Contributed by: Brett Northey
Game Day 1 - Watchlist: Tonga vs France, Japan vs Fiji, Canada vs USA
The 2011 AFL International Cup commences Saturday morning (August 13th) with the 18 men's teams playing off in 2x15 minute halves in their 6 pools, each side playing 2 matches. The top 2 sides from each group go through to Division 1 (12 teams), the bottom side Division 2 (6 teams).
Since the pools are seeded it's expected that the top seed in each pool will easily account for the bottom side - even with reduced game time expect to see some 100+ victories, e.g. PNG over France, NZ over India, Ireland over East Timor, Canada over Peace Team. A couple of results that might go a little closer could be SA over China (but still expect a blow out) and Nauru versus Fiji - the Chiefs should defeat the new boys pretty comfortably but it'll be a good guide as to what to expect from Fiji.
There'll be much more interest in the matches between the 1st and 2nd teams in each pool, and when 2nd and 3rd play each other.
In terms of 1st vs 2nd in each group, PNG vs Tonga will tell us a lot about Tonga and whether they will be competitive later in the tournament, this could be a good quality match but the Mozzies should do it comfortably. New Zealand should be too polished for Sweden, and Nauru too strong for Japan. South Africa will want to beat Denmark well to shake off a few doubts about their improvement but the Danes should be very competitive, and Great Britain will want to impress against Ireland but at full strength the Warriors should be too good. Canada vs USA is really even money and likely to go down to the wire - the seeding says Canada, history has generally said the United States, maybe Northwind's youth will squeeze them home this time - toss of the coin.
Probably the real drama on Game Day 1 will be when the bottom 2 sides in each group play. In most cases that will effectively be a battle to decide which teams go through to Division 1 and which down to Division 2. Most matches should go by the seeding, but ones to watch are the clash of new sides Tonga and France, and Japan (despite some history often struggling at International Cups) versus Fiji.
In summary, the likely 3 closest games on day one: Tonga vs France, Japan vs Fiji, Canada vs USA
The full Game Day 1 draw is below.
World Footy News