Round two of the International Cup sees records broken - what lies ahead?
Saturday, August 06 2005 @ 05:12 am ACST
Contributed by: Brett Northey
The two stand-out results of Round 2 of the International Cup at Murphy Reserve, Port Melbourne, were long-standing streaks coming to an end. Ireland tasted their first loss in international football after an incredible run going back to approximately 2001, going down to the rising USA Revolution, and accompanied by scenes of joy, South Africa knocked off Japan in a thriller to record their first ever win. After tipping the upsets we'll push our luck and examine round 3.
The Ireland versus US match was a tough, low scoring game, but still of a relatively high standard. Players from both sides threw themselves in with passion and when the final siren sounded an almighty celebration began with players from the United States knowing that the win brings them very close to a semi-final spot and keeps their championship hopes alive. The Irish players were understandably disappointed. Since the Emerald Isle began playing the game back in 2000, their representative team has played in numerous official internationals, from the Atlantic Alliance Cup to the last International Cup. Their streak must have been over ten straight wins.
The South Africans have come to Melbourne hoping to win a few games, but with the main aim of a breakthrough win. In a match that could have gone either way, and was level with minutes remaining, the Africans managed to scramble two behinds to defeat the talented Japanese. The wild celebrations included spontaneous singing and dancing and surely were some of the best scenes ever seen in Australian football history, not just on the fledgling international stage - it was truly a privilege to witness it.
In the other matches PNG managed to steady late to hold off a desperate and physical Canada, Samoa crushed Great Britain and New Zealand showed no mercy against new boys Spain. Japan's loss to South Africa severely dents their hopes of reaching the semi-finals, while the US win over Ireland opens up the top half of the draw and it remains to be scene whether Ireland will now bounce back.
The series now moves to Optus Oval and TEAC Oval on Sunday for Round 3. South Africa have their sights set on Ireland who are now seen as vulnerable, but surely the reigning champions will steady. Spain are facing a big loss to the USA who will now be playing with growing confidence. Samoa should be too strong for the luckless Canada who have a tough draw, and PNG will be looking to continue the hard run for Great Britain. Japan will need to re-group to give New Zealand who haven't been tested yet - it will be interesting to see them under more pressure. Japan will also be looking forward to the larger grounds where their running game may be more effective - something several other sides such as Ireland and PNG will be hoping for too. The tournament then moves to country Victoria, with matches played in Wangaratta on Tuesday 9th August.