Contributed by: Brett Northey
Round 1 of the 2008 Australian Football International Cup threw up some very one-sided results, all of which were expected, although some of the margins were runaway results. Round 2 should see a few more exciting and tight matches, as well as more blow outs. This author is 8 from 8 so far but could well come unstuck tomorrow. For what it's worth, here come the tips.
The four 100+ defeats were South Africa over China by 146 points, followed by Canada over Finland by 130 points, Great Britain disturbing the Peace Team by 127 and Samoa defeating India by 110 points.
Next was New Zealand over Japan by 89, Ireland dealing with Sweden by 78 and the US defeating Denmark by 62. All that made Nauru's 49 point loss to Papua New Guinea seem quite respectable (which it was, up against one of the favourites).
Amongst all that it has to be remembered that Australian football is such an attacking game, which is why we love it, but it also means that any imbalance between the teams can get ugly on the scoreboard very quickly - just ask Port Adelaide's fans after last year's Grand Final against the Cats.
Some of the big losses were by nations very new to our game, in fact in many respects it's more a great sign of how quickly the other nations are progressing. As former Melbourne champion Brian Dixon explained when consoling the Chinese after their mauling by the South African Lions, their opponents had been in exactly the same position just six years earlier at the inaugural International Cup.
So what does Round 2 hold? A mixed bag really. The fine weather and a forecast of 18 degrees will actually be quite warm for football and won't do the new teams any favours.
The early slot at 11am pits 2002 champions Ireland against Finland. This won't be nice - Ireland by 120. The might of the United States take on China, and if the Americans want to take revenge for being out gold-medal tallied at the recent Olympics then this is their chance. USA by 120. The final match in this slot is Great Britain versus Nauru and should be a real cracker. The island Chiefs took their match right up to PNG and footy is their national sport, but while in the past the Brits have had to rely on the Bulldog spirit they now have some instinctive footy skills to go with it, running and linking up with quick handball. This could go either way, in fact when they last met six years ago it was Britain by just one goal. Something tells me it could be Nauru's day, and it's tempting to go soft and tip a draw. Nauru by 3 points.
From 1pm Papua New Guinea's Mosquitoes will buzz around the Peace Team until their heads spin. The Peace Team must try to shut down their opponent's dazzling run and evasion but it's a huge ask. PNG by (I hate to say it) 130 points.. Enough to make coach Dipper pull his famous moustache out. New Zealand's destruction of India will be more systematic, but just as relentless. New Zealand by 120. Samoa versus Japan is where the fans will head. The big strong islanders with some gun players down to some very new to the sport, up against the fleet-footed, skilful but undersized Japanese. We don't think these teams have met before in international competition, and it should be a fascinating contrast in styles. A tough call. Samoa by 10 points.
The final match of the day, at 3pm, is Canada and Sweden. The Canadians should be far too strong for the Elks, but the Swedes will be aiming to keep the scoreboard respectable. Canada by 90 points.
All those matches are at Melbourne's Royal Park on Friday and fans are encouraged to get down to see the colour and excitement, especially with a couple of tight matches tipped. The round concludes with South Africa likely to be tested but too good for Denmark at St Mary's in Geelong from 12:00pm on Saturday. The tip is South Africa by 70 points but hopefully the people of Geelong will turn out to watch two teams their AFL club has increasingly close links to.
World Footy News