Fiji today ran out to a 208-point victory over newcomers Indonesia.
Indonesia had a tough initiation to International Cup footy on Sunday against the Nauru Chiefs, but had fought out that game despite the odds, to notch an elusive goal. The task today on Ransford Oval was to take on Fiji and with a 3 day break it’s all part of a very steep learning curve.
The challenge for Fiji was to maintain their focus and not develop bad habits. The coaches reinforced the message to keep it simple, 1 handball, 1 kick – old fashioned footy in some respects. It was too easy at times to lairise and perhaps the main criticism of Fiji today was a little show of contempt for the opposition by playing on too often when marking within range where a set shot was called for.
This small display of over confidence did result in many of the micro victories that the Garudas would focus on as positives. They continued to harass and tackle and their rewards were the free kicks earned.
When two light guernsey coloured teams go out to play, it looks like the Finns in white have too many tall players, a visual distortion caused by their white jumpers and shorts and by their lesser ground skills than the Swedish Elks.
Except, the hand International Cup football record demonstrated that both teams had few players over 190 cms, a contrast to the British Bulldogs. They just looked tall.
From the beginning, the Swedes dominated and went to a big lead of 4.5 (29) to a scoreless opposition by quarter time.
By half time it was Sweden eight goals up over a struggling Finland.
The Irish Warriors produced a solid but unspectacular performance to beat a gallant French side 17.9 (111) to 0.2 (2) for their second win of the tournament. Although the Irish were rarely troubled at the back, they will know that a better overall performance is demanded when they take on Nauru on Saturday with a semi-final place up for grabs.
Led by a commanding performance by 203 cm giant ruckman Paul O’Halloran, the Warriors came out firing with Padraig Lucey simply too big and too strong for the French defense. Although the French showed plenty in terms of endeavor the Irish were able to play the game on their terms isolating their taller targets one on one in their forward 50.
Goals came thick and fast in the first quarter as the Irish took a 6 goal lead into the first break.
Teams in the International cup face the same dilemma as do AFL sides these days. Not only do they have to improve but face improved opposition.
Reading the first round reports the South Africans easily accounted for a locally assembled Pakistan not unexpectedly.
Tonga also easily accounted for an improved India. Considering the scorelines are very similar, this promised to be an even and interesting affair.
The weather was fine and cool perfect for football, the anthems and chants finished. Time for the game to begin.
A fine cool day perfect for football. The two teams, the Japan Samurai and Pakistan Shaheens, both suffered similar first round defeats, so on paper this should be a even contest, but they have two different styles.
The Samurai lack tall key positional players to present as a focus, whilst the Shaheens lack the all round pace.
This game looked good on paper and the way it played out was no disappointment. In fine sunny conditions with the slight but chilly Southerly breeze favouring the Brunswick end at Ransford Oval the Great British Bulldogs had first use. However early days and Nauru Chiefs were looking sharper – getting the centre clearances and most the early stages was played in their half.
The first goal of the game was delivered by (#10) Pilo Dagiaro. Repeated attacking though saw only a couple more behinds added. And as the momentum started to shift midway through the quarter the sense that Nauru had missed a real chance to get a big jump against the breeze. To this stage the Bulldogs were keeping key Nauru forward Oppenheimer (#2) in check.
The Finland Icebreakers have returned to the International Cup in 2014 after missing the event in 2011. This year they have put together a competitive and eager team which includes Mika Kupila from the Helsinki Heatseekers. A brief chat with Mika looks at his footy background.
“I started [playing the game] just before the 2008 games, so it is six years now. A friend of mine did an exchange in Australia and fell in love with the game. He convinced me to come give it a go and I have loved it ever since.”
“I have been at many of the European tournaments but this is my first time here in Australia for an International Cup.
Round 2 of the AFL International Cup gets underway today with all matches again at Royal Park, except for a one off at Linen House Centre, Seaford, hosted by St Kilda Football Club through their relationship with New Zealand footy. The forecast is for a maximum of 14 degrees Celsius and a shower or two.
In the Men's there's some crucial games in terms of deciding who will make the top 4 semi-finals. USA vs Canada is huge, with the winner in contention for top spot in Pool C and outright entry to the semis, with the loser hoping to scrape in via 4th spot in the overall standings. Given their history you can't sensibly tip against the Revolution.
Perhaps less huge and more scary is the slightly built Indonesia side up against Fiji. Nauru should prove a little too strong for Great Britain to stay in contention for Pool A honours. Ireland will look to boost their percentage against France and Japan will be keen to show that whilst off the pace of the top teams they are still well above the new-comers, in this case Pakistan.
South Africa versus Tonga should be an absolute cracker and deserving of a good crowd. The Lions need to win but will have to withstand a fast and furious Thunder. South Africa by a modest margin. Not so modest will be PNG over India - this could be one for the record books if the Mozzies have a taste for blood. Let's hope the margin stays under 300 points. The same will be true of New Zealand against China at Seaford.