Thursday, July 26, 2012

European Qualifying

What some are calling the most competitive yakball tournament to date, the class of Europe headed to England to face off with the top 6 teams advancing to the WYC. England led off the festivities in London against Spain. The Spaniards gave England a scare by leading at half, but Joseph Southall led a furious comeback and England won by 7. The Danish team and Italian team faced off in Leeds looking to tie up the English team. The Italian’s speed outplayed the Danish strength in a 43-37 win for the Azurri. One of the favorites in the tournament opened group B, Russia was in Newcastle playing Finland. The Fins were outmatched by the precision of the Russians, and lost by 14. The other Group B matchup was Ireland and France in Sheffield. Both side’s fans were loud and rowdy. The French side pulled away late in a 8 point victory.  The Swedish team had their opening game against Wales in Manchester, which was almost a home game for Wales. The crowd showed up big and led the 27th ranked team over the 6th ranked team putting Wales in a good position to advance. Scotland was also in the group, and they showed up against Greece in Nottingham. James McAlister went 15 and 9 and led the Scots to a victory. Finally, Group D started with a bang. A favorite in Germany faced off against the Ukraine in Birmingham.  Germany dismantled the Ukrainian defense every time down the field. Captain Jonas Müller led the Germans with 19 points in a 25 point win over a very good Ukrainian team. The Netherlands and Poland national team had the last game in round one in Liverpool. The Dutch team actually had a worse rank than the Ukrainian team, but they played better, atleast against their opponent. The Polish team had a 4 point lead after 1, but the Dutch went on a run and never looked back.

England and Italy were the two teams playing in Manchester, which ultimately would decide the winner of group A. Southall and Giuseppe Rossi matched eachother point for point, with the English team coming out on top 43-41. The Spanish and Danish teams were matched up in Newcastle, the Spanish team once again had the lead, but the Danes shut down the scoring late and the Danes were able to take the lead and hold on. France and Finland had their match in Sheffield. The French had their star center Jacques Garreau injured in the game late when the game was in hand. It could ultimately ruin the French’s chances. The Russians were in Liverpool playing Ireland. The Irish were shut down by the strong Russian side who is the 5th best team in the world, with a 13 point victory. The Scottish team was playing Sweden in London, with a chance to eliminate the 6th best team in the world. Henrik Larsson had none of that, and led the Swedes to a 5 point victory. Greece and Wales had their game in Manchester, with Wales looking to advance to the knockout stage.  The Greeks matched the Welsh team point for point, and overpowered the underdog Welsh team and won. The historic rivals Germany and the Netherlands had a match in Leeds, the German machine took a 10 point lead into the half, and the Dutch team closed the gap to 4, before the Germans went on a 10-0 run and iced it. The Euro 2012 hosts had the last game of the second round of games, and the Ukrainian team had a comfortable win over Poland in Nottingham, eliminating them.

The Danish needed a win and an Italy loss to advance to the finals. The Italians had the advantage over Spanish team in Liverpool, but both teams wanted to win the last game for their own reasons. Rossi carried the Azurri to a win, and a place in the knockout stage. The English team had the Danes wanting to win, even though they wouldn’t advance. The English team had the hometown crowd in Birmingham carry them and lead them to the victory, and an undefeated record in the group stage. France had their best player out for the game against Russia, which would just decide the seed in the knockout. The lack of one of the best centers in the game hurt the French, and the Russians took advantage and beat France in Leeds. The Irish and Fins played for pride, with the winner finishing 3rd in group B. The Irish fans traveled to Sheffield and the Irish sent them home happy with a 40-32 win. Group C was all tied up 1-1 with the winner of both games advancing. The two Great Brittan rivals Scotland and Wales played in Newcastle, the 9th best team in the world showed why they have that ranking and pulled away after half and advanced to the knockout stage. The Greeks had a chance to be one of the lowest ranking teams to advance, but the 6th best team in the world was in their way. The Swedes took a 3 point lead into the half, and that was the closest the score would be the rest of the game as they pulled away as they won in Nottingham. Ukraine and Holland were playing to advance, with the winner doing so in London. The Ukrainians had the better team, but the Dutch were playing better. Holland’s strong starting wings, including Steven Van Dijk accounted for half of the Dutch points, and led them to the win by 5. Manchester was the site of the last game of the group stages. Germany was looking to go undefeated, and they did so as they beat Poland by 16 while resting their stars for the group stages.

The first match up of the knockout stage was England-France in Liverpool. The centuries old rivals battled it out but with France still being injures, England took advantage and won the game qualifying for the semifinals and the WYC. France would go to an elimination game between the loser of Sweden and Holland. The Dutch crowd was eager to face the Swedes who were proven to be beatable, but the fans that traveled to Newcastle were sent home unhappy as Sweden hung on after a late Dutch run to win 52-48. Russia and Italy matched up in Leeds hoping to qualify. The Russians who haven’t played to their first potential finally beat up on a team that was proven. Italy had an early 5-0 lead, but a timeout by the Russian coach turned the game around. Italy would face the loser of Germany-Scotland who were playing in Birmingham. The Germans were showing to be the best team of the tournament by sweeping Group D, and facing off against Scotland, the best opponent they faced so far. The Scottish team had more fans, but the Germans and their clockwork passes led the team to a 49-42 victory. France and Holland were in Sheffield playing for the right to be in the WYC. France’s Garreau got the start, but wasn’t effective because of the injury. Holland showed their colors and beat the French team and qualifying for the tournament in the US. Italy and Scotland had a showdown in Manchester, the better of the two elimination games. A back and forth game, the only difference maker was Scotland’s inability to stay out of the penalty box. Italy won by 5, and qualified. The Scottish coach was on the hot seat.

The final 4 would take place in London. England and Sweden would be the first match up, with Germany and Russia immediately after. England had the crowd, but Sweden had the lead at half. The halftime talk must’ve worked, because the English team opened with 8 straight points, but the Swedes had Larsson who put up 18 points. Southall countered and led England to victory. The Russians and Germans had the best game to date. Both teams entered the game undefeated, and they played like it. The Germans rallied with 4 points in the last 2 minutes to send the game to overtime, 40-40. The Russians and Germans matched eachother possession to possession for two more overtimes. The score was 52-52 going into the 3rd. The Russians were put a man down on a rough hit on Müller. That was the break the Germans needed and they scored 3 on the powerplay putting the game out of reach. The epic final between England and Germany was set. Germany took a 6 point lead to half. England countered with a big run, and a 2 point lead starting the 4th. Germany scored with 20 seconds left with a 1 point lead. The English rushed the shot, and the Germans took the ball and held on for the championship.

Qualified Teams

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