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The 2018 World Lacrosse Championships are rapidly approaching, and we couldn’t be more excited! Netanya, Israel will play host to the 46-team tournament that will decide a World Champion, as give a finite ranking to how one nation stacks up compared to another. Our coverage of these games has been and will be thorough and complete, continuing now with this series detailing the 14 pools (13 of 3 + the elite Blue Group of 6).
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There is no particular order I’ll be going in, and today’s discussion will pertain to the Blue Group of Canada, The United States of America, the Iroquois, Australia, England and Scotland.
This elite class of teams will pack stands and promises to fill the highlight reels. A five-game foray for each of these teams will pit them against the best in the world to test their mettle. An embattled returning champion looks to shrug off an ugly year to retain their title, while the biggest lacrosse nation in the world is coming for redemption. The original players of this magnificent Creator’s Game aren’t satisfied with their bronze however, and the top two cannot take them – nor any of the others for granted. Familiar foes from worlds away look to reassert their place on the podium, while a newcomer will get their first taste of what it’s like to be in the Blue Group.
BLUE – 2018 World Championships Preview
Well… they’re coming! A tumultuous year of mudslinging, lawyers, and all around ugliness has finally been settled, and we will see the Canada that earned gold in 2014 back again in 2018. The 1st ranked were the 46th to commit, but we’re happy to be seeing the correct team on the field starting on July 12th.
Canada will come in to Netanya ranked number one in the world. With no adversary above them, the name of the game will be King of the Hill. A powerful American team will be looking to reclaim gold, but the sheer talent of Canada’s roster will make that a tall task for the US – or any other challenger for that matter.
The first gold came for Canada back in 1974 in only the third ever holding of the World Championship Games. An overtime win by a score of 17-16 earned Canada the gold medal, but they’d have to wait until 2006 to repeat that feat. My first trip going to see a World Championship saw Canada winning at home in London, Ontario, 15-10, over the United States. A loss in the round-robin of Denver’s 2014 World Championships didn’t effect the final outcome – if anything I think that first look at the United States was Canada’s key to victory. Rebounding from that loss, Canada put in the correct game plan that led to their, 8-5, win to earn gold and current status of best in the world.
If the whirling dervish of CLA vs. NLTPA is truly behind us, Canada can set their sights on dialing in their star-studded roster that will be needed if Canada is to take it’s first back-to-back gold medal home from Israel.
United States of America
In 2011, a participation survey found that there were 684,730 lacrosse players in the United States. This is an all-encompassing number from the youngest players, to collegiate men and women, to the pros, all the way up to masters-aged players. That was seven years ago, and this train hasn’t slowed down in the slightest. The US continues to be the front-runner in sheer numbers of lacrosse players, and with participation comes the best talent.
The United States has won all but three World Championships, and taken silver in those which it did not win. One hundred, one thousand, or one million players – there is no difference in Netanya. Your best 23 will be the ones in which your country will be judged, and we’ll see very soon if these elite few are up to the task.
The Americans looked sure to be gold medalists after a dominant pool play game in Denver, defeating Canada 10-7. The United States then went on to roll every other Blue Group competitor by a minimum of nine goals until falling short when faced with Canada a second time. A Canada with a plan is a dangerous thing, and the United States was held to five goals to Canada’s eight.
Head Coach John Danowski will look to ensure the 2018 once again swings the rank of one to the US’ favor. The best in business will be in Red, White and Blue – and we got our first look at the team against the MLL All-Star’s last weekeend. No doubt this was an incredibly challenging warm-up game, but I don’t think anyone expected the Stars n’ Stripes to come up short. You can read from our own Ryan Conwell on how Team USA lost the game and what it means moving forward.
Nobody has a better following than the Iroquois Nationals. Being a supporter of the Iroquois goes beyond countries and borders. Cheering for the Iroquois is cheering for a beautiful people and a nation that has given the world such an amazing gift.
The Iroquois Nationals don’t just represent the six tribes of the Haudenosaunee, but rather all First Nation peoples of North America, and they bring with them an entirely different style of play. It’s quite frankly really really fun to watch and unique from the rest of the world. High-powered offense and aggressive play on either end of the field is the hallmark of a physically fast team. High risk/high reward play has been the source of many Iroquois Nationals goals, but has also allowed other teams to creep up on the creative Iroquois and make games close.
The Iroquois were able to secure a Bronze Medal in 2014, the highest ever finish for the team since joining in the games as an independent nation in 1990. Since the ’90 games in Perth, the Iroquois have finished no higher and no lower than either 4th or 5th best in the world. 2014 brought about the best-ever finish for the Iroquois, but the original keepers of the game won’t be happy until they take home the golden hardware.
One year following Denver’s 2014 games, lacrosse came home to the Onondaga Nation for the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. The Iroquois topped all competition, aside from Canada, earning the 2nd spot on the podium. With the field lacrosse bronze in 2014 and a box lacrosse silver in 2015, Netanya will prove a lot for how the Iroquois are progressing as a national program.
A star-studded cast will see Tewaaraton winners, all-pros, record-setters, and simply the best people to represent the game as it’s shared on the grandest world stage. Keep holding your breath for that roster.
Australia is one of the oldest lacrosse-playing nations on the planet. When the original four teams met in Ontario back in 1967, Australia had been playing lacrosse for well over sixty years already. Australia took silver in those inaugural games, as well as twice more later in 1982 and again in 1994. Australia has always taken home a medal in all other games, with the exceptions being in 1974 and these most recent world games as the Iroquois finally found their way to the podium.
The Sharks roster is filled by players from all over their massive country. The ALA has three extremely strong state leagues in Western Australia, South Australia, and Victoria. These three leagues, as well as developing leagues in New South Wales and Queensland, have extremely concentrated amounts of talent in small areas.
To get the momentum going, the Sharks have played quite a few contests this year. Japan, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Taiwan attended the Southern Cross tournament held in Melbourne this past January for a good international warm-up. The games were light-spirited, but 2018 has some heavy implications and with Netanya looming and a shark roster not yet trimmed, the Aussies were all business.
March saw the Australians reciprocate with Japan, heading over to play a series of games ahead of each team’s final cut. Australia won out on the road, and soon after the 23 men that are heading to Netanya were selected.
The field is getting more and more competitive, and Australia knows it. The Sharks aren’t backing down an inch, and anyone who thinks Australia is to be taken for granted shouldn’t pursue a career as a gambler.
I’ll say it, there is no more of a successful program outside of North America than England. From the top down, there is no more sustainable of a model. Integrating new recruits at a young age, the English foster growth up through the ranks to the most competitive domestic and international levels, and then come full circle as senior members and alumni take leadership roles. England is arguably my favorite example of a complete lacrosse community.
This history of more than a century of lacrosse culture has bred English players that have had their eye on the prize since birth. To be part of this English National Team is a true honor with real legacy behind it, and you can see that pride on the backs of each of these 23 men.
England was one of the original four nations that competed in 1967. Since then, England has hosted the games three times, tied for the most times hosting with any other nation. England has only taken a podium placement once, with a silver medal in 1974.
2018 has seen an aggressive preemptive push from the national team. England took the field in Barcelona most recently, where they imposed their will on Spain, Netherlands, Germany, and Norway’s national teams. Only against American powerhouse Notre Dame did England fall short. A few weeks prior, England traveled to Israel to play an amazing five game, five day, five city tour of their soon-to-be hosts. England ran perfect against Israel, winning three of the games by a single goal.
England will look to improve upon their 5th place world ranking, and emulate their 1st place finish in the 2016 European Championships.
Welcome to the big kids’ table, Scotland! The newcomer will come in with a rank of sixth in the world – no easy feat to come by, but they were able to replace Japan in 2014 for the coveted spot. Standing that ground and making any advancement further will be a monstrous task, but hopefully the boys are up for it!
Scotland has been knocking on the door for a number of years now, finishing 7th three times before finally getting in to the coveted Blue Group in 2014’s Denver games. A perfect run through pool play and play-in games pitted Scotland against the Iroquois in the quarterfinals, but the Scots were unable to get over the hump and fell, 10-8, to the eventual bronze medal Iroquois.
Losing in the quarters does not mean you’re safely in the Blue Group for the next year. Scotland was then in the 5-8 place bracket, and needed another win to stay on top. Scotland was up to the task this particular evening, taking Japan to double overtime before eventually winning, 10-9. With this win, Blue was safe, but 5th was still possible. Scotland fell to the neighbors in a spirited 13-15 loss to the ‘ole Enemy.
The European Championships were a slip from grace for the Scots. A final record of 4-4 was good enough for an 8th place finish, but that blemish was enough to spur Scotland to double down on their efforts ahead of 2018. Most recently, Scotland toured the western coast of the United States, playing college programs up and down California looking for high caliber talent playing methodical offenses like what they’ll see in Israel.
Blue Group Matchups
USA vs. Iroquois Nationals
Thursday, July 12. 16:30 Netanya Stadium
A wild ride these past four years will all come to a head July 12th. The United States will be once gain squaring off with the Iroquois Nationals. The opening night heavyweight card will be a high octane performance for the thousands in attendance at Netanya Stadium. The United States have never been beaten by the Iroquois in field lacrosse, just as the Iroquois have never finished below the United States in box lacrosse. Some of the games most dynamic offensive players will be in purple, but the United States will give no quarter in their pursuit to get back to gold.
Scotland vs. Australia
Friday, July 13. 18:00 Wingate Field 1
We’ll see the Blue Group debut of Scotland on this second day of the games. The Scottish National team made huge headway in 2014, but a seasoned crew of Sharks are sure to give Scotland a proper welcome to this elite level. Scotland might be the underdog in this matchup, but then again… so might Australia. We haven’t truly seen Australia nor Scotland (to the caliber we’ll be seeing them in this match) since Denver.
Iroquois Nationals vs. England
Saturday, July 14. 18:45 Wingate Field 1
The Iroquois really showed off their offensive prowess in this game in 2014. This was the first game of the tournament for both teams, and there was no denying the Iroquois momentum following the first whistle. A final score of 15-4, in favor of the Iroquois, was the result last time, but a tried and true English team is putting countless hours of training and travel in ahead of these games. Whether or not that will be enough will be the question.
USA v Canada
Sunday. July 15. 19:00 Wingate Field 1
And here we have it! It’s fantastic to see all these countries here and playing against adversaries they may never have seen before. Teams from all over the globe are coming to compete to prove their worth, but these are the two favorites to win. Both teams will be bringing similar rosters to the 2014 rosters, and the result will come down to every possession, every loose ball and every turnover. The United States is bringing a renewed focus and a disciplined structure under Danowski. All eyes will be on Canada to see whether or not this team can overcome a quick turnaround and leave the madness in North America. The best players in the world will be on the best two teams in the world for this one!
**It’s fair to note, that while USA/CAN is THE game, the Brexit-Brawl of Scotland/England is also a MUST. Iroquois/Australia was a 2 goal win for Iroquois in 2014, and also promises to be a great show! We love Sunday!
England vs. Australia
Monday, July 16. 18:00 Wingate Field 1
The two best club systems in the world exist in Australia and England – bar none. The level of play is consistently good, and with vastly smaller numbers than North America, these two nations are able to stay competitive with homegrown talent in a self-sustaining manner. A world apart, these two commonwealth countries will see who’s top dog. This Blue Group rivalry is nothing new, and most recently Australia saw a 10-7 win in 2014’s pool play stage.
Scotland vs Iroquois
Tuesday July 17. 18:45 Wingate Field 4
Tuesday will be the last day of pool play games for the Blue Group. Depending on how the rest of the week goes leading up to this final day – this game could be do or die for one team or the other. If Scotland has secured a win prior, another win could secure them as top 4 coming out of pool play. If the Iroquois are having some unforeseen issues, this Scottish team could come out and give them a scare as they did in 2014.
Scotland was unable to get over the line, but a final score of 10-8 in the Iroquois favor was not what many would have predicted ahead of time. Scotland is in the Blue Group for a reason, and sleeping on them would be a mistake.