Friday, April 12, 2013

2013 WCP Cup Semifinals Preview

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Referee gets punched out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013 WCP Cup Quarterfinals Preview

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Somalia Punishment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If anyone has heard something different, let me know.

Monday, April 8, 2013

2013 WCP Cup Quarterfinals Matchups

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

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

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

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

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

2013 WCP Cup Group Stage Recap

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Big Friday Recap

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 5, 2013

2013 Day 15 Preview - Fri April 5

It's the final weekend of group games and we FINALLY get whole nights packed with exciting matchups. I'm fairly excited right now and I hope to see you all there.

Ireland vs. Portugal, 7:30 p.m. - An intriguing game for the playoff picture. Ireland had a surprising loss to Serbia and kind of needs to win out now. Portugal keeps hanging around, just like every year, and if it gets a win will be in great shape for the playofs. I think Ireland will take this game seriously and won't mess around. Ireland wins 5-2.

Poland vs. Canada, 8:30 p.m. - Canada needs at least a tie to stay in playoff contention because of the head-to-head loss to Nigeria. If Canada loses there is no way it can qualify for the playoffs. However, if Canada ties Poland, then all Poland and Nigeria would have to do in their game on Sunday is tie and Canada would be out. A total loss of control of their fate. So pretty much a must-win game. I think Canada has hit its stride and I haven't been too impressed with Poland this tournament. Canada wins 5-3.

Laos vs. Jamaica, 9:30 p.m. - Huge playoff implications here. It looks like Afghanistan will seriously contend for the playoffs so both these teams have to know that if they lose, they're in a lot of trouble. Jamaica gets to play Afghanistan in its final game and Laos gets to go against a good German team. If Jamaica wins it has its spot wrapped up. If Laos wins, there is only a small chance it won't advance. If Jamaica loses it needs to beat Afghanistan. If Laos loses, it needs to beat Germany and pray Jamaica beats Afghanistan. If they tie, everything will still come down to their final games. So many possibilities!

Somalia Didn't Show Up - Literally

So Somalia didn't show up for its scheduled Thursday night Group A game against El Salvador. Didn't tell anyone before the game that they wouldn't be playing and essentially just left everyone sitting there wondering what the hell was going on. Not sure why they took this approach besides the fact they were getting crushed in every game they played in one of the toughest groups in the tournament. Regardless, they wanted to stick it to the man. So congratulations Somalia on being as mature as a 14-year-old teenager!

The Big Issues

1. This was El Salvador's second-last group stage game. It needed a win, plus a win against France on Friday night to have a chance at advancing. Probably even more important, it needed to rack up a ton of goals against Somalia so that it had a favourable +/- rating when compared to France and Sudan. So now what happens? There is nothing in the WCP rules about what to do when a team forfeits. No stipulation about what the score will be. And since +/- is one of the main tie-breaking rules (and Goals For a secondary rule), the WCP Organizing Committee (in its sole and absolute discretion) is essentially playing God and deciding the final score. I'm sure they're relishing this absolute power, but that's a side issue. I'll update when I know what they decide.

2. How much different is this from a team playing drunk in a bronze medal game? Before we all go passing judgement, lets think back to the not-so-distant past and remember a few choice teams making a mockery of their final games. Don't hate on Somalia and then give a pass to the teams that did arguably the same thing.

3. What to do with Somalia? Essentially nothing except maybe bar them from entering future tournaments. The WCP Organizing Committee (in its sole and absolute discretion) has it in the rules to sanction or suspend teams for failing to follow the rules. I'm guessing they choose to fine them, just a hunch. Somalia can't play another game until it pays the fine, but hey, that was their last game! So nothing the organizing committee can do unless it wants to take frivolous legal action - which it absolutely might.

4. Who exactly is deciding the final score? The rules say any discipline be handled by a committee that is free from bias. This decision will potentially effect:
   1. France
   2. Sudan
   3. El Salvador
   4. Canada (potential playoff crossover)
   5. Nigeria (potential playoff crossover)
   6. Poland (potential playoff crosover)
   7. Hungary (potential playoff crossover)
So good luck finding a committee with no people affiliated from those teams.

5. Should those teams be allowed to have input? I say yes. If they're not consulted then they all have the right to bitch. Remember, it's a $900 entry fee to play in this thing and you're required to pony up for all of your jerseys and such, plus they make you jump through a bunch of hoops for meetings and ceremonies and all that jazz. If someone gets screwed, they can complain.

6. El Salvador really gets boned. Let's say they don't make the playoffs. They only got to play 3 games because of the cancellation and being in the smallest group. That's $300 per game! In a cruel twist of fate, the rules say that teams are only guaranteed 3 games, so good luck getting any kind of refund.

7. What will the official Somalia excuse be? Who cares really. Ultimate puss move to not show up, just because you're getting your ass handed to you in every match. Don't enter the tournament if you're going to cry because your poorly put together team is getting killed every game.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nigeria 3, Norway 0

Another slow, boring game for Norway in this tournament. A shortage of subs and a shortage of speed meant the team was constantly on the back foot and defended pretty much the entire game. Nigeria didn't play particularly well, but also didn't really need to, so no fault to them. Nigeria got two fairly soft goals in the first half but probably would have scored a bunch more if it wasn't for Norway's keeper who absolutely stood on his head for the entire game. In the second half Norway went into a defensive shell and grinded it out until the game was over. Pretty uninspiring stuff from both teams.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Evraz Place Going on Strike

The 2013 WCP Cup just got more interesting. Evraz place employees could be going on strike as early as Thursday.

What does this mean for the tournament? It's not exactly clear. In response to the strike notice from the union, management issued a lockout notice, meaning that it could just run things in the meantime. At the very least, it likely means no alcohol being served for the remainder of the tournament and at the very worst it means scheduling changes and possible cancellation/postponement.

The union is asking for a 30% increase and they've been offered 6%. So they're a little ways apart in a 10 month long negotiation. The leverage right now is that the Juno's are scheduled in three weeks, so don't expect this to be resolved before the tournament final.

2013 Day 13 Preview - Wed April 3

Serbia vs. Djibouti, 8:30 p.m. - Serbia will continue its quest for a playoff berth in the closest group of the tournament so far. This is a must-win game and they can't be sloppy or underestimate a Djibouti team that can't play defense, but can put the ball in the net on occasion. Serbia should take care of business 5-2.

Norway vs. Nigeria, 9:30 p.m. - This is going to be a rough game for Norway. Numerous injuries plus out-of-town players unable to make it means the Norway bench is going to be a short one. Not exactly welcome news against a Nigerian squad that is fast, skilled and kind of desperate right now. Expect Nigeria to control much of the play and Norway to hang on for dear life.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

2013 WCP Cup Tie-Break Rules

If two teams are tied after Group Stage Games:
     a) Result of the game between the two teams
     b) Goal Differential
     c) Total Goals For

If three teams are tied after Group Stage Games:
     a) Goal Differential
     b) Goals For

If 2 or more teams are still tied after these criteria are used, then kicks from the mark to determine who advances. The WCP Organizing Committee (in its sole and absolute discretion) will decide how that's going to work if it ever happens. My guess is poorly.

Of course, what if there are three teams tied and then two of them have the same, better goal differential than the third, but when they go to Goals For the third team has a bigger total than the other two? I love these unaccounted for and madening situations.

2013 WCP Reality Check Time

We've gone through 11 days of games and its time to recognize which teams still have a chance at the playoffs and which are pretty much done.

Group A: France is a sure thing for the playoffs and should manage to get the top spot as well. Sudan is looking like it will advance easily, but I don't think its at the guarantee stage yet. El Salvador needs to win out - highly unlikely but strange things can happen. Italy tries hard but won't advance again. Somalia was out before it even played its first game.

Group B: Jamaica has looked really good so far but still needs to play Laos and Afghanistan and anything can happen in those games. I'm giving Jamaica a 50/50 shot to make it through. They've choked in the past and they don't deserve anyones confidence at this point. Besides an opening game tie to Afghanistan, Laos has been pretty dominant. I fully expect this team to rally and they're my pick to win the group. I'll take them over Jamaica. Germany looks like its best days are behind it. A competitive team without the firepower to compete in this loaded group. Northern Ireland has a win against South Korea and won't have another meaningful result. Afghanistan has played twice and looks good, but squadered two leads and now only has two points to show. Going to be an uphill battle, just like last year. Will come down to the game against Jamaica for that final playoff spot. South Korea is bad again.

Group C: Poland has taken care of business in the games it needed to win, even if it barely managed. Will be in much tougher against Canada and Nigeria. Nigeria got a big, lucky win against Canada and then did its annual faceplant against Hungary. Hungary has played well and managed a big win, but I can't see it making the playoffs. Canada looks great, got one unlucky result, and now will probably win out the group and get the top seed. Norway has played OK, but no goals means no wins every time. Game against Greece to decide who gets last in the group. Greece tackles hard and has a good keeper. I'm expecting Canada to get top spot and Poland to get second.

Group D: Soooo wide open. Scotland, Ireland, Portugal and Serbia are pretty much equal, with two games remaining apiece. This could go any way and since I've avoided the games in this group I can't make an educated prediction. Scotland likely has the easiest games left, so I'll give them second spot and then based on raw talent Ireland will likely get first in the group again. Colombia choked away its chance for the playoffs and Djibouti doesn't know how to defend.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Poland 2, Norway 1

What a tough result. A super even game that could have swung either way and ended up going to Poland in the final 30 seconds. Or the final 5 minutes of extra time that the referee somehow decided was necessary. Poland had many scoring chances, but Norway buzzed all game and especially at the end looked like it would put in a winner. Tons of missed chances off of Polish giveaways, Norway just can't seem to score with any regularity. Poland is going to have a rough time against Canada and Nigeria. This group is wide open still.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Germany 1, Afghanistan 1

This was a hard-tackling and fast game, if not overly exciting. Both teams came committed to playing solid defense and the two goals scored both came on plays when the opposition briefly broke down. They were very even and while I think Afghanistan has the better team overall, Germany knew exactly what was needed to get a point. Afghanistan scored its only goal with about 3 minutes remaining and Germany improbably tied it up in the final two minutes.

Canada 6, Norway 1

Ug. Not the finest showing from Norway. We got the first goal about two minutes in, but it was all downhill from there. Give Canada the credit, because they were the better team and good teams take care of business. They got some lousy goals, but they also got some really nice ones and possession was probably 75-25 for Canada. I'm disappointed in the overall effort from Norway, but the final result wasn't a huge surprise. Not Norway's year and now we need to try and play spoiler.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

2013 Day 7 Preview - Thurs March 28

Two games tonight and at least one of them should be really good.

Afghanistan vs Germany, 8:30 p.m. - Afghanistan played a great game against Laos to open the tournament for both teams and in my opinion was unlucky to come away with only a draw. This team has speed, skill, and an abundance of attacking options. I skipped the Germany vs South Korea game because I assumed it would be a wash. Instead Germany had to hang on for a 6-4 win, which is slightly embarassing and suggests all is not right in 2013. I'm taking Afghanistan and I'm guessing they win by a few. Afghanistan 5-2.

Canada vs Norway, 9:30 p.m. - In a just world, Canada would have at least one point. Unfortunately, they kind of got hosed against Nigeria and now they'll be out to right that wrong. I'm more than a little worried for Norway's chances. An uninspired draw against Hungary was not what the Norwegians needed, and this year is looking like it might be trouble. I'm not going to predict anything because I don't want bad Karma.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Big RSA News

There will soon be a new Executive Director of the RSA. At the board meeting on Tuesday March 19th, the RSA Board of Directors decided that the services of Dennis Morse were no longer required. I'm not sure if he was fired, or how it works exactly, but as of today he is no longer in charge.

The search for a new Executive Director will happen in the next few weeks. No information on how to apply was released. The decision was made because of the new board members that were elected a couple months ago - a big change from previous years.

Four Days of Boredom

Wednesday night will mark the fourth straight day without a really compelling matchup during the tournament. This isn't the organizers or the schedule makers fault entirely, but there are definite problems with fitting all of these kids and womens games in. Its the beginning of the tournament and all the crappy games have to played sometime. But yikes. We've had to go from Saturday night at 10 p.m. all the way to Thursday night at 8 p.m. to have a really compelling matchup. That's a long time to go to maintain interest in a three week long tournament.

I don't want to hear arguments about how many close games there have been in that time that were entertaining (not many anyways). Close games between bad teams is not any more fun to watch than a standard Division 4 Men's game. Its not a good thing when people have free time on their hands but can think of a lot better things to do on a cold Regina evening than go to the soccer centre.

Thankfully, the good games are coming. It's a long weekend and there's at least one good matchup scheduled Thurs-Sat that will get people in the doors. Of course, next week is just as tedious as this one before the final weekend of Group stage play where every game should be awesome. It's a long time to wait though.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Norway 1, Hungary 1

This game was boring and was poorly played by both teams. Pretty frustrated with how Norway came out and couldn't generate any kind of decent pressure. Might be a long tournament this year. Norway did open the scoring off of a deflected free kick with about 10 minutes left in the first half. Hungary tied it up in the second half with a rocket of a shot from about 20 yards out. Both teams created chances, but neither could find a winner. Going to be a tough go for the rest of the tournament.

Afghanistan 2, Laos 2

Not sure if Laos is losing it a bit, or if Afghanistan was just that good. Afghanistan's goals were certainly the better of the two teams'. A couple rockets from distance that the Laos keeper really had no chance on. Laos scored the first goal of the game on a nice slot finish from just inside the penalty area. The second goal came from a free kick after a brutal dive by the Laos striker - I think we all know which one. Very fast and physical game and both of these teams are going to give Jamaica a lot of trouble.

Nigeria 2, Canada 1

First controversial game of the tournament and we couldn't even make it through a full day. This was a game between two evenly matched teams that probably should have ended with an even score. Nigeria held a 2-1 lead in the final minutes, thanks to two pretty goals, but Canada had a ton of pressure and was bringing the whole team down the field on every possession. With approximately 20 seconds remaining, the Canada keeper bombed a goal kick into the box to three Canadian players parker there. The Nigerian keeper tried to catch the ball, missed, and fell to the field when he was contacted by a Canada player. There was a wild scramble for the ball and Canada managed to head it into the net. Tie game! Nope. Referee called the play a foul on Canada and gave Nigeria the ball. Game over.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

2013 Day 2 Preview - Sat March 23

Six games to watch, with the final two of the night being very high-quality.

Colombia vs Djibouti, 5 p.m. - This will be the first look at Djibouti so it might be interesting. I fully expect Colombia to get a win though, because if they don't then its good-bye any playoff hopes after only one game. Colombia 4-2.

Ireland vs Scotland, 6 p.m. - Another Group D game and its tough to get excited. Ireland stomped Scotland in 2012 and the only way this stays close is if Scotland's keeper stands on his head, which he's capable of doing. Ireland 6-0.

Poland vs Hungary, 7 p.m. - Could be interesting depending on who Poland plays as striker. This shouldn't be any contest when based solely on skill, but if Andrew Baulin plays well defensively and Hungary catches some breaks then there is upset potential. Poland 2-1.

Jamaica vs Northern Ireland, 8 p.m. - I fully expect Jamaica to avenge their terrible result from last year and claim a convincing victory. This one should be over by half. Jamaica 5-1.

Nigeria vs Canada, 9 p.m. - Super compelling matchup to start the tournament for these teams. In a tough group, one early loss can mean the end so both teams will be desperate from the opening kick. Expect fast, physical play. Tie 3-3.

Laos vs Afghanistan, 10 p.m. - Not quite as good a matchup as last year, but still a great closer for the opening Saturday. This game will be loud, it will have great goals and it will ultimately end with Laos getting three points for the win. Laos 4-2.

France 5, Sudan 0

This was a disappointing game if you were expecting two teams of equal skill to be playing each other. Sudan was the exact same squad as 2012 with one major change - different keeper. Apparently Noor was sick for the game so one of the smallest players on Sudan was given the thankless task of trying to stop a determined France attack. Not that the keeper got any help from the guys calling themsleves defenders. For France's part, they played a perfect game defensively and stifled every counter-attack and long-ball opportunity. France was by far the better team.

Friday, March 22, 2013

2013 Day 1 Preview - Fri March 22

One big event and one big game on the docket.

Opening Ceremonies, 6:30 p.m. - This will be the same as every year, and hopefully as short as in 2012. Plenty of time between the end of this and the beginning of the men's game to get home and grab a nap.

France vs Sudan, 10:30 p.m. - Great way to start the tournament. Defending champs Sudan get to face their biggest challenge of the group stage against a super competitive France squad that has never managed to win the title. I expect plenty of good goals along with plenty of dirty tackles. I can't wait. I'll give the nod to Sudan, which is on an impressive streak against quality opponents. Sudan wins 4-3.

Reminder About Referees

As discussed in a previous post, for all group stage games this year there will only be ONE main referee, and a 4th official who stands at half. This is so the WCP Organizing Committee can save costs and become more like the Saskatoon World Cup, which is terrible and a travesty to all competitive soccer.

Before you go thinking that only one referee is ever required, just remember there will be a lot of this happening:

2013 Preview: Group D

The Contenders: This group is pretty wide open and its going to be interesting what happens. Ireland is still the best team out of the six, but has lost a number of key players, including its keeper. Colombia has an athletic team, but not one that plays all that well together. Serbia is always intense and takes the tournament seriously, but has serious flaws and depth issues. This is by far the easiest group in 2013.

The Challengers: If Portugal and Scotland can play well consistently throughout the tournament then there's a chance either could be playoff bound, simply because this group is so weak. Neither team has much in terms of above-average players, but they will work hard and they won't give up on games.

The Pretenders: I don't have even the faintest idea who is on Djibouti so they get the traditional last place until they can prove they're above it.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Ireland
2. Serbia
3. Colombia
4. Portugal
5. Scotland
6. Djibouti

Thursday, March 21, 2013

2013 Preview: Group C

The Contenders: Two of the top teams from last year, both of which got bounced  by eventual champion Sudan in close games - Poland in the quarterfinals, and Canada in the semifinals - are the obvious favourites of the group. While there may be some small differences in their respective lineups, expect both to play fast, physical, and very well defensively and in goal. There will be many close games in this group, but both of these teams have the players to manage the high expectations.

The Challengers: Always a dark horse to come out of the group stage, past champion Norway once again has a very competitive team, with maybe a couple pieces missing from being a favourite. This is an older squad, but still a very good team. Size and grit are the biggest advantages for Norway and they'll give the contenders a good game. Nigeria always has one of the most athletic teams in the tournament, but can never seem to catch a break. It tied Poland in 2012, but also lost to Germany and somehow tied Portugal, which was the difference between making the playoffs and being left out.

The Pretenders: One of the newer teams in the tournament, Hungary had a decent first showing in 2012, but was undone by a lack of depth. I don't believe that problem has been solved for this year, but expect them to play hard every game. Greece is a proud franchise with a ton of fan support which has occasionally managed to surprise people, but more often than not finishes in the bottom of the group.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Canada
2. Poland
3. Norway
4. Nigeria
5. Hungary
6. Greece

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

2013 Preview: Group B

The Contenders: Laos has restocked its roster after an incredibly close final game in 2012. The addition of Chico makes Laos an early favourite to claim a title it hasn't held since 2010, but has been oh-so-close in the two years since. Still an athletic squad with plenty of above-average skilled players. What's standing in the way of an easy playoff berth? Probably the toughest group of 2013. Jamaica has poached a number of Ireland players for this year's squad and that means a likely trip to the playoffs for the first time since.....? No clue. 2009 at the earliest, but I'm even skeptical of that guess. For sure in 2007. Considering this is Kevin's team and he runs the tournament, you have to think the Ireland players are a desperation grab. If Jamaica improbably wins it all, wouldn't that be the Ray Lewis retirement moment right there? Kinda makes me sick thinking about it.

The Challengers: It seems every year Germany is constantly relegated to a Challenger, despite a solid team with plenty of very good players. Why? Because Germany has a tendency to implode in upon itseld at the worst possible times. I'll also acknowledge a few questionable calls tend to go against Germany, with unfortunate results, but usually it is noticeable team frustration that sinks this ship. I'm not sure who's in charge of the 2013 squad, but rumours abound it has lost some key members. Afghanistan is a team that made noise in 2012 with a big win against Jamaica, but ultimately fell short thanks to tough losses to Laos and to Canada. It will take some fortunate bounces for Afghanistan to advance.

The Pretenders: Northern Ireland nearly had the upset of the tournament in 2012 when it managed to tie Jamaica early in the groups stage. Of course, everyone soon realized that Jamaica was pretty overrated and Northern Ireland was just as bad as everyone expected. That said, I don't think any team can be as bad as South Korea was in 2012. Watching South Korea play was like watching an Under-16 team play. They celebrated like crazy for every goal, even if already down by 7. That means we saw the South Koreans celebrate a TOTAL of 6 times while getting scored on for 35. Yikes. Of course, they did make a 5-3 game of it against Greece....

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Laos
2. Jamaica
3. Germany
4. Afghanistan
5. Northern Ireland
6. South Korea

2013 Preview: Group A

The Contenders: Wow, what a group. You get the defending champion, Sudan, in a group of five teams, which is supposed to be an advantage. But the draw is a fickle thing and there are two other playoff teams from 2012, France and El Salvador, who also got the unlucky draw. Between these three teams we can expect our playoff entrants and all three games between them to be fiercly contested, starting with the tournament opener between Sudan and France on Friday night. I'm going to give the nod to Sudan and France, based mostly on the belief that El Salvador doesn't have the defensive chops to stop either of those formidable teams from racking up goals.

The Challengers: I wish I could say Italy, but I'm being realistic.

The Pretenders: Italy and Somalia, with a major nod to Italy as the fourth best team. Any other pool and I would have them as a possible challenger. They even beat El Salvador in 2012. However, even if that upset happens again, and I don't think it will, Italy doesn't have a prayer in making the playoffs. Somalia managed one win last year, and it's one more win than they can hope for in 2013.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. Sudan
2. France
3. El Salvador
4. Italy
5. Somalia

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ticket Costs Unchanged

In a landmark moment for the WCP Cup, ticket prices will not go up in 2013. They won't go down either, but its the small victories that matter at this point. As detailed in a previous post, there are numerous contributing factors to the pricing freeze.

2013 costs are:
Tournament pass: $100 (Does not include final day, of course)
Daily Cost: $7 (Under 12 and you get in free! Also, too young to be reading this blog)
Participant Cost: Free! (Besides the $900 per team entry fee and the $200 RSA player fee)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

2013 WCP Cup Ticket Prices

Welcome to year three of bitching about WCP Cup ticket prices!

Once again, we're a week away from the tournament and there still isn't any information about how much fans are going to have to fork over. In 2012 I wondered how much we were going to get hosed before learning that Nana and Papa were going to have to fork over that month's pension cheque to buy a tournament pass. In 2011, the price was $85. In 2012 it was $100. Are we going to get hit with $115 in 2013? $120? $130?

Probably not.

I say this only because WCP has been looking for ways to slash costs and get easy revenue. This year we're looking at only one (1! Crazy!) official for all group-stage games - including for the men's draw. Plus they've introduced an U-12 division - which is probably the easiest cash grab ever - because what relative can say no to watching Johnny compete for another useless trophy after he's already played in the RSA league, RSA playoffs, RSA Cup, and ACFC Winterfest, all in the past three months. The WCP Organizing Committee has had eight years to learn these things.

The referee cutback should save the WCPOC approximately $5,000 by my rough estimate. It will also create TENSION! because of all the close goal protests and all the dirty stuff happening behind the play. And of course I have to mention the decsion to disallow certain top officials from even participating because of poorly assumed conflict of interest. Nothing like a WCP controversy to boost ticket sales even more.

All this leads to one thing: If ticket prices are higher than $100 for a pass, then rest assured we're all getting royally screwed. We were getting screwed in 2011 and in 2012 of course, but this time there would be a whole pile of evidence about just how much we're taking it up the bum.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

2013 WCP Cup Important Dates

Schedule is out and there are a decent number of big games. Not as many as 2012, but still good.

Fri 22, 10:30 - Sudan vs France. Great opening game.
Sat 23, 9:00 - Nigeria vs Canada.
Sat 23, 10:00 - Laos vs Afghanistan

Thurs 28, 8:30 - Afghanistan vs Germany
Thurs 28, 9:30 - Norway vs Canada
Fri 29, 8:00 - Ireland vs Colombia
Fri 29, 10:00 - El Sal vs Sudan
Sat 30, 10:00 - Jamaica vs Germany
Sun 31, 7:00 - Portugal vs Colombia
Sun 31 - 9:00 - Norway vs Poland

Wed 3, 9:30 - Norway vs Nigeria
Fri 5, 7:30 - Ireland vs Portugal
Fri 5, 8:30 - Poland vs Canada
Fri 5, 9:30 - Laos vs Jamaica
Sat 6, 9:00 - Jamaica vs Afghanistan
Sat 6, 10:00 - El Sal vs France
Sun 7, 7:00 - Poland vs Nigeria
Sun 7, 9:00 - Laos vs Germany

Wed 10 - Men's Quarterfinals
Fri 12 - Men's Semifinals
Sat 13 - Men's and Women's Finals

A few interesting notes:
-Schedule makers gave everyone a break by only starting men's weekday games at 8:30. That means I can go home after work and have a nap before coming back to watch important matchups.
- Pretty much all big games are Friday and Saturday nights again. Don't mess with a winning formula.
- The last weekend of games will once again be the most intense.
- Games on Easter Sunday for the first time in tournament history. Also a couple big games on Good Friday.
- No more bronze medal game after the 2012 debacle.
- The break day is now between the quarters and semis instead of the semis and final. Not sure if it will make any kind of difference.

2013 WCP Cup Norway Schedule

The 2013 schedule for Norway, the 2007 WCP Champions, is:

Sunday 24, 7:00 - vs Hungary
Thursday 28, 9:30 - vs Canada
Sunday 31, 9:00 - vs Poland

Wednesday 3, 9:30 - vs Nigeria
Saturday 6, 8:00 - vs Greece
Wednesday 10 - Quarterfinals
Friday 12 - Semifinals
Saturday 13 - Final

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2013 WCP Cup Standings and Results

Group A Final Standings

Group B Final Standings

Group C Final Standings

Group D Final Standings

France 7, Nigeria 6 - PK
Afghanistan 5, Serbia 1
Jamaica 3, Ireland 1
Poland 4, Sudan 1

Group A
France 5, Sudan 0
El Salvador 3, Italy 2
Sudan 7, Somalia 1
France 10, Somalia 1
Sudan 8, El Salvador 1
Italy 5, Somalia 0
France 5, Italy 1
El Salvador ?, Somalia ?
France 3, El Salvador 1
Sudan 3, Italy 0

Group B
Jamaica 6, Northern Ireland 2
Laos 2, Afghanistan 2
Germany 6, South Korea 4
Laos 7, Northern Ireland 1
Jamaica 9, South Korea 1
Afghanistan 1, Germany 1
Jamaica 6, Germany 2
Laos 10, South Korea 0
Northern Ireland 5, South Korea 1
Afghanistan 6, Northern Ireland 2
Jamaica 2, Laos 1
Germany 5, Northern Ireland 2
Afghanistan 2, Jamaica 1
Afghanistan 5, South Korea 0
Laos 5, Germany 0

Group C
Poland 3, Hungary 1
Nigeria 2, Canada 1
Norway 1, Hungary 1
Poland 4, Greece 1
Canada 6, Norway 1
Nigeria 3, Greece 2
Hungary 6, Nigeria 5
Poland 2, Norway 1
Canada 8, Greece 1
Nigeria 3, Norway 0
Poland 2, Canada 1
Canada 6, Hungary 1
Norway 7, Greece 3
Hungary 4, Greece 3
Poland 5, Nigeria 2

Group D
Colombia 5, Djibouti 1
Ireland 8, Scotland 2
Scotland 2, Serbia 1
Portugal 3, Djibouti 1
Serbia 5, Portugal 2
Scotland 5, Djibouti 3
Ireland 3, Colombia 1
Serbia 6, Ireland 1
Portugal 5, Colombia 4
Colombia 4, Scotland 2
Serbia 6, Djibouti 1
Ireland 5, Portugal 1
Ireland 6, Djibouti 0
Serbia 8, Colombia 2
Scotland 2, Portugal 2

2013 WCP Cup Schedule

Sudan 3, Laos 2 - Recap 2012 Final

Late is better than never (according to the lunar charts) and this recap isn't even a year old yet. I kept good notes and the only things standing in the way of accuracy are time and alcohol.

This was an exciting final obviously. There were good goals, crazy fans, a crazy bench and an outstanding finish. Laos got things going early with great pressure on Sudan. Sudan's keeper, Noor (who is also the only player on the team that I know), made a great save in the first minute when Chad Anthony vollied a cross in the box from Scotty Myrah. Five minutes later Laos went to its favourite play of the tournament. Bryan Murrell hammered a free kick from just over half that came in low and Noor barely saved. I believe it was Jaden Kwon who tapped in the rebound to make it 1-0 for Laos. The lead was short-lived though. One minute later Sudan tied it up when a shot to the back post found two Sudanese players running in. It was an easy tap-in to make the score 1-1. For the remainder of the first half Sudan controlled the play and kept pressure on Laos. No more goals though.

Laos started the second half strong. Murrell once again came close to scoring when he ripped a shot from midfield that went through everyone only to be denied by the post. Both teams traded close chances until seven minutes remaining. Murrell blasted his free kick at the Sudanese wall and a small scramble ensued. After a couple cracks the ball flew up and hit a Sudanese player in the arm. A questionable penalty kick was awarded for Laos. Adam Ailsby came up and calmly converted to make it 2-1 for Laos.

Needless to say, things heated up as soon as the tie was broken. Right after the kick-off a Sudanese player committed a dirty foul right in front of the Laos bench. The Laos player (not even sure who it was) took exception and shoved the Sudan guy. Boom! Instantly there were numerous players pushing and half of the Sudan bench seemed to come into it. We're talking multiple players on the field who definitely weren't supposed to be there. Any disciplinary action taken? Nope. Not a single card. But we digress.

With three minutes remaining and Sudan applying a ton of pressure the Sudanese were given a corner kick. The ball came in and the Laos keeper, Evan Campbell, spilled it. There was a small scramble and then a Sudanese guy put it into the bottom corner. Tie game 2-2. Everyone was pretty sure it was going to OT at this point, but that was far from what actually occurred. With less that two minutes left, a Sudanese midfielder beat two Laos players on the wing. He crossed in a blooper of a pass that Campbell misjudeged and a Sudan striker finished with style, taking a half-bicycle kick to put the ball in the net. 3-2 for Sudan. Game over right? Still not quite. With 30 seconds remaining Laos was awarded a free kick from the top of the Sudan penalty area. Adam Ailsby took the kick and rang it off the crossbar. Now game over and Laos are bridesmaids two years in a row.