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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 yellow group of Ireland, China and Denmark!
This pool has has the identity of the old guard, the steadily growing nation flying under the radar, and the triumphant resurgence of a program from the brink of extinction.
YELLOW – 2018 World Championships Preview
Ireland has been a force on the international scene since first taking the field in 1995’s first-ever European Championships. Although it took until 2002 for Ireland to make their World Championship debut in Perth, the Irish haven’t looked back and have been a wrecking ball ever since.
A strong Irish-American connection has long connected Irishmen with the game, and connected Irish-Americans with the home country. This program has set the tone for what a dominant national team can look like, and 2018’s games will be no different. Ireland made the elite cut in Denver and can proudly claim 10th best in the world, although they’ll need to be on their A-game if they hope to repeat and/or improve against a growing and improving field.
2016’s European Championships saw an Irish team that went 5-3. A pool play win over eventual fourth place Wales was negated by an upset loss to Norway, relegating Ireland from playoff contention. Ireland showed resilience in the end, exacting revenge on Norway in the latter rounds 10-7 to finish 11th overall.
Ireland will be one of the on-paper favorites to go far in this tournament. Just how far will depend on the 23 men in green, white and orange. It is my opinion that Ireland can give anyone in this tournament a run for their money. On the flip side of that coin, it seems that a number of less developed teams have been able to give Ireland a run for theirs. It’s all about who decides to show up any given day!
China is a tough egg to crack. While the Chinese program has been around since joining the Asia Pacific Lacrosse Union in 2009, it’s been a bumpy road for the program. Participation has risen, and a rising tide in the region has fueled the growth of all programs who have chosen to put in the hard work.
China will look to break free of the mold it seems to have fallen into in the regional and world standings. China recouped from early-tournament woes in 2014 by rebounding to beat regional rival Korea, 16-15, and the complete the run to 33rd place with a commanding win over Uganda, 14-7.
The ASPAC games have not been as kind to China. 2015’s games saw China finish 7th of 8 with a win over Malaysia, and 2017’s finish was 6th out of a total of 6 teams.
There is good news that hopefully will help China right the ship. Commanding wins over Scotland, Mexico and and Korea were earned by a promising young group. The games that China was not able to win included a respectable 11-7 loss to Germany.
Denmark comes in to these games unranked, as they were absent from Denver’s 2014 World Championships. Eight years have passed since Denmark’s last Worlds appearance, and now we’ll see the Fighting Pastries come back with a new vigor.
They haven’t simply re-appeared out of thin air. Countless hours of hard work and traveling to any tournament that would host them has prepared the Danes for their re-introduction into World Championship contention.
I first saw the Danes take the field in the Nick Kehoe British National Championships back in 2016. I met a little hobbit goaltender who told me he was “getting the band back together…” and I honestly didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. A few months later at the European Championships we saw a cast of characters that were stranger than fiction. A 1-7 record was all that Denmark had to show for their efforts on paper, but you couldn’t tell from looking at them.
A renewed vigor has see the Copenhagen crew double down on their efforts, showing up and taking third at the Scandinavia Cup this past February and most recently walking away with that same standing at the Silesia Cup in Wroclaw, Poland. This team could make some waves, and at a minimum, they’re going to have a great time doing it.
Yellow Group Matchups
Ireland will come in a 1-seed and the heavy favorite in this Yellow group after that dominant run we saw in 2014. China will be a 2-seed, and Denmark was absent from the 2014 games and thus will come in as the 3-seed.
Ireland vs. China
Thursday, July 12 09:30 Wingate Field 2
I can only realistically see one outcome for this game, and I mean that with no offense given to the Chinese National Team. Ireland is a well-oiled and highly skilled team with countless hours of FIL Championship experience on the backs of their 23 men. For anyone that is giving the win to Ireland and then not giving another thought, I would simply ask that you judge China’s advancement and growth on a play-by-play basis, and not on the scoreboard. I don’t know what we’ll see as a final score, but I hope to see evidence of a growing and maturing Chinese team against a powerful Irish team with intentions of going far.
China vs. Denmark
Friday, July 13 17:30 Wingate Field 6
This will be the (re)debut of the Fighting Pastries against the Chinese National Team. China will have hopefully gotten some kinks out in the game one day prior against Ireland, while Denmark will be looking to shake out the legs and continue to advance off their last play date in early June. To the best of my knowledge, the Danes will be coming in with more experience in these past few months than China, but China may be getting a boost from their young players that were present at the 2016 U-19 games in Coquitlam.
Ireland vs. Denmark
Saturday, July 14 15:15pm Wingate Field 4
This last game of the Yellow pool. Ireland and Denmark could realistically both be coming in to this game 1-0, and we’ll see a rematch from 2016. Ireland capped Denmark, 17-5, back in the European Championships. The true onus will be on Denmark to try and display how far they’ve come in the past two years. While that doesn’t sound like a tremendously long time, a lot can and has been done. All that work may not be enough, however. Ireland is a powerhouse with eyes far down the championship board.
We can talk until we’re blue in the face about what we might think may or may not happen on the playing fields in Netanya, but the real talking will be done on the field and in the scorebooks in less than a month!
Ireland will have their club team Erie (I believe pronounce like the word AIR or air-uh) traveling to Israel as well. This club team is the epitome of how I believe National Teams can include North American players of heritage and support the overall growth of the game. Erie recently took part in the 2018 Heritage Cup where they placed third out of eight teams.
Shanghai recently hosted a youth lacrosse day where more than 50 U8 players took to the park to have some FUN! Big things are around the corner, and it’s development like THIS that will take this game to new heights!
Denmark is one of the prime examples of fundraising and program building through Lax Hut Village. Check out Lax Hut Village’s fan gear page to get your Fighting Pastries gear to support Denmark.
Safe travel to all those traveling to Netanya, we look forward to seeing you at these 2018 World Lacrosse Championships!