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.