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.