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The 2018 World 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).
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There is no particular order I’ll be going in, and today’s decision is to go with the white group of Finland, Austria, and Colombia.
This turquoise group will be the case of a relatively new king of the hill in a competitive European circuit looking to build on previous successes, with another formidable looking to close that gap. The newcomer will have a full plate they’ll have to contend with right from the first whistle, and we’re excited to see how they fare.
TURQUOISE – 2018 World Championships Preview
There’s been unparalleled growth and development between 2014 and this July’s 2018 World Championships. For the majority of programs, there have been ups and downs, but it’s been all sunshine and rainbows the for Suomi lacrosse program.
One core group has been responsible for garnering wins all over Europe and beyond – with a few of their bigger names even heading over to Canada to play summer box lacrosse. 2014 saw a dominant performance out of Finland, coming out of the gate 3-0 through pool play. An early appointment in the progressive tournament saw Finland’s aspiration’s turned down by a prolific Scottish team, but closing out the games meant key wins over the Netherlands (twice) and the Czech Republic.
The European Championships in 2016 were another step forward for Finland. Virtually the same exact team was able to smash through the field of 24 only to be topped by the eventual champions, England in the semifinals. Most notable was the overtime win to exact vengeance on Scotland for 2014’s defeat. Roope Jokela off his back foot put the ball in the top left corner to win it – and then dodged the entirety of the Finnish team attempting to jump on him so he could run back to his goalie, Lauri Uusitalo to celebrate the real man of the match for his lights out performance in cage. I’ll never forget that as being the best celebration I’ve ever seen.
But the Fins weren’t done there, in addition to hosting the wildly successful and first-ever European Box Lacrosse Championships, but the Turku Titans also took home the championship at the Europe’s Club Championships, the Ken Galluccio Cup. The 2014 ranking of 13th in the world is admirable, but the Suomi men have a tall order in front of them if they look to repeat and/or improve.
This is one of my favorite programs. The most talented player, the brand new guy – EVERYONE involved with Austrian is just a downright nice person. Men, women, national teams, Vienna Monarchs, Graz Gladiators, Vienna Cherokees… EVERYONE is all smiles, all the time, and I just want the recognition to be yours that you guys are awesome at what you do and it’s great to see that attitude manifest to on-field success.
Austria is present at just about every tournament available in the European market. Going above and beyond the usual tournaments, Austria now hosts (and won) their own tournament, the Austrian Lacrosse Open. Also, new to this year, the Danube Lacrosse League was formed to give additional competition to teams in the region. The Vienna Monarchs have won this inaugural year, and will look to continue to ride that success as the Austrian National Team looks to assert their position on the world stage.
2014 was a tough show for the Austrians, finishing 28th of 38. The Euro Championships in 2016 were slightly better, but more of the same as the 18th place was earned on a 4-4 record.
(It’s not Easter… but this is great)
I’ll say up front, it will be hard to talk much about Colombia because I know very little about the program – and that’s exciting! Without an established and sanctioned Pan-American Championship, it’s been difficult for the international community to keep tabs on the great work that’s being done in the region.
Colombia’s first ever appearance was in 2014’s World Championships, where a win over Costa Rica lifted the team to a commanding first win to avoid 38th place.
Since 2014, Colombia has taken place in 2015’s Copa de America tournament – an event that I personally believe could get legs and become the qualifying event for the region as we head towards a FIFA-styled 30-team tournament in 2022. Colombia had a rough go with that tournament as well, losing out to Argentina, Mexico and Chile.
Turquoise Group Matchups
Finland vs. Austria
Thursday July 12, 12:30 Wingate Field 5
With no disrespect given to Colombia, but if there is to be a close game in this pool, this is it. Finland and Austria have met on dozens of fields in dozens of tournaments since 2014. Some on grass in open fields, other times it’s been in the box. There will be no secrets on either team as we see these two European staples square off in the Turquoise Group’s first game.
Austria vs. Colombia
Friday July 13, 14:00 Wingate Field 6
The age old question: is it better to be Colombia coming in fresh, while having seen Austria play the day prior? Or is better, perhaps to be Austria and have that game under your belt – get the nerves out, get your legs under you, and work out some of the finer details in the team game? Colombia will be given their best opportunity (I believe) to get a pool play win in sneaking a win out from the 2-seed in Austria, but it will take a complete team effort to overcome the established Austrians.
Colombia vs. Finland
Saturday July 14, 11:45 Wingate Field 3
It’s tough to give any glimmer to hope to this Colombian team, and that’s nothing against them. Finland is simply riding too high on such a long string of international victories and program advances. Colombia’s hard work behind the scenes is the X factor here, and we’ll see if the domestic advances isolated from the majority of the international lacrosse community will be enough to give this Colombian team a shot at toppling the Suomi juggernaught. We saw this matchup in 2014, also in the Turquoise and Colombia’s first World Championships, and it was a lopsided 19-0. With four years in-between, we expect Colombia to pull that gap much closer.
All the analysis in the world really isn’t worth the a shekel once that first whistle blows. Any player, any team, any day can throw that ball into the net more times than any opponent.
Safe travels, and we look forward to seeing Finland, Austria and Colombia in Netanya in a few short weeks!