine, 2:30 p.m. - Third straight matchup for these two and I'd be lying if I said there was any doubt they would be playing again. Ukraine is two-time defending champion and has a strong core of past and current Cougars players. Germany also has Cougars, but it's more a mixture of top women's league players. Hard to say that the defending champs aren't the favourites, but Ukraine looks like it has lost a step from 2011 and Germany is determined to get a crown and prove its not perennial second-best. Look for Megan Cormier and Cara Gartner to have big games for Germany and the only way Ukraine pulls off the trifecta is if Michelle Anderson plays amazing in goal and the Ukraine strikers get a couple lucky goals. Gemany wins 4-2.

M - Laos vs Sudan, 3:30 p.m. - Oh boy. I think I speak for everyone when I say how happy I am that we don't have to watch ROI in the final for the seventh straight year. Thank you Laos, even though its kind of getting boring watching that team on the final day too. Thankfully we get Sudan to shake things up. Its been an improbable run for the Sudanese, but big wins are big wins and they deserve props for getting some of the wierdest victories imaginable. In the final look for Laos to try and control the tempo in the midfield with Steve Irinici and Scotty Myrah. If those two can keep the ball and avoid bad giveaways then Laos should be able keep the game from becoming all about headers and long-balls. Sudan is going to pressure the Laos defenders to force giveaways at the back and the Sudanese counterattack is formidable, with a proven big-goal scorer in Tong Tong up front. Laos has the big edge in goalkeeper abilities, but Noor has had a tournament for the ages for Sudan. I think Laos will get a couple free kick goals and that will be the difference. Laos wins 3-2.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sudan 3, Canada 2 - 2012 Semifinals

This game was super intense and had a finish that I'm still having trouble believing. Totally back-and-forth and very evenly matched. The first half was a little boring because both teams played so solidly on defense. There were really only two good chances in the half - one for each squad. The first good chance was for Canada with 16 minutes remaining. Ian Labatte continued his stellar tournament with a volley from 15 yards out that just missed the top corner. A minute later Sudan got a great chance when the defender, #10, cracked a shot from the same distance that smoked the crossbar and bounced away. The first half finished 0-0.
Sudan got its first goal two minutes into the second half. Jarvis was dribbling in the middle and he uncharacteristically turned it over. Sudan quickly countered and Tong Tong beat one defender before slipping it past Waller for a 1-0 lead. With 15 minutes left a nearly identical scenario happened and it looked like Sudan would capitalize again, however this time Jarvis was back and managed to break up the 3 on 1. With 9 minutes remaining Sudan went up 2-0 on a corner kick. Waller managed a nice save off of the initial header, but the ball rebounded down and a little guy for Sudan made a diving header that went into the corner. Really nice goal.
The game kind of looked over after the second goal. Canada couldn't get anything going on offense and Sudan started its time-wasting routine. Game slowed down to a crawl. With less than two minutes to play Dave Morley crossed in a ball from the side into the box and Chris Traweger got his head on it. The ball defelected just enough that it handcuffed Noor and went in the net. Suddenly Canada had life, even if there didn't seem to be any time to get another. About a minute later Jarvis got the ball about 20 yards out and was facing the Sudanese defensive shell. He beats his guy and shoots, but the ball gets blocked in the box. The rebound comes to Steve Galan at the top of the area who fires first time and the ball is deflected by a defender and goes into the back of the net. Tie game and we're going to overtime! Or are we?
Less than 30 seconds after the goal (how it wasn't the end of the game I have no idea) Sudan got a free kick on the sideline 5 yards in its own half. The long ball goes into the Canada box and players from both teams go up for it. Ball hits the Canadian defenders head, takes a slight deflection and goes into the bottom corner of the Canada net. 3-2 Sudan and that was it folks.

Laos 3, Republic of Ireland 2 - 2012 Semifinals

This game was about as even as it gets. Super fun to watch because of the fan intensity and the obvious fact that 90% of the spectators wanted Ireland to lose. There weren't many chances in the first half and every time one happened the opposing keeper was there for the stop. Dooley got the best chance of the first 25 minutes when he got an open look from the top of the box. He ripped a hard low shot that Evan had to make a nice diving save on. A rebound popped out and then Evan made a great save on that too. It was tied 0-0 at half.
More of the same to start the second half with no really good opportunities for either side. Both played exceptionally good defense for the most part. That changed with 14 minutes left when Scott Myrah curled a nice low cross into the box from about half. It found Steve Irinici perfectly and he managed a skillful volley that changed the direction of the ball right past Jonah. Crowd erupted but was almost immediately silenced. Less than a minute later Dwayne for Ireland lofted a cross to the back post of the Laos net and Garrity ran onto it and got a nice header. Evan got his fingertips on the ball, but it trickled over the line and it was 1-1.
With eight minutes left Bryan Murrel once again stepped up to save the day for Laos with a free kick. It was positioned in the middle of the field about a two yards over half. Murrel's rocket of a shot was a frozen rope that barely missed the wall and went perfectly top left corner. Jonah saw it the whole way and he dove but it was so hard and so perfectly placed that he never had a chance.
The crowd braced itself for an Irish comeback, but it was Laos that scored the next one too when Alvaro Campos completely missed a bouncing ball at half and allowed Calvin Crump to walk in, then dish to Adam Ailsby who had an easy finish past Jonah. Looked like game over after that because Laos had all the momentum. But you can never count out Ireland with all that talent. With under two minutes to go Garrity was in a striker position and received a long ball from Jonah. He chested it down nice and it bounced once before Leigh Mooney absolutely crushed a volley from 25 yards out that was a missile to the inside post. Evan never had a chance. Ireland came close on a couple more shots, but the game was over. Laos gets the best of this rivalry in 2012.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

2012 WCP Semifinals Preview

So only three more important games to go. Doesn't last Saturday's fantastic night feel like a month ago already? Quarterfinals were great, these two better be just as good.

Ireland vs Laos, 7:30 p.m. - For the fourth year in a row we get treated to an epic Ireland vs Laos matchup. So far Ireland has the 2-1 advantage, but this is quickly turning into a Lakers vs Celtics, Colts vs Patriots, Yankees vs Red Sox kind of deal. And I like it. Both teams are a little different than they were in 2011, but I'm thinking the Irish still have that edge. Ireland has scored tons of goals, it has controlled the pace and it knows how to kick a team when its down, like it tried to do against Germany in the quarterfinal. Frankly, I don't think Laos has looked as good this tournament as it did for the past three. Slow is the main word that comes to mind and El Salvador used that speed discrepancy to control the majority of the game in that quarterfinal. I think this game will have a great atmosphere, both teams will be completely jacked and we'll be treated to an exciting product. I hope Evan is as good as he was against ES because he's going to have a busy night. Ireland wins 3-2.

Canada vs Sudan, 9:30 p.m. - I'm super excited to have this matchup because it means we're for sure getting at least one new finalist. Canada deserves to be in the semis thanks to three absolutely solid games in a row against legitimately good teams. Sudan deserves to be where it is thanks to only one big win, but a win agaisnt a heavy tournament favourite. Watch out for Canada's midfield in this one as its the biggest strength of the team. Sudan hasn't impressed me at all with its midfield play and if there's a combo to exploit that weakness its Tavis and Jarvis. Those two need to shoot like crazy all night and hope that Noor's play in goal in the quarterfinal for Sudan was as lucky as it looked. Sudan should keep playing its arial game against Canada because the Canadian defense is not nearly as good as Poland's. Going to be super exciting and a perfect final step before the final. Canada wins 5-4.

Sudan 2, Poland 1 - OT - 2012 QFinals

This was an exciting and fast game. Super entertaining. Jay Tomchuk got the first goal of the game five minutes in when he blew past the defender and slotted a low shot past Noor in the Sudan goal. Sudan couldn't seem to get anything happening for the first 10 minutes, but eventually it started to figure out the Poland D.
With 15 minutes left Sudan started taking some long range crackers. Bandula in the Poland net made a great save. A minute later Poland almost got a second goal when Alex Wosik hit the post. Sudan came back and got two more great chances - both awesome saves. With eight minutes left in the half Devin Sembaluk lobbed in a shot from just over halfway. Ball hit the crossbar and fell to Alex who took a good shot and Noor made an amazing close-range save. In the final 10 seconds of the half Sudan got a sweet diving header but it was again turned aside by an equally sweet save. 1-0 for Poland at half.
With nine minutes remaining in the second half Sudan finally got on the board and it was weak. It was a free kick from the sideline that kind of blooped in. Bandula came out to grab it, but he misjudged and only got his fingertips on the ball. It got behind him and barely went over the line. With four minutes left in the half Poland got a free kick at the top of the Sudan box. Jay took the free kick and he blasted it at the wall. It went right through and Noor was lucky to be standing there. Big save. 1-1 at end of regulation.
With 3 minutes left in the second overtime Jay managed to slip a pass through in the Sudan box to Meshke who was about 4 yards out. Meshke shot but again Noor came up big and kept it tied.
Two minutes left and Sudan got its winner. The ball was floated into the Poland box from just over half. Tall #11 for Sudan went up for the header at the back post and put a perfect header across the face of the goal and into the opposite post. Super tough to defend.
Side note: Only person to not shake hands after the game was Wosik, arguably the face of the Polish team, who instead walked off the field by himslef.

Canada 2, France 1 - SO - 2012 QFinals

This game was pretty much a snoozer except that it went into shootouts! And nine shooters at that. Amazing. Tavis opened the scoring with four minutes left in the first half when he made one move at the top of the France box that managed to fake out all three French defenders. With the open look he calmly put the ball bottom corner. The only other goal of regulation came with 17 minutes left in the second half when Mason took a free kick for France about 15 yards out. He put a nice bend around the wall and it went in easy. 1-1 after regulation.
Each team had decent chances in overtime. First Mason took another free kick from the top of the box, but the wall was perfect and no damage. On the other end, Jarvis and Tristan got in a good collision in the box, but the ball bounced wide. For the final play of regulation Tavis missed a sideline free kick just wide.
Then it was shootouts!
1. Fra - Rory shot first for France and Waller made the save. But he was too far off his line! Redo! Second try went right down the middle.
1. Can - Ian Labatte scores bottom right. Nice shot
2. Fra - Danny scores easy left.
2. Can - Justin Sawka goes easy right.
3. Fra - Dylan goes left and gets it in.
3. Can - Ben Wolfmueller slips, but his shot is hard and goes off the side post and just under the crossbar.
4. Fra - Murphy goes slightly left, easy in.
4. Can - Tavis goes slightly left. Tristan goes right.
5. Fra - Kaj goes left. Waller goes right.
5. Can - Jarvis goes down the middle. Tristan goes right.
6. Fra - Leon goes right. Waller dives left.
6. Can - Steve Galan goes left and Tristan dives the same way. Got his fingers on it but it was hard enough that the ball got through. Still no misses!
7. Fra - Adam Kunz goes left and Waller dives with it and makes the first save!
7. Can - Kubiak goes low left and Tristan dives and makes the save! But he came off the line early! Redo! Kubiak goes right down the middle, Tristan saves again!
8. Fra - Mason shoots hard left. Waller makes the save!
8. Can - Hunt goes soft bottom right. Tristan saves!
9. Fra - TJ goes slightly left, Waller makes his third straight save!
9. Can - Dave Morley goes hard left at mid-height. Tristan gets his fingers on it, the ball deflects up and in!

Laos 3, El Salvador 2 - 2012 QFinals

Laos scored five minutes into the game when Matt Leung got the last foot on a semi-scramble in the El Salvador box that ES couldn't clear. That was about the only thing Laos could do right in the first half as El Salvador controlled the play and overall possession and Laos barely touched the ball. With 11 minutes left in the half ES got a free kick at the top of the box. The shot was a beauty, but EJ was perfectly positioned and headed the ball off of the goal line. With three minutes remaining in the half, Ronnie Torres beat his man in the box and was taken down and Jerson stepped up to take the PK. Evan didn't have a chance and it was 1-1 at half.
The second half was much more even and with 10 minutes left Laos took the lead when Bryan Murrell ripped a free kick hard and just off the ground from 30 yards out. Great strike. El Salvador tied it up with four minutes left when Adam Rolfe did what Adam Rolfe can do. He received the ball in the Laos box with his back to the goal. Evan came out to challenge, Rolfe made a sweet fake with his left foot, then somehow managed to backheel the ball underneath Evan and into the Laos net. It looked like overtime for sure but Laos wouldn't be denied. With less than two minutes to go, Murrell put a nice cross into the box and Boun made a fantastic athletic header that just got by the ES keeper. El Salvador had two scramble chances in the final minute but couldn't put either one in.

Republic of Ireland 4, Germany 3 - OT - 2012 QFinals

Ireland jumped out to an early lead in this one when Ryan McCallister scored an uncontested header in the second minute of the game. The Irish controlled the ball, moved faster and overall outplayed Germany in the first half, but it was still only 1-0 after 25 minutes.
In the first 10 minutes of the second half it was more domination for Ireland, despite the fact that Jordan Peto was playing out of his mind in net for Germany. McCallister managed another header goal that was similar to the first and then Leigh Mooney scored a beauty goal by running onto a perfectly weighted pass from Nathan Reis through the midfield.
It looked like this game was over until Ireland started doing some truly questionable defending. The first was with seven minutes left when Dwayne played back a weird bouncing pass to the Ireland keeper. Jonah couldn't immediately control it and David Patterson jumped in and tapped the ball into the back of the net. With three minutes left Germany's Taylor Haid scored a weird dribbling goal from 15 yards out that made it through everyone and found a corner. Haid had alread missed a sitter, but immediately after his goal he managed to hit a cracker crossbar. With 20 seconds remaining Germany pulled even on a long range shot that again somehow made it through everyone and found a corner. Thrilling way to tie it up for Germany.
Unfortunately, the euphoria was short-lived. Only two minutes into the first overtime Ireland was given a questionable free kick about 30 yards out. The ball was whipped into the box and Nathan Reis put home the header - the third of the game for Ireland.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2012 Quarterfinals Results

A great night of games and some fantastic endings. Ireland beat Germany 4-3 in the first overtime. Laos beat El Salvador 3-2 in regulation. Canada beat France in shoot-outs on the ninth shooter. Sudan came back against Poland for a 2-1 win in the second overtime. Full recaps will come in the morning.

2012 WCP Cup Quarterfinals Preview

Tonight's the night. More games than Super Saturday and more entertaining than the Thursday of Shattered Dreams. This is Wanker Wednesday, when every team goes balls-to-the-walls and tries to claim top-four superiority. The games start early and go late, so make sure you have a designated driver to get you home safe.

Ireland (A1) vs Germany (C2), 6:30 p.m. - Might as well get it started with an upset. Germany have been knocking on the door of respectability for about five years and since the word is ending in 2012, its high time for a Republic of Ireland apocalypse. Germany managed a miraculous last-second win against Nigeria and got scorched by a comeback from Poland. This team has already been through it all and has enough goal scorers that it can keep pace with the dangerous Irish. Ireland has slipped ever-so-slightly in form and it catches the wrong team in the wrong round. This game will be super-close because Jonah will play great in the Irish net. Germany wins 4-3.

El Salvador (D1) vs Laos (B2), 7:30 p.m. - El Salvador has had two big wins in a row against France and Norway when its playoff life was on the line. Laos is shell-shocked from the Canada loss on Sunday. These are two teams hungry for a win and I'm going with the three-time finalist over the soldiers of fortune. Laos has a solid team all around and they will not be denied this early in the tournament. El Salvador has a few free-kick specialists who can't expect to keep getting the game delivered on a platter. Also, Evan is fairly adept at stopping said free kicks. El Salvador's impressive run will end. Laos wins 5-2.

Canada (B1) vs France (D2), 8:30 p.m. - More than any other game, this one looks like a showcase of Regina soccer talent. It's essentially the men's Inter squad vs a collection of top-end Regina players who face off regularly in the RSA league. Throw in a couple Yorkton guys and suddenly we've got a game that everyone has seen 10 times if they've watched any Regina soccer for the past three years. And I think its great. Don't get me wrong, I love having the Saskatoon guys in the tournament because they make it way more interesting. But I also love a playoff game where I can look at every player on every team and know exactly what they're going to do because I've seen it 50 times before. And I know what's going to happen in this one: Canada will win and it won't be that competitive. France can score goals, but for some reason it can't play great defense this year. Canada's midfield is going to control the game and they're going to get open looks that won't be denied. Canada wins 3-2.

Poland (C1) vs Sudan (A2), 9:30 p.m. - It couldn't have been planned like this, so thankfully the soccer gods blessed us with the best game of the night in the final time slot. Poland has looked shaky at times, but they always seem to get the job done. Sudan is an athletic force that scores beauty goals and plays with a reckless abandon that is incredibly fun to watch and sometimes ridiculously detrimental to its own fortunes. We can be sure that Sudan will be jacked for this one because it always rises to the occasion in front of big crowds. We can be equally sure that Poland won't be pushed around, will tackle hard and will essentially try and be a bully out there. I'm not sure Sudan can handle that kind of grind-it-out game. As much as I cheer for flair over muscle, I'm thinking muscle is going to have a vintage Popeye night. Poland wins 5-4.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2012 WCP Cup Group Wrap Ups

This was an exciting tournament, but it was also sadly predictable. Like we knew how the groups would shake down before a game had been played and the same teams would be victorious. Still, it was highly enjoyable and I'm looking forward to the playoffs. Final group wraps before quarterfinals preview tomorrow.

Group A
Pretty much what I thought would happen except Scotland finished ahead of Serbia. Ireland took care of Sudan in the first game of the tournament and then coasted the rest of the way through. Sudan almost pulled off the upset, then almost had a Colombia moment when it narrowly beat the Serbs on Sunday. This was the most boring group of the tournament.

Group B
Now we're talking entertainment. I got the order correct except for Laos and Canada switching spots, which happened on the final day and surprised me. Actually, everything about this group surprised me. Canada crapped the bed against Jamaica and then got great victories against Afghanistan and Laos. Laos played solid with good wins against Afghanistan and Jamaica, but couldn't beat a determined Canada. Afghanistan was on the cusp, but not good enough. Jamaica had one good game, but sucked against Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Laos. Colombia didn't get an upset, yet looked like a good team the whole way through. Northern Ireland just looked bad.

Group C
Great games right off the bat with Nigeria tieing Poland. Then Poland beating Germany and suddenly there was only one more important game to go. Germany pulled out the improbable win in the final seconds against Nigeria and that was the only difference in my predictions. Props to Portugal for playing hard all the way through, but that initial loss to Germany was your only real chance to get ahead. Hungary also played well and came close in some games. Vietnam crapped out an all-time stinker.

Group D
Super disappointed in the finish for this group and still think it could have turned out differently. My prediction for the top three was pretty mangled, but it had everything to do with one game, so it was close. Greece played even worse than I thought they would and Italy was a pleasant surprise. South Korea was better than Vietnam.

Norway 9, South Korea 0 - Recap

All things considered, this was a fun way to end the tournament. There was no chance that Norway was going through to the playoffs and all of the pressure was off. So was all the pressure on the field. Norway missed a bunch and still ended up with 9 goals and at least we know we can still score sometimes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

South Korea Preview - Monday 8:30 p.m.

I really don't have any insight into this game now that Norway is out of playoff contention. I sincerely hope that Norway shows up and plays hard tonight, but I can say that it is pretty demoralizing to be knocked out and I'm having problems getting motivated. It would be an embarassment to lose or tie this game, so I'm crossing my fingers we put in a good effort.

Norway is better than South Korea in every aspect and this should be over early. Norway needs to score early and often and not let this game be close. Can't have teams hanging around like we've done all tournament and it would be good to end on a winning note. Norway wins 5-1.

2012 Day 18 Preview - Mon April 16

Two games tonight, neither has playoff implications but both will effect final group standings.

Norway vs South Korea, 8:30 p.m. - This game will probably be boring and I'm not really looking forward to it. Norway needs to win to get third in the group. Norway wins 5-1.

Portugal vs Nigeria, 9:30 p.m. - If Portugal wins it gets third place in the group. I'm thinking Portugal is kicking itself for not having a better opening game against Germany. Portugal has looked OK since then. Portugal wins 4-3.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

El Salvador 4, Norway 2

Pretty even first half followed by a bad second half for Norway. El Salvador kept the possession and Norway's fitness wasn't up to the task. Norway lead 2-1 after about eight minutes into the second half but ES got a free kick goal to tie, then a nice shot and then a late one when the game was out of reach. Could have gone either way and its another tough loss to take. El Salvador gets first place in the group, France gets second.

Canada 2, Laos 1

A surprising but deserved victory for Canada. Canada owned the midfield and had tons of energy. I didn't see either of Canada's goals, but the only Laos goal came with about 20 seconds left so this was a pretty thorough win. Canada gets first in the group and Laos gets second.

2012 Day 17 Preview - Sun April 15

There are six games today but only two of them matter.

Ireland vs Scotland, 4 p.m. - I hope Scotland finishes this tournament on a good note. Ireland wins 7-2.

South Korea vs. Greece, 5 p.m. - Playoff for fifth and sixth in the group! Tie 0-0.

Poland vs Vietnam, 6 p.m. - Boring. Poland wins 10-0.

Sudan vs Serbia, 7 p.m. - Boring. Sudan wins 9-0.

Laos vs Canada, 8 p.m. - This could be interesting even though both teams are already into the playoffs. If Canada wins it gets first place in the group. Any other result and Laos gets first. I think Laos wants to go undefeated and Canada won't care either way. Laos wins 6-2.

Norway vs. El Salvador, 9 p.m. - Covered this in my preview. Should be a good one.

El Salvador Preview - Sunday 9 p.m.

This is now essentially a must-win for Norway because ES managed to beat France. But that's OK because I really do think Norway will win this game because its the better team and matches up very well.

This game will be won by Norway by owning the midfield play. Norway's midfield should be physically better and ES won't have opportunities to get easy shots. Defensively, Norway has been playing well and should be able to keep ES from scoring anything easy. Norway will score goals against a tired and overconfident ES squad.

Fun fact: If El Salvador wins it gets 1st place in the group. If it loses it gets 4th place.

Norway wins 4-1.

El Salvador 3, France 2

France laid a big turd on the field and let El Salvador get away with this one. ES played well and scored nice goals, but France could get absolutely nothing going offensively. Three minutes into the game Jerson hammered a top corner shots from 35 yards out. Fantastic goal. Five minutes later Murphy tied it up with a nice flick header past the keeper. Right after the France goal ES went ahead again off an own goal past Tristan. 2-1 at half.
12 minutes into the second half Riggs scored a nice goal when he picked the bottom corner. France got one back on a Travis Brady header. France could have had about four goals in the final five minutes but couldn't manage to get even one.

Germany 3, Nigeria 2

Not the most entertaining game but both of these teams played their hearts out. Germany's defense played well and the Germans won the midfield battle too. Give Nigeria credit for never giving up, but the better team won.
Germany scored the only goal of the first half 10 minutes in when Steven Patterson ripped a shot from just over half with enough power that the keeper couldn't grab it. With 17 minutes left in the second half Germany got a nice free kick goal that was hard and on the ground, right into the bottom corner. But Germany couln't hold the two goal advantage, just like against Poland.
Ten minutes remaining Nigeria got within one when the striker caught Peto off balance and put a shot through his legs. Then with 30 seconds Nigeria miraculously banged in another to tie it up. Germany got a free kick ten second after the ensuing kick off. Ball got played across the field and David Patterson made a desperation shot. Somehow it went all the way through and in past a sprawling keeper. Crazy finish.

Canada 4, Afghanistan 3

Great game that absolutely lived up to the hype and expectations. The final result was only decided in the finals minutes and for the rest of the game it was a back-and-forth battle. Afghanistan went up 1-0 early when Josip turned his defender in the box and played a good ball across the net that was easily blasted in. With five minutes left in the half Mike Sweeney used his head to redirect a ball into the box past a helpless Afghanistan keeper. One minute later Josip scored a beauty free kick from 30 yards out that went bottom corner. Canada tied it up right before half on a penalty kick that was awarded after a handball in the box. 2-2 at half.
Second half was a midfield battle between Jarvis and Tavis on Canada and Chico and Ryan on Afghanistan. Awesome to watch. Afghanistan hung back a bit because it was trying to hold on for the tie, but both teams had their chances. With 10 minutes left in the half Canada scored a nice header goal at the back post to take a short-lived lead. Afghanistan immediately ramped up the pressure and got a goal two minutes later when the Afghan left back cracked a shot that ripped into the top shelf. With two minutes remaining Jarvis took matters into his own hands and shot a howitzer from 30 yards out that the Afghanistan keeper had no chance of saving. There were a flurry of chances for both teams in the final minutes but Canada held on for the playoff berth. Afghanistan is out.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

2012 Day 16 Preview - Sat April 14

Six games are up tonight and the final three should be absolutely fantastic. Best night of the tournament so far and will probably only be beat by quarterfinals night.

Ireland vs Botswana, 3 p.m. - Boring game where Ireland pads its individual goal-scoring stats. Thank goodness this is an early game and nobody needs to show up. Ireland wins 10-1.

Poland vs Hungary, 6 p.m. - Poland is sitting great in Group C right now and shouldn't let a decent Hungary team change that. It might be close, but the result will still be the same. The thing Hungary should be worried about is Poland still needs goal differential. Poland wins 4-1.

Sudan vs Somalia, 7 p.m. - This will be a treat for everyone showing up early for the late games so that they can get good seats. I suggest coming to the soccer centre around 7:15 so that there's enough time for the Poland fans to clear out, but you're early enough that there is still prime real estate to park your ass for three straight hours. Sudan wins 8-1.

Afghanistan vs Canada, 8 p.m. - Pretty much a must-win for Canada, although a tie doesn't officially eliminate either team. This will be fast, intense and skillful. Playoff stakes are on the line so which team will step up for the big moment. Afghanistan wins 4-3.

Germany vs Nigeria, 9 p.m. - Going to be a cracker and Germany needs the win. Both of these teams can run and both can score a bunch of goals. The question will be whether either teams' defense can play solid enough to stop the other. I think Germany will crumble like it did after going up 2-0 on Poland. Nigeria wins 3-2.

El Salvador vs France, 10 p.m. - France is guaranteed playoffs and El Salvador can still finish anywhere from 1st to 4th in the group. If France loses then ES beats Norway on Sunday, France will end up second in the group, which means Laos in the quarterfinals. I think that's plenty of incentive for France to play hard tonight. The game doesn't mean a ton to El Salvador because win, lose, or tie it still needs to beat Norway on Sunday to advance thanks to a bad loss to Italy. France wins 3-2.

2012 Group C Breakdown

Yikes. The final games in this group could get ugly. Assuming Poland wins its final two games against Hungary and Vietnam, then its guaranteed playoffs. Germany and Nigeria are also still in playoff contention and their game Saturday night will decide which one advances. The ugly part is the goal differential that will come into play if Nigeria beats Germany.

Poland
Poland tied Nigeria in the first game for both teams, and until Nigeria loses or ties the only factor separating these two squads is goal differential. So in Poland's Saturday afternoon game against Hungary, goals are super important. And if Nigeria beats Germany, then Poland's game against Vietnam on Sunday means they'll need a ton. With two games remaining each, Nigeria has a +7 advantage on Poland for goals, plus Nigeria gets the final group game against Portugal on Monday.

Nigeria
Beat Germany - Into the playoffs with Poland assuming a win against Portugal and needs lots of goals to get 1st place in the group. That means crushing Portugal on Monday night.
Ties Germany - Into the playoffs as second place in the group because Germany lost to Poland.
Losese to Germany - Out of playoffs.

Germany
Beats Nigeria - Into playoffs as second place in the group because of the loss to Poland.
Ties Nigeria - Out of playoffs because Nigeria has the tie.
Loses to Nigeria - Out of playoffs for second straight year because couldn't get a point against Poland.

2012 Group B Breakdown

Laos has officially punched its ticket to the playoffs and Jamaica has unceremoniously dropped out - again - so the real suspense comes down to whether Afganistan or Canada will be advancing and what order these three remaining teams will finish in.

Laos
Only one game remaining against Canada and the only way the Laosians won't finish first in the group is if Canada beats Afghanistan on Saturday night and then beats Laos on Sunday. If Canada wins, then ties Laos, Laos still finishes first because Canada somehow lost to Jamaica 1-0. If Afghanistan beats Canada on Saturday then Laos clinches first in the group because of head-to-head vs Afghan. Sunday's game won't matter for Laos or Canada if Afghanistan wins.

Canada
Beats Afghanistan - Then is automatically into the playoffs because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. Only question will be if it can grab the first seed by beating Laos on Sunday night.
Loses to Afghanistan - Out of the playoffs. The two losses would mean not enough points to get past either Laos or Afghanistan.
Ties Afghanistan - This is the most interesting outcome because then the goal differential tie breaker comes into play and Afghanistan has the edge by +3, but 8 more goals for. So if they tie then Canada needs to beat Laos by four goals OR beat them by only 3, but it has to be a 9-6 game or something like that. So essentially, Canada REALLY needs to beat Afghanistan.

Afghanistan
Beats Canada - Into the playoffs as second place in the pool. Can't finish first because of the loss to Laos.
Ties Canada - Still in good position because of the goal differential and Canada having to play Laos in the final game. If Canada doesn't completely destroy Laos then Afghanistan goes through.
Loses to Canada - Tournament over and third place in the group.

France 4, Greece 2

The score was closer than the skill between these two squads. France had the majority of the chances, but the Greece keeper had a fantastic game. The half time score was only 1-0 for France and it was an ugly scramble goal by Leon because the Greek defender decided to hold onto the ball in his own box and got it stripped. Two minutes into the second half Greece scored a weird sideline free kick that no France defenders wanted to clear after it bounced in the box. France got the lead right back thanks to Dylan Ferridge roasting his defender on the wing and giving a sweet pass to Leon right in front of the net. Kevin Murphy made it 3-1 for France when he rocketed a shot off the crossbar and in from 30 yards out. However, 20 seconds after Kevin's goal Greece got one right back with a nice shot that hit the bottom corner. With five minutes left Kaj sealed it for France when he took a perfect layoff pass from Tony Haid at the top of the box and put it right in the corner.

Laos 5, Jamaica 0

This was a must-win for Jamaica and unfortunately it was never even close. Laos scored three minutes into the game and from there on it was a route. Jamaica's defense couldn't handle the quick passing of the Laos strikers and Laos continuously found the passing lanes to hit open guys right in front of the net for east tap-ins. Evan played well in the Laos goal and definitely deserved the shut-out, but you got the feeling that Laos was just toying with Jamaica at the end.

Germany 2, Hungary 0

Germany was the better team in this one but could get absolutely nothing going. Hungary dug in and played a defensive game and stymied the German attack time and time again. Josh Forsberg scored the only goal in the first half when he was left alone at the top of the Hungarian box. He easily slotted home a shot to the bottom corner. To begin the second half Hungary came out strong and nearly scored an equalizer when a funny looping shot hit the crossbar and bounced down but out. Germany scored the insurance goal with ten minutes left when David Patterson slipped through two defenders and easily placed a shot passed a helpless keeper.

Friday, April 13, 2012

2012 Day 15 Preview - Fri April 13

I'd say that tonight's games will be boring, except it's Friday the 13th and I'm incredibly superstitious. ANYTHING can happen tonight.

Germany vs Hungary, 8:30 p.m. - Hungary played well against Nigeria and then got shit-kicked by Portugal in a head-scratcher. Portugal was never really in it against Germany's B team. I'm thinking Germany will take care of business - but ANYTHING can happen. Germany wins 6-0.

Laos vs Jamaica, 9:30 p.m. - Logic says that the best team in the group will easily beat a team that can't figure out if it wants to be good or terrible. But ANYTHING can happen. Maybe Jamaica will actually play hard for the first 45 minutes instead of just the final five. Maybe Laos will decide it should lose this one just to make Saturdays games even more entertaining. Laos wins 4-1.

France vs Greece, 10:30 p.m. - France is undefeated and is a shoe-in for the playoffs. Greece is winless and will soon be in a plyoff for last place. But ANY...., nope, this is impossible. I would be delusional if I even entertained the thought that Greece could win this game. I thought I was halucinating last year when these two teams tied, but it's officially too late for an Easter miracle in 2012. France wins 5-2.

Afghanistan 5, Colombia 1

The Saskatoon striker, Josip I think his name is, got the first three goals of the game for Afghanistan and all of them were decent. The guy just has a nose for the net and knows how to put his shots away. As is their custom, Colombia kept applying the pressure and eventually got a header goal just before the break. 3-1 for Afghanistan at the half. Right away in the second half Afghanistan grabbed another goal when a fellow striker knocked in a rebound from a bobbled Josip strike. The Afghans grabbed one more for a convincing win.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

2012 Group D Breakdown

So pretty much anything can still happen in this group except for France getting eliminated. The only way that's possible is if France loses to Greece (so impossible). Here are some scenarios that assume France will beat Greece and Norway will beat South Korea:

El Salvador
Loses to France on Saturday - Needs to hope it's a close loss and then shit-pumps Norway on Sunday night. The Italy win against Greece makes it a three-way tie for second if ES loses then beats Norway. So goal differential will be in play and Norway gets South Korea on Monday night.
Ties France - Still needs to beat Norway on Sunday, but goal differential won't matter. If ES ties then wins, it will be ahead of Italy and Norway on points alone.
Beats France - Sitting good if its a big win, but if only ties Norway on Sunday then needs to pray Norway can't score many goals against South Korea. If it beats Norway then into the playoffs.
Ties or Loses to Norway on Sunday - Only way it gets through is if there is the previous win against France.

Norway
Beats El Salvador - Into the playoffs based on four wins and only one loss.
Ties El Salvador - Still into playoffs, assuming ES lost or tied to France. If ES beats France, then a tie means Norway will need something around 15 goals against South Korea on Monday night.
Loses to El Salvador - If ES loses to France then Norway STILL has a chance. Will probably need 20 goals against South Korea. If ES tied or beat France then Norway is out.

Italy
Pretty well done unless El Salvador loses to France by about 11+ and then only beats Norway by 1. And then Norway loses to South Korea or only scores one goal.

2012 Day 14 Preview - Thurs April 12

Two semi-entertaining games tonight.

Portugal vs Vietnam, 8:30 p.m. - This one will actually be pretty boring because Portugal still has the slimmest of playoff chances and will be trying to score 30 goals. Vietnam is the type of quality team where getting 30 against them is always possible. It's like a men's team against one of the youth teams that I haven't bothered to watch yet. Portugal wins 15-0.

Colombia vs Afghanistan, 9:30 p.m. - I'm genuinely excited to watch this game. Will Afghanistan have the roster it showed for the Laos game? Or the one from the Jamaica game? Will Colombia bring the effort from the Canada game? Or will it show up like it did against Jamaica? Colombia has a win and wants to prove it can be a giant killer. Afghanistan still has to prove it can beat a better-than-average team. I'm hoping for an upset to start my long weekend, but I don't really think it will happen. Afghanistan wins 4-3.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2012 Day 13 Preview - Wed April 11

Two games tonight and they're both for pride only.

Colombia vs Northern Ireland, 8:30 p.m. - On the one hand we have Colombia, which has played its heart out, had some very close results, and looked like a semi-playoff team if in another group. On the other hand we have Northern Ireland, which got a good/lucky result against Jamaica and then has bombed out of its other games with barely any effort. I hope Colombia wins this so that NI gets last in the group like it deserves. Colombia wins 4-1.

Italy vs Greece, 9:30 p.m. - This is a playoff for fourth place, assuming that Greece can even manage a win agaisnt South Korea. Italy started the tournament well and I'm sure they'd like to end it on a positive note. If Italy wins it will actually end up in third because of the improbable El Salvador win. That said, if the Greeks are good at anything, its showing a little pride. These teams played for last place in 2010 and Italy won that game so Greece will be out for revenge! Tie game 0-0.

Tie-Breaking Procedure

Tie-breaking procedure is the exact same as last year. Very straightforward.

If two teams are tied:
  1. Head-to-head result
  2. Goal differential
  3. Goals for
If three teams are tied:
  1. Goal differential
  2. Goals for

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Scotland 5, Botswana 2

This was an entertaining game. Botswana is a fun team to watch because it has one thought for the entire game and that is to score goals. Botswana got two in the first half and had chances for a couple more. The problem was that Botswana does not think about stopping goals and Scotland exploited that gap in the game plan, scoring three pretty easy goals by puting the ball on net and puting in non-clearances. In the second half it was pretty much the same, except Scotland's keeper stood on his head and didn't allow another goal against.

2012 Day 12 Preview - Tuesday April 10

Two Group A games are up tonight and neither of them features the playoff certainties.

Scotland vs Botswana, 8:30 p.m. - So Scotland beat Somalia and Somalia beat Botswana. That's all I need to know about this one. Scotland is looking pretty decent in its rebuilding effort and Botswana is looking mediocre at best. Scotland wins 5-3.

Serbia vs Somalia, 9:30 p.m. - Serbia has had a disappointing tournament so far and badly needs a win to build up some confidence for next year. I think it has the skill to beat Somalia, but I'm not sure about the temperment. Somalia has some guys who can really move the ball and they're starting to come together as a team. Somalia wins 4-1.

Norway 3, Italy 1

They keep getting uglier, but Norway keeps getting wins. The Norwegians got out to an early 1-0 lead four minutes in when Josh Gyurek scored a nice header goal. Italy wasn't providing much opposition so it looked like Norway would roll to an easy win. However, about three minutes later Italy somehow managed a weird lofting goal from way out and tied it up 1-1. Norway seemed deflated and couldn't get any speed going. Halftime score was 1-1.

In the second half it was all Norway in terms of possession and chances, but Norway could not buy a goal. There were two scrambles on the goal line that didn't go in, a hit crossbar, a couple close shots, and a tap-in from four yards out that was somehow skyed over the net. With 10 minutes left in the game it was still 1-1 and Italy hadn't even generated a shot for the whole second half.

Then Norway created some midfield space and the ball came back to defender Colin Wirth who was about 30 yards out. Wirth took a touch and ripped a hard low shot that got through all of the defenders crowding the box. The ball hit the Italy keeper but the power behind it managed to propel the ball beyond the goal line. It took all of the Norway players yelling and the assistant referee on the sideline to signal before it was called a goal. Italy did not think it went in.

The goal deflated the Italians. They started to push, but three minutes later one of their defenders let a ball go through and Stefan Husdal was in on the keeper. There was a collision, the ball squirted out to a Norway midfield player who put a shot on net. Stefan was up by this time (the keeper stayed down) and he defelected the ball into the open net. Whistle never went and it was a legitimate goal. Norway passed around the ball for the rest of the game.

Monday, April 9, 2012

2012 Day 11 Preview - Mon April 9

Three games tonight and they all might be worth watching.

Italy vs Norway, 7:30 p.m. - Covered this in my preview already. Norway should win.

Portugal vs Hungary, 8:30 p.m. - Should be an interesting game because this is for pride more than anything. I don't think either team expects to make the playoffs in this tough group so whichever team wins shows that they're respectable and watch out in 2013. Mind you, Hungary only has one loss and it was a close one, so I guess the game still means potential playoffs to them. Hungary wins 3-2.

Northern Ireland vs Laos, 9:30 p.m. - Northern Ireland got smoked pretty good against Afghanistan and they're nowhere near as talented as Laos. But maybe Laos is due for a letdown before it goes against Canada, Jamaica and a tough Colombia. Maybe. Still, Laos doesn't lose gimme games. Laos wins 6-1.

Italy Preview - Monday 7:30 p.m.

This is an important game for both teams. Italy needs a win if it has any hopes of making the playoffs. Norway could use a win to take some of the pressure off of next weekends El Salvador matchup. I expect Norway to take this one and do it in convincing fashion. While Italy plays hard and has some talent in the lineup, they don't have the firepower or the midfield to match Norway.

Norway needs to come out running and not let up until it has a couple of goals on the scoreboard. The main detriment to Norway's style of play is that it can't finish teams when they're down and that needs to start changing. If Italy comes out even a little flat then this should be 3-0 before the first ten minutes have passed.

Defensively, Norway needs to keep challenging hard and winning battles like it has in the first two games. Things broke down in the second half against France, but otherwise Norway has been extremely effective. Italy shouldn't get more than one goal, and if it does then the Norway D didn't do its job.

Norway needs this and has the better team. Norway wins 4-0.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Canada 3, Colombia 2

For the first 40 minutes this was a really boring game. Canada dominated the first half with ball possession and good attacking play. Tavis scored three minutes in when when the Colombian defender coughed up the ball. Tavis tapped it over the keeper's head and in. 15 minutes into the half Canada got another one when Colombia couldn't clear the ball out of its box and a shot got ripped in. Five minutes left in the half Canada pulled a sweet tic tac toe that resulted in another tap in. Second half Canada didn't do much of anything but sit and wait for the game to be over. Colombia kept hustling and with six minutes left got a deflection in front. Then a beauty through pass with three minutes left looked like Colombia would pull within one, but the striker flubbed the easy chance. Colombia scored a free kick in the last two seconds. Should have been tie game.

Afghanistan 6, Northern Ireland 0

Northern Ireland played OK defense for a while but they were outclassed from the outset. Afghanistan had a way better midfield and NI couldn't string together more than a few passes before the inevitable giveaway. Afghanistan didn't get many chances in the first half, but were still up 2-0. In the second half Northern Ireland completely fell apart and Afghanistan easily scored a bunch of goals. The Saskatoon striker for Afghanistan ended up with four goals and they were all nice.

2012 Day 10 Preview - Sun April 8

Five games for today and I can't say I'm excited for any of the. Might be taking a break from the soccer centre to let my liver heal

Botswana vs Somalia, 4 p.m. - This might be a decent game for seeing goals scored but not if you're interested in watching good team shape. Both teams love to push forward to the extent that they don't like leaving anyone back. Botswana wins 6-5.

Germany vs Vietnam, 6 p.m. - Germany is going to score tons of goals and is not going to let up until it has 15. Germany is angry about the Poland game and needs to prove it can hang with the big boys.

El Salvador vs South Korea, 7 p.m. - Well... Italy barely beat South Korea and Italy also barely beat El  Salvador. So this one should be close. That said, I think El Salvador is a bit better than what they've shown so far. El Salvador wins 5-1.

Afghanistan vs Northern Ireland, 8 p.m. - Afghanistan was impressive on Saturday night and Northern Ireland was impressive against Jamaica in that tie. If Northern Ireland can play a solid defensive game then I think they'll keep this one close. However, I don't think NI has the skill to match with Afghanistan. Afghanistan wins 5-2.

Colombia vs Canada, 9 p.m. - Let's see if Canada can play with some urgency and can manage to score a goal after its goose egg against Jamaica. Skill-wise and structure-wise Canada has all of the advantages so it will depend on if the players decide to give their game some purpose. Canada wins 4-2.

France 4, Norway 1 - Recap

This was a tough result to take because I honestly felt that there was a win to be had. The first half was pretty much dead even, with France puting on pressure, but Norway playing well in the mid and at the back and not allowing any good chances. France scored the first goal of the game when Danny Marchenko picked up a poor Norway clearance and ripped a beauty top corner goal with about 8 minutes left in the half. Norway tied it up with three minutes left when France turned it over at the back and Stefan Husdal slotted home a shot.

For the first five minutes of the second half Norway had the pressure and the possession but couldn't grab a goal. I believe the game turned about seven minutes in when Norway created a chance in the box but an open look was skyed. Eventually, France began to control the ball and their majority of possession tired out the Norway defense. France ended up scoring two goals in the span of two minutes to pretty well seal the win. France got another one in the final minute of play.

Afghanistan 5, Jamaica 3

Didn't catch the first part of the game, but it saw every goal except for one. Afghanistan outplayed Jamaica pretty completely, especially in the midfield and in the attacking half. Aghanistan's Saskatoon players stood out, and their striker scored a couple of beauties. Jamaica seemed to be going through the motions for most of the game until the final two minutes when it managed to score 2 goals to make it respectable.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

France Preview - Saturday 10 p.m.

Time for Norway to put up or shut up. This is the game that will decide the group and if its not close than the Norwegians could have some big problems. After watching France's first two games its pretty clear that they're a solid team and should have no problems making the playoffs.

The zone matchups in this game are what will be the deciding factor. France's strikers are better than Norway's defense. Norway's strikers are better than France's defense. The midfield is pretty close with a slight edge going to Norway. The team that wins this game will be the team whose midfield decides to exert its will and control the game.

On defense Norway needs to mark tight and not allow openings for easy passes. France has the ability to pick apart a team if the space is there and they'll score goals from easy positions if given the chance. Norway needs to win the battles in the air and the six yard box or bad bounces and deflections will see the ball in the back of the net.

On offense Norway needs to focus on the same things as the Greece game. Norway got plenty of chances in that one, just couldn't bury some easy sitters. Lots of shots when the openings are there and Norway should be able to get a few.

I think Norway's midfield plays like its on a mission. Norway wins 3-2.

2012 Day 9 Preview - Sat April 7

Six games up today and a couple should be OK.

Italy vs South Korea, 4 p.m. - Italy has had one good game and one stinker so it will be interesting to see if they can show some skill and get a result. South Korea tries hard but is outclassed in the tournament and will probably only beat Greece. Italy wins 3-1.

Sudan vs Scotland, 6 p.m. - Scotland has been building up confidence so lets see if they can give Sudan a game. Will need to be pretty well perfect for it to be close, but strange things happen to Sudan. That said, Sudan is a very skilled squad. Sudan wins 5-2.

Ireland vs Serbia, 7 p.m. - These teams played in 2011 and Ireland stomped them. I can't think of any reason why the result should different this time around. Ireland wins 8-0.

Jamaica vs Afghanistan, 8 p.m. - Must-win for Afghanistan now that Jamaica has the big Canada victory. This will be an entertaining matchup because Afghanistan is quick enough to cause Jamaica's back line some problems. Still, Jamaica is undefeated after three games. Jamaica wins 3-2.

Poland vs Portugal, 9 p.m. - Poland got a needed win and should roll Portugal. The Portuguese always put in a good effort, but there's no way it can compare to the Polish talent. Poland wins 5-1.

Norway vs France, 10 p.m. - Game of the night and will decide Group D. I'll cover this in my game preview.

Jamaica 1, Canada 0

That score isn't a misprint. Jamaica really did play effective defense against a good team for an entire game. Jamaica only scored once but it had the better chances all game too. Jamaica had a goal disallowed five minutes in because of some contact on the keeper. With 8 minutes left in the first Banerjee scored from 25 yards out that caught the Canada keeper out of position. The shot wasn't hard, but it dipped and was placed pretty nice into the top of the net. Second half was a defensive struggle and pretty boring except when the new guy for Jamaica went on a sweet run down the wing. Jarvis came in for what looked would be a hard, well-timed tackle. Instead, new guy perfectly spun with the ball, went around Jarvis and got a decent shot. Crowd was impressed. Jarvis rarely gets beat and never like that.

Poland 3, Germany 2

Great game that lived up to the hype. Both teams came out hard and there was some rough, but not dirty play to start it off. Very intense. Eight minutes into the game Josh Patterson took a corner kick for Germany that he threaded perfectly on the ground into the box and Steven Patterson redirected into the Poland net. Germany went up 2-0 with 7 minutes left when Josh Forsberg pounced on a bouncing ball 15 yards out and blasted it past the Polish keeper. Germany was the better team by far in the first half, but Polsnd scraped back a goal right before the whistle when Aleks Wosik got a shot right in the 6 yard box that Peto saved. Wosik stayed on it though and headed in the rebound into the top shelf. 2-1 at half.
Second half started out even, but Poland tied it up five minutes in when Jay Tomchuk scored a free kick from the top of the box. Germany set up a good wall, but the keeper wasn't quite positioned where he needed to be. With just over 2 minutes to go Poland scored the winner with a free kick from about 30 yards out on the sideline. He crossed it into the box and the ball bounced at about 8 yards from the line. A German defender swung and whiffed at it, Peto didn't move and the ball went untouched into the far bottom corner. Tough way to lose for Germany.

Nigeria 4, Hungary 3

This game started crazy. Nigeria had a goal less than one minute in and it looked like the route was on. Then, somehow, Hungary managed to get two quick goals of its own, both of them the fault of the Nigerian keeper who misplayed. Gotta be thinking its time to upgrade there. Halftime score was 2-1. To start the second Hungary got another quick goal and tied the game. Super boring for most of the second half as Nigeria tried to push but couldn't get anything going. With about 10 minutes left, Emanuel scored his patented control, muscle the defender while he turns, and crack a goal past a hapless keeper. Nigeria then forgot about defense and let Hungary score it right back one minute later. Two minutes later Nigeria scores the winner on a long-range strike, but the game didn't end without drama. Hungary had a feree kick with less than 20 seconds to go at the top of the box but they smashed it into the Nigeria wall.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Botswana 5, Serbia 4

This was the MacKenzie Wagman show in the first half. Wagman scored three goals for Botswana in the first 25 minutes of what was a back-and-forth game without much defense. The first one he picked the corner from 25 yards out. The second one was a quick free kick that Serbia didn't bother to defend, and the third was a cracker from way out. Somehow Serbia stayed in the game by getting its own goals and the halftime score was 4-3. Serbia tied it up with 5 mins left and it looked like it would end in a draw. However, the Botswana striker stole a pass, beat a defender and lofted a sweet shot over the Serbian keepers head with the outside of his foot. Exciting game.

2012 Day 8 Preview - Fri April 6

Four games happening on this Goodest of Fridays. Two absolutely marquee matchups tonight to end the holiday.

Botswana vs Serbia, 7 p.m. - Two teams that despeately need a win if they want even slim playoff hopes. Playing in a pool with two juggernauts means the other four games are desperation time. Serbia isn't flashy, but I think they've got enough of a mean streak that they'll get the goals they need. Serbia wins 3-2.

Nigeria vs Hungary, 8 p.m. - Nigeria is rounding into form and Hungary is the next team on the demolition trail. I like Hungary and the effort they put forth, but Nigeria is determined not to falter in 2012 and that determination will lead to many goals against lesser opponents. Nigeria wins 8-3.

Poland vs Germany, 9 p.m. - Here we go with the first intense, skilled game of the day. Both teams should have their full rosters and complete complement of Saskatoon players. This will be a hard-tackling game with neither team giving an inch. Poland needs to prove that all the hype wasn't in vain and that it is capable of scoring goals with its upgraded attacking crew. Germany needs to prove that this is the year it can shake off the "streaky" label and can use its abundant skill to win some really big games. I think both teams will be disciplined, but this is also a powder keg and if one bad tackle happens look for the fireworks to begin. Tie game 3-3.

Jamaica vs Canda, 10 p.m. - I hope this is a good game, but I'm worried about Jamaica's ability to step up and deliver. The tie against Northern Ireland set Jamaica back so this is essentially a must-win. Canada will know that and will play defense to effectively neatralize Kevin Holness and will track back to make sure Troy doesn't get open looks like on Wednesday. Its tough to keep Canada off of the scoreboard. Canada wins 5-3.

El Salvador 3, Greece 2

El Salvador was the better team all night and used its superior skill to get the majority of scoring chances. ES opened the scoring with a nice goal about 10 minutes in. Greece tied it up about 2 minutes later with a perfect strike from way out that went bottom corner. El Salvador scored a couple more to take a 3-1 lead and it didn't look like Greece had it in them to come back. Greece managed to score a header goal with about 7 minutes left, but then couldn't generate any more chances. Congrats to the Greek coach for being the first official tossed from the tournament.

France 6, Italy 1

There was no upset happening last night. Italy played a solid defensive game and kept it tied for a while. However, France kept getting its chances and controlled possession, eventually getting a couple of nice ones. The second half saw France dominate and take care of business.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

2012 Day 7 Preview - Thurs April 5

Two interesting Goup D games for tonight.

France vs Italy, 8:30 p.m. - France should win this with minimal problems. I know Italy beat El Salvador, but I think that says more about the El Salvador team than Italy's skill level. France is too skilled to let a non-contender steal a win. France wins 5-1.

El Salvador vs Greece, 9:30 p.m. - An epic battle for third place in the group happens in only the second game for each team. Both are coming off of humbling defeats and its tough to determine which will be more mentally scarred. After only one game its looking like 2011 may have been a fluke for both squads. When in doubt, I'll take the team that managed to keep its game close against a playoff contender instead of the one that lost to a winless 2011 team. Greece wins 2-1.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Laos 3, Colombia 1

It was way closer than I expected. I'm not sure what happened to Colombia since it lost to Jamaica, but it played significantly better in this game. Laos got the first goal when Adam Ailsby tipped in a free kick right in front of the net. The game should have been tied a few minutes later, but a Colombian shot into the box was inexplicably disallowed because of some random contact on the keeper. Laos scored its second goal when Ailsby took a free kick from the top of the box that went low and right through the Colombian wall. Third goal was a Chad Anthony free kick that went into the corner of the net because the wall didn't do its job again. Colombia scored a goal in the final minute when Paco put one in from way out.

Jamaica 4, Northern Ireland 4

Oh boy. Such a fun game to watch. Jamaica controlled the play, had the majority of possession and chances, but still managed to look inferior. Jamaica hit the crossbar and post in the first half but it was Northern Ireland with the two goal lead. A nice header to deflect a ball into the box gave N.I. its first goal. A sweet header from a corner kick was the second goal.

In the second half Jamaica came on strong. Peters scored a header for Jamaica's first goal about 10 minutes into the half. Two minutes later Jamaica tied it up when Holness held up the ball perfectly, waited, then sent a sweet pass across the box to Troy Lydiate streaking in, who buried it. A minute later N.I. got a go-ahead goal when their midfielder curled in a weak free kick from the sideline that nobody on Jamaica tried to clear and which the keeper misjudged. Terrible goal.

Jamaica kept coming and scored with seven minutes left when Lydiate again buried a Holness layoff. The victory seemed to be cetain when Peters tipped in a Craig Hodel free kick with only three minutes remaining. However, best moment of the game came with 20 seconds remaining when Jamaica failed to properly clear a blocked shot. The ball popped way in the air, the Jamaican centre back and keeper both came for the ball, and the ball ricocheted off of the defender and into the open net. 4-4 final.

2012 Day 6 Preview - Wed April 4

Two Group B games on the docket tonight and they should both be OK.

Jamaica vs Northern Ireland, 8:30 p.m. - Jamaica is looking at its best start in four years if it can go 2-0 to start 2012. I can't think of way Jamaica loses this game after its solid win against Colombia on Sunday and Northern Ireland's dreadful performance against Canada. Look for Jamaica to control the middle of the field and get goals from patient play. Jamaica wins 6-2.

Laos vs Colombia, 9:30 p.m. - Laos will win this game handily but it will probably be the most entertaining game of the night. Laos is a fun team to watch when you're looking for technical superiority and against a team like Colombia, which hustles a lot, Laos will need to move the ball quickly and assuredly. I expect some pretty goals. Laos wins 7-1.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Scotland 6, Somalia 2

I\m not sure Somalia learned anything from its loss against Ireland. Once again the Somalians attempted the no-defense strategy and once again it failed spectacularly. Props to Scotland for puting the ball in the net, but I'm thinking its going to be tough for any Group A team to score less than six.

Quick Thoughts on Opening Weekend

Every team has played at least one game and although the sample size is small, there's no better time than a boring Tuesday for some quick analysis.

  • Ireland is the class of the tournament again, even after losing a bunch of good players. The Irish weathered the Sudanese storm then casually asserted their dominance over a plucky Somalian squad.
  • Sudan is athletic, exciting and I would bet money they somehow blow a gimme game except there isn't another good team in Group A. Watch out quarterfinals upset.
  • Canada and Laos are looking pretty impressive. Canada beat lowly Northern Ireland, but it was a clinical destruction. Laos took apart a promising Afghanistan squad. When these two teams meet, first place will be on the line.
  • Jamaica is better than last year. I admit that's not high praise, but it's at least complimentary. I like the new guy they picked up and puting Troy at the back for the entire game is also a smart decision.
  • Afghanistan has potential. Whether it can turn that potential into more than two wins is another matter. I look forward to Afghanistan vs Jamaica because that game determines which team gets respectability from 2012.
  • Group C is significantly more exciting after that Nigeria and Poland tie. Both teams were solid, but that single point will hang over everything right until the final day.
  • Nigeria has attacking power, but can it consistently score? In past years Nigeria has been frustrating to watch as it creates chances and then squanders them. There was a potential win available against Poland and Nigeria missed three quality chances before barely getting the equalizer.
  • Poland had an early wake-up call. No more let down games for a tournament favourite or 2012 will be an official bust.
  • Germany was a confident team against Portugal. When the Germans play Nigeria and Poland it will need to have better midfield presence. The return of the Pattersons should definitely help.
  • Group D is no longer the group of death. More like the group of two good teams and four not-so-good ones.
  • Norway and France took care of business in their openers while El Salvador and Greece sputtered feebly. I don't blame Greece because expectations were low from the start, but El Salvador losing to Italy? Yikes.
  • France vs Norway on Saturday night should decide this group.

2012 Day 5 Preview - Tues April 3

Two games up tonight and one of them might be pretty entertaining.

Scotland vs Somalia, 8:30 p.m. - I am genuinely looking forward to this game after watching both teams play once. Scotland showed hustle and some OK skills in its game against Serbia and the next step after a first tie is a first win. Somalia showed some creativity, some scoring touch and some ability to make dangerous high kicks. I hope this gets a little testy. Tie game 3-3.

Nigeria vs Vietnam, 9:30 p.m. - The only interesting part about this game will be if Nigeria wants to get creative and do something like only score with left-footed shots. Or only allowed to shoot from 30 yards out. Or only allowed to put the ball in with a head. Unfortunately, goal differential still matters for this group. Nigeria wins 12-0.

Monday, April 2, 2012

2012 Day 4 Preview - Mon April 2

Only one game scheduled for tonight and its not high on my list of priorities.

Vietnam vs Hungary, 9:30 p.m. - These are the final two teams to get into the action in 2012 and fortunately for both they have a chance to start with a win. This will mark the first games ever for both squads and from what I've seen it might not be pretty. Norway trounced both of these teams in exhibition matches and let's just say we don't take those too seriously. Hungary wins 3-2.

2012 WCP Cup Predictions

Group A Preview
Group B Preview
Group C Preview
Group D Preview

Day 1 - Friday March 30
Day 2 - Saturday March 31
Day 3 - Sunday April 1
Day 4 - Monday April 2
Day 5 - Tuesday April 3
Day 6 - Wednesday April 4
Day 7 - Thursday April 5
Day 8 - Friday April 6
Day 9 - Saturday April 7
Day 10 - Sunday April 8
Day 11 - Monday April 9
Day 12 - Tuesday April 10
Day 13 - Wednesday April 11
Day 14 - Thursday April 12
Day 15 - Friday April 13
Day 16 - Saturday April 14
Day 17 - Sunday April 15
Day 18 - Monday April 16
Day 19 - Nothing
Day 20 - Quarterfinals

Norway vs Greece
Norway vs France
Norway vs Italy
Norway vs El Salvador
Norway vs South Korea

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Jamaica 4, Colombia 2

Jamaica scored two nice goals from a new central defender/defensive midfield player. I believe his name is Dan but that might be wrong. This guy is fit, smart and skilled. First goal was a nice deflection in front and the second was an absolute rocket that went in off the crossbar from about 30 yards out. Kevin Holness scored a nice goal when he dribbled through three Colombian defenders without any managing to put a tackle in. Easy finish past the goalie. Despite the win, Jamaica still looks shaky at the back.

Germany 4, Portugal 1

Germany played a strong game minus all of its Saskatoon players. Josh Patterson scored a beauty of a goal to open the scoring when he knifed through the Portuguese defense. Andrew Zerr scored three impressive goals in the second half and this one was never in doubt. Germany even played a defensive strategy for a while if you can believe it.

Scotland 2, Serbia 2

This wasn't all that exciting and neither team will be making a playoff run, but Scotland did manage its first points in a long time. Baby steps count. Yes, the second Scotland goal was impressive. Guy who scored it shook off a rough tackle, came in one-vs-one vs the sweeper and 360'd him beefore slipping it past the keeper. Very nice.

2012 Day 3 Preview - Sun April 1

Five games up tonight and a couple that should be decent anyways.

Scotland vs Serbia, 5 p.m. - This game could be interesting from a parity standpoint, especially since its the first game for each team. Scotland had a rough pool in 2011 so no way to know if they were half-decent or not. Norway played Serbia in 2011 and it was an OK game. Serbia wins 3-1.

Ireland vs Somalia, 6 p.m. - This will be an eyesore and I feel bad for both of these teams. I feel bad for Somalia because it's the first-ever game and they don't have a chance. I feel bad for Ireland because no one wants to mercilessly beat a helpless team. Ireland doesn't need to worry about goal differential thanks to their Sudan result so hopefully they let off the gas and this doens't get to double-digits. Ireland wins 8-0.

Portugal vs Germany, 7 p.m. - I want to watch this game because I'm interested in whether or not Germany can get it together and play like a team. Sure Germany has talent, but does it have the mental fortitude to get the big wins? Portugal will be a good test because the team can score goals and is decent overall. Gemany wins 5-2.

France vs South Korea, 8 p.m. - First game for both teams and I need to watch because its a Group D game. Don't expect it to be close though. France has speed, talent and size and South Korea is an enigma. First game ever for South Korea means growing pains and they're in for a rough ride. France wins 7-0.

Colombia vs Jamaica, 9 p.m. - This is the game of the night and we'll be closing down the soccer centre again. Colombia has some talent and they won't get pushed around. Jamaica has a history of losing its first game of the tournament. I still think Jamaica has too much talent to blow this one. Jamaica wins 4-3.

Laos 6, Afghanistan 2

Had to peace out right after my game so didn't see how this one ended. I believe Laos was winning 2-1 and it was almost half time. From the comments it sounds as though the beginning of the game was pretty good, but Laos used its deeper bench and better talent to control the second half. It's too be expected, Laos is a good team and Afghanistan still has a ways to go.

Norway 1, Greece 0 - Recap

Prediction: Norway wins 5-2.

In the immortal words of Dennis Green, "They are who we thought they were!" Unfortunately, we let Greece hang around for way too long in that game and thankfully they couldn't grab a goal. We'll take our three points and know that next time we need to be better.

First five minutes of the game Norway should have had at least one goal as it pressured and controlled the game from the outset. I predicted Greece would play a high pressure style, but instead it was pretty much the opposite. Greece played a high striker but then dropped its back line almost to the 18-yard box. After about 10 minutes it was evident Norway would be the aggressor, but it was all a matter of puting the ball in the back of the net. A free kick off the crossbar, a flubbed quick attempt on a try from the top of the box and overall poor shooting from Norway meant a 0-0 half flattered Greece.

In the second half Greece began to play two strikers up, which gave them more pressure but also opened the midfield. Greece was content to dump crosses into the Norway penalty area but Norway's keeper cleaned everything up and there were no real chances. Greece did break into the area once before Norway's defense recovered, but otherwise no scares.

The Norway goal came with 10 minutes remaining. A defender played a long ball into Sean Haynes's feet up front. Haynes laid off a nice pass to Stefan Husdal who seemed to have an opening to shoot from a good position about 15 yards out. However, Husdal double-clutched, dribbled towards the side then dropped a pass back to Jared Ursulan who was looking at a clear shot on goal. Ursulan's shot didn't have good power, but it was decently placed. The Greece keeper made the save but the rebound popped right to Haynes on the doorstep and he buried the winner.

Overall not the most entertaining game and certainly not as rough as I expected it to be. I'm happy for the win and glad we didn't let the points get away. Time to get ready for France.

Nigeria 2, Poland 2

I only caught the final 15 minutes of this game and it was an intense one. What I heard about the goals, was Poland scored a nice one early in the first half, Nigeria equalized and then Poland potted another right before the break. For the second half Poland seemed content to defend like crazy and cross its fingers for a counter-attack insurance goal. This gave Nigeria plenty of opportunities in the attacking zone, but Poland's luck held strong. Until the last 90 seconds when a Nigerian striker snuck in deep on the left, received the ball, turned and finished perfectly into the bottom corner. Very good game.