So the group stage of the 2015 U20 World cup is complete and we are now down to the business end.
So far it has been a pretty good tournament with 122 goals from 36 games, crowds are averaging 6900, which is good especially given the bad weather and rain that a lot of the games have been played in and the best efforts of the media to try and ignore the biggest football event to ever arrive in NZ.
Surprise of the Tournament #1 : Fiji 3 Honduras 0
This was GIGANTIC, just days before Germany expectedly hammered Fiji 8-1, but Fiji were celebrating because they scored a goal something many thought would be beyond them. They followed that up with 3 against Honduras, the stunned look on not just the Hondurans but the Fijians when they got the first was priceless and the celebrations when they got the second will rival whoever scores the winner in the Final. Well done Fiji
Surprise of the Tournament #2 : Don't cry for me Argentina
|Argentina crash out after 0-0 draw with Austria|
Pre-tournament favourites, players in their ranks such as Angel Correa, who Atletico Madrid paid 7.5 million for and Giovanni Simeone of River Plate. They had looked one of the better teams.
They looked on course for a win in the first game but a late equaliser from Panama saw them drop 2 points. Then a spirited fightback against Ghana wasn't enough to stop them losing 3-2.
In the last game Austria needed just a point and that's what they played for and got and Argentina were on the plane home.
Non-surprise of the Tournament : Group D - Group of Death
Ever since the 1982 world cup when the group of Brazil, USSR, Scotland & New Zealand was labeled the group of death every tournament seems to have to have one. So when Mali, Mexico, Serbia & Uruguay were drawn together they got the moniker and it lived up to billing, after 2 games all the teams were on 3 points. It was Serbia who came out on top and Mexico that went home, while Mali & Uruguay had to draw lots to decide who finished 2nd & 3rd Uruguay won this and their prize? A trip to New Plymouth to play Brazil!
Game of the tournament (so far) : Brazil 4 Nigeria 2
Always a very debatable and contentious issue and entirely subjective for a start I haven't actually seen all of the games, but from the ones I have I would say that Brazil 4 Nigeria 2 in New Plymouth has been the best, closely followed by on off the ones I haven't seen Ghana 3 Argentina 2 in Wellington.
Most deceiving result : New Zealand 5 Myanmar 1
While this looks like an emphatic win for New Zealand, it was 1 all at half time and 3 of their goals came in the last 12 minutes which you could argue was aided by Myanmar's tiredness. Up until the 2nd half of this game New Zealand have looked poor at this tournament. It was great seeing the win but I am worried about how NZ will do against Portugal a team that has scored 10 and conceded just 1 in the group stage.
Who will win from here?
Before the tournament I made some predictions and got 22 out of 36 (or 61%) correct. A lot of these were pure guesses as with U20's you never really know what you will get. The theory now is that having seen most of the teams the predictions would be a little more educated, but then it is knock out play so who knows. I put $10 on Ghana at a price of $26 at the start of the tournament and while didn't think much of them in the first game they beat Argentina and they do seem to have an easier road to the final, with the other teams that look likely to win it, Brazil, Nigeria, Germany & Portugal all on the same side of the draw. So I'll stick with Ghana
Brickbats : The Mainstream Media
The coverage has been pretty poor, If you read the Wellington paper, the Dominion Post you wouldn't realise that their were actually games on in Wellington unless New Zealand was playing in them!
Online, Stuff has nothing on their front pages about it. The NZ Herald doesn't have much on their front pages, but when you do find the section it is good, but given they are a local sponsor of the tournament you'd think they would be pushing it a bit more.
But then what do we expect in this rugby obsessed country. I saw a letter in the DomPost which summed it up - A Gary Hedges from Avalon found it very puzzling that England, Italy, France & Spain weren't in the competition, claiming it would be akin to not having New Zealand, Australia & South Africa in the Rugby World Cup! Well Mr. Hedges, welcome to a sport that is played by so many that teams have to qualify for the finals and when some of the "big" names don't it doesn't distract from the tournament.
Hope for the rest of the tournament
- More of the same, skillful, exciting football
- Better weather
- New Zealand to prove me wrong
- The media to actually give the coverage that the tournament deserves (OK that's probably asking too much)