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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 + Blue of 6).
There is no particular order I’ll be going in, and today’s decision is to go with the Olive Group of Poland, Hong Kong, Uganda and Luxembourg.
This pool was one of two pools altered by the self-excusing of Bulgaria and Haiti. Initially a pool of Poland, Hong Kong and Luxembourg, Uganda was assigned to be a fourth addition to the Olive Group as Netherlands and Norway were sent to the White Group with Japan. This pool comes in with a 1-seed, TWO 2-seeds, and a 3-seed – meaning that two teams will come out with a ranking of second place in the group.
OLIVE – 2018 World Championships Preview
This group features some of my absolute favorite programs. I’ve been a big fan of the Polish these past few years, and that’s been earned on the backs of all the great people involved with the program from the ground up. Success has been bountiful in qualitative aspects, and now we’re going to see if those advances that haven’t garnered major attention can be cashed in for some wins.
Polish lacrosse has largely guarded their status as one of the National Teams primarily made up of Polish born-and-raised lacrosse players. They learned in Poland, they play in Poland, the language on the field is Polish. I have immense respect for that, and the 2-3 North American additions have done their time in the trenches and I have nothing but respect for this programs.
2014’s Worlds and 2016’s Euros saw roughly a similar result. Poland comes in 20th in the world, and 16th in the European Lacrosse Federation. Although Polska Lacrosse finished 3-4 in 2014, a heavy goal differential of +19 resulted from two narrow 1-goal losses to the Czechs and a double OT loss to a talented Italian team.
The proof is in the pudding, so they say… in Poland? It’ll be up to the 23 men in red and white to define what happens in this group stage and beyond.
I said a lot of nice things about one of my favorite European programs. I can almost copy and paste those same things about the Asian nation that I believe has made the most improvements since 2014. Hong Kong is booming with increasing participation numbers at home, and the regional powers of Japan and Australia serve as models that Hong Kong can look to close the gap with.
Hong Kong has actually been present at the World Championships for quite some time. When Perth hosted in 2002, we went from 11 to 16 teams, and Hong Kong was among those ready to join the fray. Hong Kong’s only win came over New Zealand, but times have changed significantly in the 16 years since Perth.
Hong Kong placed 21st of 38, just one place behind Poland. Hong Kong saw success just one year later with a close loss to Australia 10-16 in the ASPAC Games. 2017’s ASPACs saw a notch one further, as Hong Kong took third with a win over Korea in Seogwipo’s holdings of the games.
Hong Kong annually hosts the Hong Kong Lacrosse Open – the premier lacrosse tournament held in the Asia-Pacific region. Teams come from all over to test their mettle against regional and worldly opponents, and Hong Kong’s men and women have both won the tournament for the past two years straight.
What a story! Uganda was the darling of 2014, coming on to the international scene with a fire and enthusiasm that was huge for the diversification and growth of lacrosse internationally. The Cranes from Uganda packed sidelines and stadiums every time the yellow, red and black took the field. I still remember when Uganda scored that first goal against Ireland in their debut – the entire stadium went ballistic.
There is no regional qualifier or substantial tournament in the region for the Ugandans to be measured against. These guys might be the furthest from any other lacrosse playing nation in the world. That geographic difficulty hasn’t stopped these guys from doing the work to improve though.
Players from Uganda have made the trek to Israel before, with a number of these national team guys coming to play in the Israel Premier Lacrosse League. Reciprocally Uganda hosted the East Africa Sevens tournament in which players from Israel made the trek out to go play against the Ugandans.
Uganda understands that there is power in numbers, and has made efforts to grow lacrosse in Kenya as well as really boost domestic participation. The social media kings frequently put up pictures of 200 girls after a tournament or two full teams of men posing for a picture after the game.
Uganda beat Korea in the last minute of their game in 2014, prompting the biggest celebration of the entire tournament. Uganda then went on to beat Argentina (11-5) as well to earn a 34th place finish.
LUX LAX IS HERE! The tiny European nation sits cozily between French, Belgian, and German borders, and that proximity has given Luxembourg their lacrosse base. Development is the name of the game for these boys, who look to make the biggest splash possible in their first World Championships appearance.
With 2022 being having qualifiers ahead of the World Championships and that field being trimmed to 30, Lux is well aware that there is significant work to be done if they want to see their flag flown at the next holding of the games.
A small player pool has Luxembourg traveling with a smaller roster than the opposition. Where numbers fail, big hearts fill the dedicated few, who will be looking to improve, learn, and stake Luxembourg’s flag in the ground at the largest World Championships ever. The chips will fall where they may, but when July 21st rolls around, Luxembourg will be holding heads high – knowing they came and left it all on the field, and they allege they have the nicest kit in the field of 46.
Olive Group Matchups
Hong Kong vs. Luxembourg
WEDNESDAY July 11, 19:30 Wingate Field 1
THIS is one to get excited about, for a slew of reasons. Believe it or not, scheduling 46 teams into a realistic bracket that gives every team a shot at gold, PLUS a separate group of six (blue)…. it’s not easy! One game had to be moved up to July 11 and this was the easiest choice. Luxembourg will get more eyes than they may ever get again, as all the national teams come out to the Wingate Facility to watch 2018’s Worlds kick off. Hong Kong also wants these eyes, as they look to establish themselves as a rising power in Asia. WE CAN’T WAIT!
Poland vs. Uganda
Thursday July 12, 08:30 Wingate Field 4
Polish teams and players have been on the field, in the box, or in the back of a van on their way to go practice or play EVERY weekend since 2014. I wish the best for this game, as it is Poland’s experience and chemistry that has everything to lose against the lone African team who has everything to win. If Poland let’s this turn into a sloppy fight, anything can happen. If they come out and play their game, I don’t see Uganda having an answer for that game plan.
Uganda vs. Luxembourg
Friday July 13, 14:30 Wingate Field 1
Could this be Luxembourg’s first-ever win… and in pool play no less? Will this be Uganda’s victory over Lux, bringing about the first win of Uganda over a European team? I qualitatively know nothing about Luxembourg’s players, but I do know how hard Uganda’s elite have been working to close the gap. I will definitely be at this game!
Poland vs. Hong Kong
Friday July 13, 15:15 Wingate Field 4
This is the dogfight. The 20th best team will be tested by the 21st best team. This game is the statistically closest matchup by seed, and we’ll see who’s learned the most since 2014. We did get this match in Denver, with Poland absolutely dominating the pace of play and coming out 14-4 over Hong Kong. To think Hong Kong will let that repeat happen without a fight is to discredit years of work. Once again, I’ll be there!
Hong Kong vs. Uganda
Saturday July 14,11:00 Wingate Field 1
This is Uganda’s opportunity, and one that Hong Kong needs to take seriously. I think the advantage in experience and organization goes to Hong Kong, but that doesn’t mean that Uganda can’t win. If Hong Kong comes out tired on Saturday morning after Friday’s heavyweight bout with Poland, they are definitely susceptible to a Ugandan surprise.
Luxembourg vs. Poland
Saturday July 14, 14:00 Wingate Field 6
By the numbers, this is the biggest difference between the seeds and should safely be in Poland’s favor. The unranked bottom seed will face and uphill battle against a finely-tuned Polish machine. This extra pool team means an extra pool game, so that extra fatigue might be working against the Lux boys, but you really never know!
I’ve been a big fan of Hong Kong, and I invite you to read more about my recent visit in March, as well as an article about 2018’s Hong Kong Lacrosse Open. I plan on taking a pretty solid team next year, if you’re interested in coming along give me a shout!
Luxembourg is a tight-knit lacrosse family… literally!
A lot of American players want to explore their Polish Heritage, and so a 501c3 has been launched as the Polish Lacrosse Foundation. The first ever Heritage team took place at the Heritage Cup just a month ago. Inversely, a Polish player has come stateside! Mlkolaj Smigiel is playing summer box lacrosse for the Seneca Warchiefs! There are a lot of great things coming out of Poland!
Shutterlax is a led by Polish photographer Marek Stor, and he is one of our absolutely favorite people in lacrosse, and arguably the best lacrosse photographer in Europe! Shutterlax will be shooting thousands of photos in Netanya for the World Championships, and that’s a huge addition! Fun fact: Shutterlax’s logo is my effigy.
Seriously, how can you not LOVE these Uganda guys?