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WAY Too Early 2018 FIL Predictions – Pool Winners

The FIL World Lacrosse Championships always get me excited and 2018 is no exception. It’s a four year check in to see how lacrosse is advancing at its highest levels all around the world, it’s filled with competition and community, and at the end of the day, it’s a lot of fun. 2018 FIL Predictions are also fun, even if they are way too early. Since the 2018 Schedule is now public, and a lot of 2018 FIL rosters are out, it’s time to talk about the games!

When I write this preview of the 2018 games, I’m keeping all of the above in mind. Teams will change and improve between now and the actual games, and I know teams will give it their all, and take further steps forward during the games. We will have stories to tell for another four years (and for a lifetime) and all of that will come from lacrosse. In that spirit, I’m going to pick winners in groups, and then make some further predictions, because this is fun, and exciting.

If predictions make you all angry, then please stop reading. It’s ok if you can’t take it. If you do read on, but don’t like where your team ends up, go out there and prove me wrong! There is nothing I like more than being surprised. I’m here for GOOD SPORTS, and the 2018 FIL games will be good sports, so being wrong is okay by me!

Let’s have some fun and make some WAY too early 2018 FIL Predictions.Canada vs United States 2014 World Lacrosse Championship Gold Medal Game 2018 FIL Teams

First things first… I need to determine the order in which I think the Blue Division Teams will finish POOL PLAY. This is not where they will necessarily end up at the end of the tournament, but it does influence who they play in the playoffs, and whether or not they get a shot at gold.

2018 FIL Predictions – Blue Division Pool Play

  1. Canada 5-0
  2. United States 4-1
  3. Iroquois 3-2
  4. Australia 2-3
  5. Scotland 1-4
  6. England 0-5
England Lacrosse European Championships 2016 Budapest Photo: Oskar Polak
England Lacrosse European Championships 2016 Budapest Photo: Oskar Polak

What Does This Mean? This moves the US and Canada into the top bracket immediately. Yes, I have Canada winning the pool game. That makes Canada the 1 seed, and the US the 2 seed. Remember, in each of the last 3 FIL World Championships the winner of the pool game has finished in second. The Iroquois (3rd) and Australia (4th) will need to get through a play in scenario to back get to the semifinals against the top 2 teams from the lower groups, but this is certainly achievable for both teams. Scotland (5th) and England (6th) will need to play back in to get to the 5-8 bracket against some of the better teams from the lower groups. Again, this is certainly achievable for both England and Scotland (or any bottom two from the Blue), but in 2014 Scotland took Japan’s place in the Blue Division for 2018 in a very similar scenario, so nothing is locked in by any stretch of the imagination.

2018 FIL Predictions – Red Division Pool Play

Israel, Russia, and Jamaica make up the Red Division. As I have Russia finishing third in this pool, the Jamaica vs Israel game on the first full day of the tourney gets really big, really fast. Israel has seen success, and Jamaica looks poised to see some of their own. I’ll pick Israel to win in what I think will be a tight game, and take first place in the Red. What I KNOW is that it will be an exciting game, and there is a ton on the line. I’d imagine the stands will be absolutely packed for that one, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s scheduled to be played before the US vs Iroquois game.

  1. Israel
  2. Jamaica
  3. Russia
final four jamaica israel
Photo Credit: Mike Horowitz

What Does This Mean? The highest a second place team from a lower pool can finish is 13th place, so this is VERY meaningful, and on the first day. Jamaica is in this group as the third seeded team because they did not play in 2014, and 2014 rankings are used to determine 2018 seeding, like in many other international world championship events.

2018 FIL Predictions – White Division Pool Play

Japan is playing against Uganda and Bulgaria, and I think Japan will take this group with relative ease, and the reality is that they should. Lacrosse is Japan is quite advanced, played by a large number of players, and their national team has a serious structure behind it. Japan was in the Blue Division in 2014 and dearly wants to get back in, so expect them to bring an A-team to Netanya. I like that Uganda has previous FIL experience at the highest level, and I’ll pick them to beat Bulgaria out for the second spot.

  1. Japan
  2. Uganda
  3. Bulgaria

2018 FIL PredictionsWhat Does This Mean? Japan has a seemingly easy trip back to the higher placement brackets, but sometimes an easy go early on can hurt a team as the quality of the games improve.

2018 FIL Predictions – Green Division Pool Play

Germany is the top dog, and they are grouped with Korea and a fellow continental foe, France. The Germans should take this group convincingly so the real question here becomes who finishes second? I’m going to pick France here, although I do think Korea could make a go of it in this pool, at least for second place.

  1. Germany
  2. France
  3. Korea

Germany v Israel - EC16 QuarterfinalsWhat Does This Mean? In 2014, France was knocked down to second to last place because of eligibility issues, but they finished in 31st. Korea finished in 35th, so these are big games.

2018 FIL Predictions – Yellow Division Pool Play

Ireland is the top team in this group, but China is definitely up and coming, and Denmark re-enters the fray as an “unranked team” from 2014. This group could play out in the way I will call it, but I wouldn’t rule out either the 2nd or 3rd place teams moving up a slot. It’s possible! For now I feel pretty safe with my prediction, especially with Ireland in first, but a lot can change between now and July.

  1. Ireland
  2. China
  3. Denmark

Ireland - 2016 European Lacrosse Championships 2018 Ireland Lacrosse RosterWhat Does This Mean? While Ireland looks like the heavy favorite, both Denmark and Chine could climb the world rankings quite a bit if they finish in second place in this group. Finishing second means you can go as high as 13th. Finishing third means you can’t go higher than 25th. That’s a 12 position swing in potential, so China vs Denmark is huge and I can’t wait to see it play out!

2018 FIL Predictions – Orange Division Pool Play

Sweden, Argentina, and Hungary come together for what might be one of the most interesting pools in the entire tournament. Hungary comes in as a new team, but they could realistically take second place… and maybe even first? A lot depends on how Sweden shows up, because when they bring a really good team they are generally really good. That sounds obvious, but they don’t always bring a really good team and in the 2016 Euros, Sweden finished in 13th place, just four spots above Hungary, which was playing its first big time event. There are still favorites here, but it’s another group to keep an eye on for surprises.

  1. Sweden
  2. Hungary
  3. Argentina
Sweden Lacrosse 2016 European Lacrosse Championships Budapest, Hungary Photo: Oskar Polak
Photo: Oskar Polak

What Does This Mean? Hungary is a new team, but they could conceivably finish pretty high if the play ins and play offs work to their favor. I can’t rule out Argentina either, but since they finished in the bottom five in Denver they do have something to prove still. That is NOT a negative, it’s simply an opportunity!

2018 FIL Predictions – Plum Division Pool Play

New Zealand headlines this group, and they are the definite favorites over Spain and new program Croatia. I like Spain to take second place, and while I don’t expect any surprises here, I’ve certainly been wrong before.

  1. New Zealand
  2. Spain
  3. Croatia

new_zealand_lacrosse_traditionalWhat Does This Mean? The Kiwis have to be the favorite here, but I know so little about Croatia that it gives me some pause. Spain was solid in 2014, and should be improved, but I’ve heard decent reports coming out of Croatia, so let’s keep an eye on this new team.

2018 FIL Predictions – Turquoise Division Pool Play

Finland had a great showing in 2016, and should be strong again with plenty of experienced talent back on the squad. Austria is a well established team, and while they have a small number of players to choose from, the ones they pick for the national team are generally very good. Colombia rounds out this pool division and should be improved from 2014.

  1. Finland
  2. Austria
  3. Colombia

Finland v England - 2016 European Champioship SemifinalsWhat Does This Mean? Both Finland and Austria have concentrated bases of talent and box lacrosse influence all over. There is not a ton of depth in either country, but the guys who can play can really play! Finland won bronze at the 2016 Euros while Austria finished in 18th. At Denver in 2014, Finland finished 13th and Austria finished in 28th.

2018 FIL Predictions – Grey Division Pool Play

European returners in the Czech Republic and Belgium are joined by newcomer the Philippines, and as weird as this may sound, I’m going to pick the newcomers to win this group. They are untested at the FIL’s highest level, but I like what I’ve seen from their national team and they are focused on seeing success. I like the Czechs to edge out a constantly improving Belgium side, and the Belgian focus on field lacrosse (as opposed to the Czech focus on box) could come into play. Still, I’ll take the Czechs in second because box stuff still works, and they’re awfully good at it.

  1. the Philippines
  2. Czech Republic
  3. Belgium

Philippines LacrosseWhat Does This Mean? I’m not sure this counts as an upset, given what we know about the Philippines program so far. Expect them to be very strong. As for the two European teams, I am hoping for a battle! In 2014 the Czechs finished in 14th, while the Belgians finished in 27th. In 206, the Czechs finished in 10th, while the Belgians finished 15th. This is a good group!

2018 FIL Predictions – Gold Division Pool Play

Switzerland, Slovakia, and Taiwan make up an interesting group. I expect the Swiss to win it, and I think Slovakia takes second, with the group playing out as seeded. That being said, this is one of those groups that “looks” easy to predict, and then something else happens.

  1. Switzerland
  2. Slovakia
  3. Taiwan

England v Switzerland - EC16 QuarterfinalsWhat Does This Mean? This is a HUGE opportunity for Slovakia, but it really depends on how they show up. They were really solid in Denver, but looked weaker in Budapest in 2016. The Swiss always look solid, but if Slovakia brings a great motivated squad, anything could happen.

2018 FIL Predictions – Platinum Division Pool Play

I feel comfortable putting newcomer Haiti in third place in this group, as both Norway and the Netherlands are experienced and talented, and looked pretty darn good in 2014 in Denver. In fact, the Norway vs Netherlands game in Denver was a great one, and that alone makes me super excited for this group. What makes it even harder to predict is that both Norway and the Netherlands will see some new faces in key roles, as older stalwarts age out. Basically, this is going to be good, and really hard to predict. But hey, you have to pick a winner and you have to pick a loser, so here goes:

  1. Norway
  2. Netherlands
  3. Haiti
Norway Lacrosse Norwegian Lacrosse Lars Rysst Euro Championships Photo: Oskar Polak
Photo: Oskar Polak

What Does This Mean? I know, I picked an upset! It’s poster board material now. I think the Dutch will be fired up to get payback for 2014, but Norway knows it can win, so I’m going with the underdogs. Netherlands are still the favorite to win this group.

2018 FIL Predictions – Bronze Division Pool Play

Wales and Bermuda are back and they are joined by a Puerto Rico team that looks really strong. Wales finished in 4th at the last European Championships, and Bermuda can bring it against anyone. This pool has the makings for an orderly finish, or a bunch of surprises, and this is why we play the games! I have my predictions for now, but this is going to be a pool to watch.

  1. Puerto Rico
  2. Wales
  3. Bermuda

Wales v Israel - 2016 European Champioship SemifinalsWhat Does This Mean? Another upset? I don’t know, that Puerto Rico roster is pretty solid. Wales finished in 17th in 2014, and Bermuda finished in 24th, and with PR in the mix, this group becomes a really good one, really fast. Whoever comes out on top will be battle tested early.

2018 FIL Predictions – Tan Division Pool Play

Italy, Turkey, and Peru make up the Tan, and Italy is the favorite here, but I have no idea what Turkey is bringing to the table. They finished in 22nd in 2014, they almost beat Poland, a solid European team in pool play, but for 2018? No idea. Peru is another team that has a lot of question marks for me, as it is their first time playing in the FILs, but they have plenty of experienced players, and could be pretty darn competitive.

Since I have no idea what’s going to happen here, I’m going to make some weird predictions, and hope for the best!

  1. Peru
  2. Italy
  3. Turkey
Turkey vs Czech Republic World Lacrosse Championship Abigail Kaden
Photo Credit: Abigail Kaden

What Does This Mean? What I’ve laid out above would be a huge upset/shocker/surprise, but I’m open to it. I really need to see Turkey’s roster before I can set anything in stone. I don’t know why I’m counting out the Italians either.

2018 FIL Predictions – Purple Division Pool Play

Latvia might not have a ton of people playing lacrosse in country, but they are big, athletic, hard-nosed and they have a couple guys who can straight up ball. Good in goal, good on face offs, big all over, and a couple scorers and I like Latvia to win this group over Mexico and Greece. I do think Greece could be an interesting team though, and if they can really control games, they can likely pull off an upset… or two. Mexico also has some talent and more depth, so this could be a fun group to watch. For now I’m picking as follows:

  1. Latvia
  2. Greece
  3. Mexico

Latvia beats Thailand 14-11What Does This Mean? This is another good group, and whomever emerges as the top team will be tested and ready to roll. Getting through the group will be a challenge, and teams need to come in focused and prepared for this pool.

2018 FIL Predictions – Olive Division Pool Play

Poland enters as a favorite over Hong Kong, and Luxembourg is new. The smart money is on a big, athletic, tough Polish team that has some developing scorers. They know how to win games. I think Hong Kong will finish in second and Luxembourg will finish third, but that remains to be seen. Smart people run both those programs, so I’m interested to see where Hong Kong has gone, and from where Luxembourg is starting.

  1. Poland
  2. Hong Kong
  3. Luxembourg

Russia vs Poland - 2016 Euro ChampionshipsWhat Does This Mean? One of these teams is going to win this pool and play “up” with the other winners, and I’m curious to see how they perform! Poland has a lot going on, and I’ve been waiting for them to make the leap to the next level. Maybe this is their year?

Phew! That was a lot of choosing.

Next Steps – Play In Games

My next WAY Too Early FIL Predictions post will get into the playoffs, play ins, and medal round games for all the teams.

Remember, if you don’t like what I’m saying or where I’m projecting that your team will finish, just go out and prove me wrong. I love being proved wrong, so please get on your horse and make it happen. Good luck!

Stay tuned, the 2018 FIL World Lacrosse Championships coverage is just only getting started.