Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Real World Championships Begin

The World Cup has found itself in a situation similar to where the NCAA men's basketball tournament often gets.

The opening rounds were better than the late rounds.

The group stage was filled with great game after great game, epic goal after epic goal. The knockout round? Not quite.

There have been 14 games played in the knockout round to date. Which of those 14 games was great? The Netherlands vs. Mexico? Costa Rica- Greece? Perhaps. The U.S.-Belgium game featured a great performance by Tim Howard and a dramatic ending.

The game that will be remembered the longest, barring a spectacular final, will be Germany's 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the semifinals, though not because it was a great game.

The Netherlands came within a a few missed PKs of reaching the final without scoring a goal in the quarterfinal or semifinal. That would have been terrible.

Oh, and why go to PKs? It's an awful way to decide a game, for two reasons. First, there is the arbitrary nature of PKs. It would be like having a tied basketball game decided by a foul shooting contest. It has nothing to do with which team more deserves to win.

Second, and way bigger to TigerBlog, is the fact that teams can play to get to PKs and hope for the best. As much as TB was rooting for Costa Rica, it's hard to watch a team that is making almost no attempt to play offense, for fear of giving up the easy counter the other way.

If teams knew that they could not win and advance without actually scoring a goal, tactics would change radically, no? A team couldn't simply defend, which tilts the balance of a game, if it knew it eventually needed at least one to move on.

TB says that if a game is tied after 90 minutes (plus stoppage time; again, can time simply be kept on the scoreboard like in every other sporting event in the world?), then play sudden death overtime - and keep playing until someone scores. Eventually someone will.

Anyway, now that the opening act of a worldwide tournament is winding down, the real World Championship can begin.

TigerBlog is talking, of course, about the World Championships in men's lacrosse, an event way bigger than the soccer World Cup, obviously. The lacrosse tournament begins tonight in Denver.

Okay, TB doesn't really think it's bigger than the soccer version. Still, it should be a great tournament.

TB will go out on a limb and predict a final of the United States vs. Canada.

This is the 12th World Championship for men's lacrosse, which was first held in 1967 and then became a quadrennial event beginning in 1974. No country other than the U.S. (nine times) and Canada (twice) has ever won, and only twice (1982, 1994) has the final not been between those two (it was the U.S. vs. Australia both of those times).

There are nine divisions at the World Championships, and only the six teams in the top division are playing for the championship: the U.S., Canada, Australia, England, Japan and the Iroquois. If you want to keep an eye out for a sleeper, it's the Iroquois.

There is no Princeton representation on the U.S. team, for the first time since TigerBlog has been following the event. This figures to be a rarity, as the Ryan Boyle/Matt Striebel years have ended and the Tom Schreiber years (and possibly others, like Chad Wiedmaier) figure to begin in four years.

Schreiber will be in Denver for the tournament, working as an assistant coach with the Ugandan team. Uganda plays in a division with Ireland, France and Bermuda.

Costa Rica, whom Princeton played on its trip there in 2012, is in a division with the Czech Republic, Turkey and Poland.

Princeton also played the English team in Spain in 2008. TigerBlog was very impressed with the English and how they played, especially their knowledge of a game that none of them grew up playing. They were all just athletes, great ones, who hadn't quite made it professionally in soccer. 

Anyway, epending on placings in these divisions, there are crossover games at the end that lead to placings of 1-38. Some of the stories, like the Ugandan one, are already successes, just for what it took to get the novice program to Denver.

It starts tonight at 9 with the preliminary round game between the U.S. and Canada, a game that can be seen on ESPN2. There will be great coverage of the tournament on ESPNU and ESPN3.

The championship game will be at 9 Eastern time on Saturday, July 19.

And, in all likelihood, it'll be the U.S. and Canada.

TigerBlog will take the U.S. 16-13 in that game.

And he'll take Germany 2, Argentina 0, in that other championship game.

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