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Found 16 results

  1. Probably won't be hard to fill up a whole thread on general corruption within FIFA. In today's news, our buddy Jack continues to reap it in: World Cup bid team compensated boss's wife with pearl pendant Excerpt: "AUSTRALIA'S World Cup bid team gave the wife of FIFA vice-president Jack Warner a pearl necklace last year after a complaint from Mr Warner that she had missed out on pearl jewellery given 14 months before to the wives of other FIFA officials. The gift was given after the formal World Cup bidding period had begun and when the Football Federation of Australia was seeking support for its bid from Mr Warner, who is on the FIFA executive committee that will decide later this year on who will host the 2018 and 2022 soccer World Cup. The FFA said the gift - with an estimated value of $2000 - complied with FIFA rules, which specify that gifts must be incidental or symbolic in value. The Age yesterday revealed how the FFA paid tens of thousands of dollars for the Trinidad and Tobago under-20 soccer team to travel to Cyprus last year in a gesture warmly received by Mr Warner."
  2. AFTN photographer Tom Ewasiuk was there to capture all the action before, during and after the game and here's his "Story In Pictures", with a full Flickr slideshow at the end. [Also check out Tom's website www.residualimagephotography.com for more of his photos and work]. The Voyageurs are out in force in BC And in amongst them is a familiar face in Karina LeBlanc Flag tifo in full force In Floro We Trust? Canada's starting XI The enemy lines up A moment of quiet reflection on the day's atrocities in Paris The pain of World Cup qualification is quick to appear! Not much to choose between the teams early, but Julian de Guzman unleashes a screamer from the edge of the box Which Noel Valladares does well to tip over In the 38th minute, Will Johnson heads the ball towards goal, hitting off Cyle Larin on the deck and into the Honduran net Okay, we'll forget the Timbers part of him for now Canada celebrate what proves to be the match winning goal Johnson nearly makes it two in the 63rd minute but his free kick crashes off the right hand post An impressive Honduran travelling support As Honduras push for the equaliser, Milan Borjan makes a crucial late save Then minutes later acts quickly to recover a spill and keep Canada's lead secure Another late scramble in Canada's box but the good guys survive for the crucial 1-0 win And you can see what it means to Borjan And his Canadian teammates Things you never thought you'd see at BC Place - Curva Collective's head honcho hugging Portland's Will Johnson! Will Canada be back at BC Place in March? Floro says "Yeeeeeessssss" You can see a Flickr slideshow of all of Tom's photos from the game below:
  3. Guest

    FIFA 16 Review Show

    Until next time, have a great FIFA! @KevLaramee http://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/two-solitudes-soccer-podcast/id833616975?mt=2 http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-two-solitudes-mls-podcast http://feeds.feedburner.com/twosolitudespod OTW Studios http://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/otw-studios/id1018126433 http://feeds.feedburner.com/otwstudios http://canadiansoccernews.com http://kevinlaramee.com Support OTW Studios http://patreon.com/kevinlaramee
  4. It's the quarter-final match-up many people were predicting, including ourselves in Podcast 113. We also tipped England for the win though, so let's hope that doesn't come true as well! Both teams will also have expected to be facing each other at this stage and they know each other's game inside and out. The two sides have played each other a number of times recently, most recently in a pre-tournament friendly in Hamilton, where Canada narrowly won thanks to a wonder strike from Sophie Schmidt. You can't read too much into friendlies of course, and the more worrying match for Canada to be concerned with is England's 3-0 win over them in this year's Cyprus Cup Final in March. That's a win that certainly has the English girls believing they can book a semi-final place come Saturday night. "We've played them quite a bit actually," Taylor told us. "Obviously beating them in Cyprus was a boost. We played them not too long pre World Cup in Hamilton and lost 1-0. Every time we play them it's a physical battle, it's a scrap. There's not many opportunities in it. It is kind of a close game and that's what we expect as well. So it is going to be a hard game, an even game, but we have every belief that we can beat them and win." Taylor didn't play in that friendly against Canada at the end of May. After suffering a non-contact knee injury while training with her NWSL club side, Portland Thorns, in April, the 29-year-old striker wasn't even sure if she'd be recovered in time to play a part in her first ever World Cup. "Obviously it was an unfortunate time with the injury," Taylor mused. "All the time throughout rehab it was a race against the clock. At times it was going well and looking really good and at other times it looked like I might miss out here. Fortunately there was just enough time to make it back, so step foot on the field again was good news." After some intense rehab work back in England, Taylor recovered just in time, and made her World Cup debut in England's final group game against Colombia, coming on as an 81st minute sub. She almost scored too. A second substitute's appearance came in the Round of 16 win against Norway, with Taylor coming on in the 63rd minute with the scores tied at 1-1 and playing an important part in England's win. The appearances have been the pinnacle of Taylor's initial goals in the tournament. She didn't just want to be part of the squad, she wanted to play a part in it and play a part in making history for the English girls. So after all those weeks of rehab and being touch and go to even make it, how did it feel to step out on that pitch in Montreal against Colombia? "It felt pretty special," Taylor enthused. "It was just amazing, but at one point I thought I might have just missed it. Then coming on against Norway and playing a part in helping us make history was amazing. "I've got goosebumps even talking about it! Obviously that's something that we want to continue on and we have every chance of doing it this weekend." The signs are there that England are starting to hit their stride in this World Cup, highlighted by the fighting back quality they showed to beat Norway. After losing their first game in this year's tournament 1-0 to France, England have regrouped and ground out three straight 2-1 victories to set up this quarter-final clash. Scoring two goals in a game seems to be something of a pipe dream for Canada these days. The next target for Taylor is a World Cup goal. She already has four for England in her 10 appearances to date, including a hat-trick against Australia at this year's Cyprus Cup. Taylor could even get the start against Canada, if England coach Mark Sampson wants to mix things up a little. He's certainly not afraid to do that, having already used every outfield player during the tournament. She will most certainly feature at some point and will be a danger to the Canadian defence. Taylor has scored goals wherever she's been, after starting her career with Tranmere Rovers as a 15-year-old. After attending Oregon State University on a scholarship, playing spells in five countries followed, before she headed back to the US in 2014 to play in the NWSL with Washington Spirit. Despite her successes an England call-up was missing. The reason didn't appear to be because of her travels or where she was playing, but more to do with the fact that she turned down an invitation to a training camp under previous England coach Hope Powell in order to concentrate on her schooling. Did Powell hold a grudge? Well, no further call was forthcoming until Sampson took over and brought her into a camp in Spain as a 27-year-old. In these times of young female international footballers, had Taylor given up ever playing for England or did she always hold out hope that her time would come if there was a coaching change? "I thought, yeah, if there was a coaching change," Taylor readily admits. "But I waited a number of years for that and towards the end I kind of accepted that it potentially might not happen. So rather than just have my focus on England and everything like that, I kind of just had to shift my focus a bit on what's best for my football. How can I just be the best footballer and enjoy what I'm doing? That mentally for me really helped. "I tried coming to America and playing in NWSL. It's a great standard, a very good league, professional environment and I love the lifestyle, so for me, they were the right decisions. And as much as I was still training hard and committing and sacrificing as any international footballer would, it was just nice when the coaching change did happen and I did get the chance." Taylor is now back in her second home of Oregon, playing with Portland Thorns and loving every minute of it. As much as she liked her time in Maryland with Washington Spirit last year, it wasn't her spiritual home. After playing four years with the OSU Beavers, that is Oregon and she jumped at the opportunity to head back. "Yeah, that's exactly what it was," Taylor happily admits. "I enjoyed my football at the Spirit the year before but it never felt like home. The last few years, everywhere I've played is to become a better player and that's the sacrifice I've had to make the last three or four years. "It just got to a point where I want to actually be somewhere where I feel settled and want to be. With the option to come to Portland, it's a great organisation. They've got a good vision as a club. The fans are phenomenal. It's an awesome place to live. I've still got friends there. It just felt like the right move for that stage of my career." Taylor says the Thorns have been great with her since she joined them in March, even to the point that depending how much further that England go in the tournament, there's been no pressure or discussions from them on when they need her to head back Portland. "It's not even something I've spoken to with the club," Taylor told us. "They're very respectful of national team commitments. That's one thing I really do like with playing in the US in general and the club. "Especially once I did my knee, eight weeks ago or whenever it was, they were like 'whatever you need'. If you need to fly straight home to England and get surgery, if you want it here, what can we do for you. So there's a lot of respect there. "It depends on what I need. Depending on what the staff here say, they'll probably go with. If I need a break or if it's good to straight back into training. I'm happy to do anything. I'll just do as I'm told really! The league obviously doesn't really break for this, so I imagine the majority of players will be returning quite swiftly to Portland for the second half of the season." Amongst those Portland players heading back to the Thorns after the tournament are three Canadians - Kaylyn Kyle, Christine Sinclair and Rhian Wilkinson. Taylor hasn't really had the chance to get to know the Canadian girls yet, with them only playing a couple of games each due to their residency with the Canadian national team. It's meant there's not even been the chance to have some inter-nation banter between Taylor and them. "No, not really" Taylor laughs. "I had a couple of Canadian teammates at Spirit, so probably more so than with those guys. Again, it's just more so with the timing of being there. They kind of just flew in for a couple of games. It's all friendly and everything. It's at the level where it's not talking shit to each other! Maybe change though, depends how the game goes! But they're all lovely girls but I just don't think it's quite at that level. I'm not a huge shit talker anyway!" There's no doubting that Portland is a "soccer city". To me, it the number one such city in America. Any team that can draw five figure crowds to PDL U23 games is a hotbed of football fervour. But it's not just the male Timbers sides that draw exceptionally well, the Thorns also pack in the numbers and it warms Taylor to her English cockles to see how the city treat the club and the players. "Growing up in England, it's a big football place but not yet for women's football," Taylor says. "In Portland, I feel they equally respect the men and the women. You can tell by the crowds that they do. It's just nice. It's nice to be respected for what you do." Football is a world's game and Taylor has actively explored that, playing in five countries and three continents, with spells in America, Canada, Sweden, Australia and obviously England. It also hasn't affected her international chances. She spoke about that with English coach Sampson who told her to play where made her happy. It was only her form that mattered, and that form saw her on the England Player of the Year shortlist in 2014. With all that's she's seen on her travels, how does she feel the women's game is growing around the world? The gap between the top four or five nations and the middle chasing pack certainly seems to be narrowing if this World Cup is a gauge. "It is now, definitely," Taylor feels. "When I look back to when I left England when I was 18 to now, you would just never have imagined the strides that it's made. The US has stayed quite consistent I would say. It's probably harder to tell. "It was a huge jump going over to college when I was 18, just in terms of professionalism and training every day. The high professional standards. That, for me, is where I've developed in that area because I've been around it so much. "But now, if I compare the English league to the college, then yeah, I think the standard in the English league playing full time. So that just shows how much it's grown. I've just had a great experience going abroad and you can see the different styles, different philosophies, what other countries implement. It's helped me become a more well-rounded player." Amongst those travels were three summers spent with Ottawa Fury in the W-League from 2007. "I loved my experience in Ottawa," she continued. "It was during Oregon State, so with the nature of having the summer off and the W-League, they sort of go hand in hand. I played most summers in college. It's better than taking the summer off and doing my own running, so I just decided to play W-League. "My first time doing it was with the Boston Renegades and it was just from there. The next summer Ottawa had contacted me. I think we had played them the year before and I'd heard that it was a good set up, so I gave it a go and it was a really, really good organisation. "I can say it was one of the better organisations I've been involved in, in terms of the clubs I've played for in the past. I loved it. It was really good. I've played, I think, three summers total there. It was just a great way to stay fit during the summer. Obviously it's amateur status, but professional standards. That's what I loved about it." She's used to Canadian crowds cheering for her, but on Saturday she's going to have over 53,000 cheering against her in Vancouver. On such a big occasion, for both countries the crowd could be a big factor. Both sets of players are used to playing in front of big crowds, but Taylor feels that the massively pro-Canadian crowd could actually be an advantage to the English in terms of the pressure they will provide to the home nation. "We've kind of discussed it," Taylor admits. "Obviously we know it's going to be a huge factor, the crowd. When you compare it to being from England, and it's a real football culture and you've got a real football crowd. Even experiencing men's football, I don't think the Canadians, and no disrespect to Canadians, but as a nature, as the game goes on, they don't really cheer and support at the right time. Now, before Canadians are up in arms. She has a point. You see it at MLS games and you've seen it in this tournament. Even last Sunday, the BC Place was loud, at times. On other occasions they fell quiet and the whole tension of the occasion seemed to set the mood for a large patch in the middle of the match. "They cheer and do different things that probably we would expect to see," Taylor continued. "I think it will be a little erratic to be honest, but we're expecting that. The crowd may cheer at something which maybe a normal crowd wouldn't cheer at or go silent when a normal, experienced crowd would probably help. "I think it's one of those, we've just got to take it as it comes. We do have experience playing front of a big crowd. We played at Wembley in November, which was a huge occasion for us. "But on the plus side, knowing the pressure on us in that game at Wembley, you can flip that around and say well the pressure's massively going to be on Canada and it has been. You can see it throughout the tournament. The pressure's been on them the whole time and it's only going to get more for them, so we can kind of take that as an advantage to us."
  5. Miedema is delighted to be here and blazing the trail for young Dutch players to follow and the pressure that comes with that. "I felt a lot of pressure the first games from my home country," she told reporters at training on Friday. "Not that much from FIFA or whatever. It's exciting for us to play. We know that we can play way more tournaments after this, so we're just here to learn and get the experience but also to get the good result." As to how well Miedema has coped with the pressure so far, well the nerves got the better of her before the Netherland's first game against New Zealand, but they've been improving. "Well, I was sick before the first game, so I think not all that well!" she joked. "Now it's fine. Now we know what we have to do. We know that we can play our own way of soccer. We're getting better in the tournament so we have a good hope for the next game." That next game now comes tonight against Japan. Expectations of the side from within the country are certainly higher than from the outside looking in. A good high-scoring qualification campaign and some exciting talent will do that in a football mad nation. How many outside of the Netherlands expected them to qualify from the group? Hard to say, but finishing third, which they did, would likely have been the first goal to achieve from the tournament. Anything better and expectations exceeded. "It's great," Miedema says of qualifying to the knockout stages. "We had to wait till all the other games were done and then we realised that we were one of the best 16 teams." Miedema's enjoyed her first World Cup, as have her teammates. They looked good in a strong 1-0 win over New Zealand, really should have taken something from the 1-0 loss to China, and had there been a few more minutes left in their final match, I wouldn't have been surprised to see them grab a second, and a win, against Canada. The games, and now tonight's Round of 16 match, have seen the Dutch go from coast to coast, which is tiring for those used to it, never mind anyone else. But like so many of the young players in this tournament seem to do with a multitude of things, Miedema just takes it in her stride. "Yeah, that's a lot of travel," Miedema admitted to AFTN. "We played first in Edmonton then back to Montreal, then we came here. You get tired from a lot of travelling, of course, and the time difference the whole time. But you know that you'd have to do that before you came here, so it's fine for me." Travel aside, finishing third in Group A could yet prove beneficial for the Dutch. They're in the easier half of the draw, avoiding a number of the big hitters and four of the top five ranked teams in world. Miedema isn't looking too far ahead just yet but she knows the Dutch dodged a few bullets. "Yeah I think so, but first we have to beat Japan!," Miedema told us about the half of the draw the Netherlands find themselves in. "That's a really hard game. We have a lot of respect for the whole team. We know they were the World Champions the last edition of this, so we just have to have a good day and we maybe have a little chance then." The Netherlands now face a Japan side who have looked solid and composed, if not startlingly impressive. They're well organised at the back and only let in one goal in their three Group C matches, but they only scored four in the process. Not exactly something to strike the fear into other teams and it's something the Dutch feel can be exploited and pave their route to a shock result through the attacking firepower they possess. "Yeah of course," Miedema told us. "If we keep them to nil for a long time and they don't score, we really have a chance. We have really good attackers, like Manon Melis and Lieke Martens on the outside and then [Danielle] van de Donk at 10, so we know that we can score every game. So then we have a chance to get a win and we're hoping for that scenario." The chemistry within the Netherlands side has slowly been building as the tournament has gone on. Miedema has noticed it on the pitch and she's hoping it just continues to improve to keep the Dutch around the tournament that little bit longer. "We didn't play together for a long time before we came here, so you always needs some matches to get into your best field play," Miedema told reporters. "Now you know that it's getting better. When you're on the field, you can feel that. I hope we can do the same against Japan and a little bit better than against Canada." Miedema herself cuts an impressive figure. She's confident, refreshingly honest in interviews, yet still has the teenage side to her, giggling during answers. She's a very endearing player. She may not have bagged her first World Cup goal yet, but Miedema is a world star in the making and has been since bursting onto the national team scene in 2013. Miedema made her club debut for Dutch side SC Heerenveen aged just 15 and her goalscoring prowess (she scored a staggering 78 goals in 69 appearances) soon earned her a move to Bayern Munich who went unbeaten to win the Bundesliga title. Wearing the number 10 shirt with Bayern has seen her compared to Dutch compatriot Arjen Robben, only much more likeable. Others compare her to Robin van Persie, who she had previously said she models her game. It's the usual lazy journalistic tendency to tag any up and coming player with that of a player of old. It's bad enough in the men's game, never mind when they start crossing genders. Miedema laughs it all off, but has the perfect retort for it. "I don't [refer to myself like that], but all the media's doing that," Miedema smiled. "It's a great honour to get that name, but I just hope that parent later say that their daughter play like Miedema or Martens or Melis. I think that's way cooler." The Netherlands are making their first World Cup appearance, much to my annoyance after they eliminated Scotland in the European playoffs! But they are most certainly a team on the rise. Their U19 side won the 2014 European Championships and many of those players are expected to break in and bolster the senior side in the next couple of years. The Dutch will also be hosting the next senior Euros in 2017. Having seen the buzz around hosts Canada, Miedema can't wait to be a part of that in her own home country. For now though, she realises the importance that the current squad and their performance at this World Cup will mean to the women's program in Holland. And also the opportunity for herself and the other players to influence and be role models to all the young girls back in the Netherlands, where the women's side of the game is not always taken all that seriously. "I think it's important," Miedema said. "We play the European Championships in about two years in the Netherlands, so this is the chance to get it bigger in our country. That I'm one of the role models, is cool. "It's getting better now but you still have a lot of people who think that women's soccer is stupid. We just have to change that and I think we'll have a great tournament in two years. "But if you compare it with men's soccer, you cannot do that. We're not that fast but I think our way to play is pure. We don't care about money and stuff. We just play because we have fun and I think you see that on the pitch." And expect to see it on the BC Place pitch tonight.
  6. "We scored ten goals against Ecuador, but it's not really a reference I think," Dickenmann told reporters after training on Friday. "We want to score goals against Cameroon or Japan. We've scored 11 goals but ten against Ecuador so we're maybe a little bit in the same situation. "Although I think we've created a lot of chances. We did so against Cameroon. We had a bunch at the end of the Japan game. That's positive, but we can still improve as well." It's been a frustrating tournament for the Swiss so far. Heading in to it, they probably didn't really contemplate a third place finish in the group stage all that seriously. After all, they were playing two lowly ranked teams in Ecuador and Cameroon. Their opening match in Group C saw them unluckily on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline against the defending champs Japan. Switzerland had their chances to win the game, never mind grab a draw, but the goals just wouldn't come. Still, it was a strong and solid performance that showed that they could be a top team in the tournament. That was bolstered when they found their shooting boots in a 10-1 demolition of Ecuador in their second match. It was ten going on a lot more too. But the tournament's surprise packages of Cameroon shocked the Swiss 2-1 in their final group game, coming back from a goal behind at the half to snatch second place in Group C and set up a Round of 16 match-up for the Swiss with Canada. It's led to some tough internal analysis within the Swiss camp, with coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg very critical of the senior players. With over 100 caps to her name since making her international debut as a 16-year-old in 2002, Dickenmann is one of those and although she knows herself they let themselves down, she feels the coach was correct to get it all out there and it will only help the squad moving forward. "The Cameroon game has been analysed and all we can do is now profit from the experience," Dickenmann said. "We look to leave behind the negative things and take on the positive things into the next game. "I don't need the coach to criticise anything. I know myself very well whether we've had a good game or if we haven't performed very well. But she was right to do so. It doesn't make much sense to talk about a 19-year-old player so it's the older, more experienced players that must be focused. I can accept criticism and I can cope with it very well." Although that may read like a slight dig at Voss-Tecklenburg, nothing could be further from the truth and Dickenmann is a huge fan of the German's style and approach to management since she took over as national team head coach in 2012. "First of all it's her belief in our qualities," she continued. "What I like most about her is that she's always there if a player needs to talk to the coach. The door is open in to her room, she's always available. It's always a discussion based on a positive way to keep on developing. Unfortunately not all the coaches I've had during my career treat players this way." Dirty linen aired, the Swiss took some time to relax and unwind before heading back to Vancouver to prepare to take on the hosts. And it's done them the world of good. "The past two days have been very important for the team after a part of the tournament that's been very intense with three games within a short time," Dickenmann added. "We used the time to slow down a bit and now we can focus on the game to come." There's no doubting that it's going to be quite the occasion, quite the noise and quite the pressure at BC Place. It'll be a different kind of pressure for each side and we won't know how each team will cope and react to it until later. Switzerland have cut relaxed figures this week upon their return to Vancouver. It's a city they feel very comfortable in, having first arrived here to prepare for the tournament three weeks ago. It all plays a part in taking the pressure off them a little bit. "It helps because we feel quite at home here," Dickenmann said. "We know the stadium. I don't know if it's an advantage. It's not as if we play here all year round. We've played two games and one practice in the stadium, but it's a good feeling that we have here. But I know that Canada was here all year round as well, so they feel at home here too. But it's good for us that we feel well here." That said, feeling comfortable when you have a half full stadium cheering you on, as they were against Japan, will be entirely different to the more hostile pro-Canadian crowd they can expect to run out to today. It still doesn't faze Dickenmann though. "Of course there will be 50,000 people against us but it's very much different from the men's soccer," she said. "There's some difficulties ahead, like communication on the pitch within a huge stadium with a loud atmosphere. But we've spoken about that. We found solutions and all we want to do is focus 100% on the game and it's much more important to focus on Canada's team, not on the Canadian crowd." The Canadian girls have already had the experience of playing in front of a huge home crowd (53,058 to be exact) in their tournament opener against China in Edmonton. For the Swiss girls, this is likely to be the biggest crowd most, if not all, of them have ever played in front of. It's all so very different from when the two teams last met at the Cyprus Cup in 2013 when 50 fans were listed as the attendance. Dickenmann has come close, playing in front of 50,212 fans as Lyon lifted the 2011/12 Champions League trophy in Munich, although she doesn't feel you can really compare the two experiences. "The stadium was very different," she explained. "It was open and there was an athletic track around the pitch. It's going to be very different. This stadium is much nicer, and much newer and close." The crowd and the occasion will certainly be a highlight in many of the player's careers on both sides, but for Dickenmann, it only counts if the result is right at the end of it all. "It's one more highlight but the highlight is not playing in front of a huge attendance," she said. "Really, a true highlight would be if we beat Canada because in football all that counts is winning games and not big stadiums and sold out games." Switzerland have never beaten Canada and this world stage would certainly be an ideal place to break that stat. But the match sets out something of a quandary for the Swiss tactically. Do they want to show their attacking prowess early, getting on the scoresheet fast and forcing Canada to chase the game, ramping up the pressure on them even more? Or do they sit tight defensively, expecting Canada to come with the early pressure, then playing on the anxiety of the Canadian players and crowd when the breakthrough doesn't come? Playing a Vancouver Whitecaps road counter-attacking style. "We like to do both styles," Dickenmann said, before adding that the final decision lies with her coach. "We like to attack high, we like to attack in the midfield." But grabbing that early goal would certainly turn the pressure cooker situation for Canada up a notch or two. "It puts more pressure on any kind of team," Dickenmann admitted. "We saw that coming out at half-time against Cameroon. They scored two minutes after and that was a lot of pressure for us. It can change the energy of the game. I don't know what our tactics are going to be yet, but obviously scoring a goal early is always good." Whatever tactics the Swiss bring, the important thing for Dickenmann is that Switzerland just focus on themselves and what they do, and not so much on what Canada may or may not produce on the day. "Maybe in the past three games, well maybe against Cameroon and Japan, we have focussed a little bit too much on the opponent, so we also want to focus on ourselves a little bit more from now on." The Swiss certainly have a real chance at pulling off the big upset as far as we're concerned. In fact, cards on the table right now, I think they will. But for all their relaxed frame of mind heading in to the game, Dickenmann and the Swiss are expecting a very physical match against the Canadians. "They're very solid," Dickenmann said of what she feels Canada brings to the table. "Physically, they're in a very good shape. They bring a lot of energy to the pitch. A lot of screaming and positive energy in the team, from the bench as well, so that can be a distraction for us. "They have very good individual players, like Christine Sinclair. Very experienced players, that can make the difference at any time. They have very strong players, fast players. They have a lot of things." Will it be enough to see off the Swiss challenge come full time this evening? A nation awaits.
  7. Instead of facing a team ranked 48th or 53rd in the world (although how much stock you can actually put in FIFA's rankings isn't even open to any debate anymore), Canada will now be taking on 19th ranked Switzerland, a team who came through their, albeit weak, UEFA qualifying group on the back of 53 goals scored and just one conceded. For a Canadian team struggling to score from open play, and with the pressure and the hopes and expectations of an entire home nation on their shoulders, that's not the ideal opponent. For the Swiss, the initial disappointment of losing to Cameroon and finishing third in their group is already long past. If anything, that third place finish may yet prove to be the best thing that could have happened to them. They now return to Vancouver, a place they've trained, played in and called home since they arrived in Canada on May 30th. They're familiar with the training pitches, the BC Place turf, the timezone and other surroundings. They're in a match in which they are the underdogs. The pressure is off them and firmly on the Canadian women. And the longer Canada don't score in the game, or maybe have to chase the match, that pressure just ramps up. The Swiss also now find themselves in the easier half of the draw, avoiding four of the top five nations in the world, and the top three of Germany, America and France. Japan are the top team in their half of the draw now, and they've already shown they can compete against them. A break here or there and they'd have taken something from their opening match. The fear factor isn't quite the same as what would be in their way had they finished second. So all in all, things aren't looking all that bad for Switzerland. "Yes, you could say we did everything right," a laughing Swiss head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg told reporters after training on Friday. "It is like it is. We did want to qualify earlier but now we are there for this Sunday's game. It's a big challenge for us and we will focus entirely on this game, not losing any time in thinking back how it was. "Returning to Vancouver was a good thing for us. We feel like being home again. If we remain in the tournament we will focus on the next opponent to come. We'll see if it's easier or not!" The Swiss certainly have the firepower up front to still do some damage in the tournament. As mentioned, they showed that in abundance in the qualifiers and they are the second highest scorers in this year's tournament so far with 11 goals. Yes, ten of them, a whopping 91%, came against an out of their depth Ecuador side, so that's not exactly a great yardstick, but you can never dismiss what the confidence of finding the back of the net early in the tournament can do for the players when the tournament enters the real business end. While only two players have found the back of the net for Canada, and one of them was from a penalty, five players have already scored for the Swiss, with Ramona Bachmann and Fabienne Humm leading the way with three apiece. Canada can take solace from the fact that despite playing well and creating numerous chances against Japan and Cameroon, they were shutout of their first game and managed to bury just one chance against the Lionessess. You can also factor in that while struggling to produce up front, Canada aren't conceding much either. Just that one late goal given up against the Netherlands so far. There's no doubting that there's goals in the Canadian attack. They just haven't materialised yet. But do the Swiss see Canada's attack as likely to cause them more problems than the fast paced strikers they faced against Cameroon? "It's a different style of playing," Voss-Tecklenburg feels. "Top quality of course. An important aspect for me is that several players and staff members come originally from Vancouver, so there is some kind of special motivation for this team. Apart from that, there is great presence on the pitch and we are going to go up against it." And despite not yet scoring in this tournament from open play, the Swiss coach feels that Christine Sinclair is still likely to be her side's biggest threat. "[she's a] great personality and very much experienced," she added. "A true leader of the team, even if she doesn't score all the winning goals. But when it comes to decisive moments, she leads the team. All the players can look up to her and she is undoubtedly the most important player of the Canadian team." Voss-Tecklenburg isn't reading too much into Canada's goalscoring woes, and feels the pressure on them to perform may be behind their lack of goals so far. In that regard, she notes it's not going to get any easier for the Canadians. "We hope they haven't saved them all up for Sunday's game!" she joked. "Seriously, this is part of the team process that Canada has been going through at the World Cup in their home country. Expectations are quite high from the fans at the games. "We mustn't forget it's the knockout part of the tournament now, not too easy a situation to deal with for the Canadian team as well. If the inspiration makes them grow wings, anything is possible. We must be aware of anything and be able to react to everything." The crowd will certainly have a part to play in Sunday's match. Exactly how, is the unknown factor right now. Around a 53,000 sell-out is expected at BC Place. Will it spur the Canadians on to greater heights or will the pressure of the occasion and natural nerves see them freeze? They didn't exactly freeze in their tournament opener against China in front of 53,058 fans in Edmonton, but at the same time, they didn't exactly shine either. And how will the Swiss react to such a large, pro-Canadian crowd, the largest attendance many of their players will ever have played in front of? They may feel like BC Place is a second home to them in the tournament, but it's a whole different atmosphere for them now as opposed to their first game against Japan which saw them garner support from, ironically, neutrals. "We will see," Voss-Tecklenburg said. "It's a new situation because of 53,000 supporters for the Canadian team. In our first matches there was many supporters for the Swiss team because we played a good match. I think it will be different on Sunday, but we will see. "Of course it's a huge crowd, but we have to deal with that. We have to focus on the game and show self-confidence, show courage and give everything we have. It will be an outstanding game for every one of us. At the end there will be a winner and a loser and we'll see what comes out of this game." Voss-Tecklenburg is no stranger to playing in front of a large, vociferous and hostile home crowd at a World Cup. The former German internationalist was part of the Germany side that lost a quarter final to the US in front of 54,642 fans in Landover, Maryland at the 1999 World Cup. The Swiss coach feels she can share her experiences of that occasion with her squad, but nothing can prepare a player for what it feels like until she runs out on the pitch, pointing out that it's not an exact comparison. "It's not quite the same situation," she explained. "Germany were part of the group named as favourites to win the title. Switzerland obviously is not, yet Canada is. Canada can go forward, want to go forward." While all the travelling and adjusting to their new environments has made for a busy initial period in Canada, Voss-Tecklenburg has been enjoying it. "The regiment of the tournament is quite high at the moment," she admitted. "I like it very much. I prefer it this way." The Swiss camp certainly seems relaxed. Training was light-hearted and if the players and coaches are feeling any pressure, they're not showing it. What they are showing, however, is the effects of the tournament so far, with a few players a little banged up after a three hard matches in a nine day period, with one of their key concern surrounding their experienced and influential captain, defender Caroline Abbé. "We had one day off after the Cameroon game and then a travelling day," Voss-Tecklenburg said. "We used it to do some wellness before travelling. We were in the fitness rooms. We had a short flight [from Edmonton]. Other teams had long flights. "Caroline had a good training. She's pretty positive she can play. The artificial ground is giving us some troubles, to the other teams as well. We have players that talk about muscles they haven't felt for five years. All the teams have to be ready and prepared to cope." Abbé, who sat out Switzerland's last group game against Cameroon, is looking good to go, and while Canada may be sweating over a couple of players, the Swiss have the luxury of their full squad to pick from. Well we say luxury, but the amount of choices is actually giving the Swiss coach a few selection quandaries to ponder ahead of Sunday's match, and she hasn't nailed down exactly what her starting eleven will be just yet. "We've got the big choice of all the players available for the game against Canada," Voss-Tecklenburg said. "I've got four starting line-ups in mind. I haven't made up my mind yet. I will do that this afternoon. I'll be watching video and doing analysis of the team [Canada]. "It depends on certain aspects, like mental strength, physical strength. I also want the players to tell me how they feel and then maybe at the end of today there will be three starting line-ups or even two, but nothing decisive yet." ****** [Editor's Note: With so much coverage everywhere on the Canadian team, we thought we'd explore the Swiss angle in the lead up to the game here at AFTN. Watch out for our piece on Lara Dickenmann on Saturday]
  8. Having the US hordes here on Tuesday, and days of pre-match build up, and with Canada coming on Sunday, obviously helps. Prior to that, Group C wasn’t the most exciting group on paper to get fans’ juices flowing. The games turned out to be entertaining or high scoring affairs though and that also helped get a buzz generated. Now some will argue that it was a great group. It contained the World champions after all in Japan. But realistically, how many of the target audience really knew or cared about that fact? The first round of Vancouver’s group games wrapped up on Tuesday evening as the US narrowly saw off Nigeria 1-0 to top Group D and send the Africans crashing out of the tournament. A vociferous crowd of 52,123 packed into BC Place, the largest crowd for a football match since the renovations at the stadium, and one which the ‘Caps will dream could one day be a regular occurrence for MLS matches. A long term dream admittedly, as we're still a very long away from a Seattle-style attendance here. One day! The Vancouver crowds have been good in general for the tournament so far. 25,942 for a Monday afternoon/evening double header that kicked off at 4pm was sneered upon by some out east, but was excellent as far as we’re concerned. Friday’s Group C double header brought out even more, 31,441, making a combined total of 109,506 for the three first round gamedays in Vancouver. Considering who was playing, that’s been great and above my expectations. As have the matches themselves. Five games, 22 goals, some of them crackers, penalties galore. Not bad going. Sure there’s been a couple of blowouts against Ecuador, but goalfests can be entertaining too if the goals are good, which they were. Plus we got to see the excellent and entertaining dark horse, or should that be lionesses, of the tournament, Cameroon. We’ve seen some of the world’s best female players so far. Japan legend Homare Sawa delighted her supporters and long time fans of the women’s game. Switzerland’s Ramona Bachmann, put in a great performance and could still be a star of the tournament. You feel here future in the women’s game is wherever she wants it to be moving forward. Then there were the US girls, some of whom we’ll grudgingly acknowledge are amongst the world’s elite. Cameroon were a delight and their coach Enow Ngachu a real character. In Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene and Gaelle Enganamouit they have two players that could find themselves offered some lucrative deals once the tournament is over. Keeping with the African teams, I liked Nigeria centre back Onome Ebi as well. Solid, tough tackling and held off most of the US attacks. The fans we’ve spoken to have all pretty much enjoyed themselves. There’s been a couple of reports of some security buzzkill at the first Japan match, but on the whole a good time has been had by all. Well maybe not Ecuador supporters. The tournament already feels like it’s been going on forever, and there’s still four matches to be played in Vancouver – two 2nd round match-ups, a quarter-final and, of course, the final itself. The Final has already sold out and Canada’s 2nd round match-up this weekend against Switzerland will bring in the crowds and should be a cracker. If that doesn't sell-out but the US game does, then there's something wrong with the general Vancouver fanbase. It could also very realistically signal the end of Canada’s run at the tournament if we see the Swiss side of the qualifying campaign and the shooting boots from their slaughter of Ecuador. If Canada do advance, that should mean another full house at BC Place for their quarter-final game on June 27th. That seems a long way away right now mind you. Outside of the matchday experience at the stadium, the Fan Zone has proved to be a success, especially when the US games have been playing. There's been a couple of thousand fans watching games, with daily combined highs of up to 8000 in attendance. The custom built Fox Sports set has also been a talking point and a place fans have congregated. So all in all, so far so good. It's hard to see the buzz dying down, but if Canada and then the US crash out early, that may not still be the case. We'll have to see. For now, we can say the tournament has been a success. It's set to break the record for most tickets sold for a Women's World Cup and Vancouver has certainly played its part in it all. We'll leave you with some fan photos from the five first round games played at BC Place so far and a couple from the Fan Zone. And the excitement's really only just begun. Now the real tournament starts.
  9. Cameroon are no strangers to World Cup shocks. They have thrilled football fans worldwide with their play in the Men's World Cup in recent times. In particular, their fantastic Roger Milla inspired run to the quarter-finals of Italia '90 will long live fondly in my memory and many others. While the Indomitable Lions have qualified for six of the last seven World Cup Finals, the women are appearing in their very first ones here in Canada, after qualifying as African runners-up to Nigeria. Their appearance builds on their first ever qualification for an Olympics in London three years ago and sees the continued rise of the team under their charismatic coach Enow Ngachu. He never seems to be without a big smile on his face. Ngachu has been the coach of the team since 2004 and his building work is now reaping some real rewards and producing some impressive talent, perhaps none more so than Monday's hat-trick heroine Gaelle Enganamouit. For the Cameroon coach, it was all about showing that continued improvement on the world stage. "Our main objective was to do better than 2012," Ngachu told reporters at Thursday's pre-match press conference. "In the last Olympics games in London, we conceded 11 goals, scored only one and had three defeats. "We've been working with this group for the past seven years together. They started with the under-17. After the game against Ecuador, they have started dreaming, but we need to be humble. We have attained our objective." So just what has been behind the team's turnaround and recent successes? "As a coach, after each game, you must go back to the drawing board and see what went wrong and we discovered that in 2012," Ngachu added. "We made tactical errors. Everybody was young. "We've worked very hard. We want to exist on defending first before attacking. We're quite happy because in the last African Nations Cup, we conceded less goals and we had the best goalkeeper in the tournament. So it means we've improved a lot and can only be happy." Going into the Ecuador game, it was hard to know what to expect from either side. Ecuador were ranked 48th in the world, Cameroon 53rd. You wouldn't have been surprised by a draw or a narrow win for either side. But the Africans produced a hammering that caught, I think, pretty much all of us by surprise. Right now, we don't know if that 6-0 scoreline was because Cameroon were good or Ecuador were just really, really bad. Maybe it was a mixture of both. What 19th placed Switzerland do to the South Americans in the first game this evening, will perhaps be a better indicator as to how Cameroon might fare in the second against Japan. It's a match Ngachu and his squad are relishing, no matter how daunting it may be and how much of a one-sided scoreline could be doled out by the defending champs and the side ranked 4th in the world right now. "It's a dream come true playing against the Champions," Ngachu said. "It'll be another experience for the Cameroon national team. We know it's going to be very tough but the best team will win." Japan looked exciting and patchy in their narrow 1-0 win over Switzerland on Monday. It took a debatable penalty for them to get the job done and they had a few narrow escapes and had to thank some poor Swiss finishing for coming away with all three points in the end. They should make it six out of six tonight. On paper, there is only one possible result. But football's not played on paper. Japan coach Norio Sasaki genuinely seemed concerned about Cameroon's attacking firepower in his own press conference on Thursday. Ngachu countered by saying he was concerned by both Japan's attack and defence. Cameroon played relaxed and were a joy to watch against Ecuador. With no pressure, comes more free-slowing football and Ngachu said you can expect the same against Japan. "We're excited to play against Japan," Ngachu admitted. "For us, Japan, so far, is the best in the world. My girls are excited. Over the past years they've been watching the Japanese team over the TV. Today, most of them can recite the names of the Japanese players. It's just like in Playstation. You play against the best team in the world. "They're quite excited but we don't have pressure on our side. The Japanese will be having that pressure. We don't have any pressure, so we'll play as usual and if we can have a positive result then fine." Whichever side wins, they'll be guaranteeing themselves a spot in the Round of 16. But after banging in six goals in their first game, barring two horrible defensive collapses, Cameroon look set to be a top third placed finisher at the very worst, no matter how they fare against Japan and Switzerland. Do the squad dare to allow themselves to dream and look beyond the group stages at what may lie in store? Striker Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene doesn't want to get too carried away but the goal deluge against Ecuador has certainly got them believing. "I would say that mentally it is a good thing to score," she told reporters in translated French. "It shelters us, it protects us a little bit. As was said, we came here with the objective of doing better than 2012. We dream of making it out of this first round. We're going to stay focused. So why not? Keep scoring, so that we can advance." Ngachu knows Japan head into the game as very heavy favourites and should win comfortably, but whatever the result in this one, the impact that his Cameroon side have made back home has already been immense and if they can advance beyond the group stages, then what it will do for women's soccer in the country will be seismic. "Football is full of surprises," he said. "If we can create that by going through to the next round, then it's going to be very fine, and I believe if we do that, it's going to have a positive impact back in Cameroon. "From the feedback we've been getting, many young girls have started playing soccer and that is the target for the individual Lionesses of Cameroon."
  10. Recognised as the finest Japanese female player to have ever played the game, Sawa made here first appearance in a World Cup Finals in 1995, playing three games in Sweden, as Japan went out at the quarter final stage following a 4-0 loss to the US. After three appearances in each of the next three tournaments in the US and China, Sawa came to prominence at the world level with a stellar tournament performance in Germany in 2011. Sawa played all six of Japan's matches as they lifted their first World Cup trophy following a dramatic penalty shoot-out win against the US in the Final. With Japan looking set to lose out in extra time, Sawa hit a stunning equaliser with three minutes remaining to send the game to penalties. That goal was her tournament leading fifth of the Finals, earning Sawa the Golden Boot as top-scorer, along with the Golden Ball award as the Best Player. Her performance also saw her named the 2011 Female World Player of the Year. The support the Japanese girls received back home during the last World Cup was exceptional and Sawa is hoping for more of the same this time around. "Many, many people supported us," Sawa said. "With that power we could win the title again." Sawa made her professional debut in Japan's L-League in 1991, aged just 12. Her international debut came at 15 in 1993 and her World Cup Finals debut aged 16. With nearly 25 years experience in the women's game, Sawa has seen a lot change, especially in her home country. "Talking especially about Japan, before, like about 20 years ago, the number of registered players was very small," she revealed. "Also the skills and technique were not enough. It's been very long from that time until 2011, but year by year I think we've developed." There's been a lot of talk about the legacy of the women's game in Canada after this tournament, but Japan's win four years ago sparked a marked increase in interest in the women's game in the country. After 2011, the awareness and attention among the Japanese people changed dramatically and the country went from 35,000 registered players at girls to senior level before 2011 to its current level of almost 50,000. Still not phenomenal numbers for a country of 127 million but a step in the right direction. To put that into perspective, there are 4.8 million registered female players worldwide, with Canada and the US making up 47% of that number. Sawa will be hoping to generate more interest this time around and add to her 18 World Cup Finals appearances this month. Although no-one else has reached that milestone of appearing in six tournaments before, the Japanese midfielder is likely to find herself having company with that honour in Canada, with Brazilian midfielder Formiga also poised to reach the six tournament milestone. An appearance for Sawa tonight, however, will see her reach the achievement first. It will be quite the feat for Sawa, but one which the 36-year-old looked like missing out upon after falling out of favour with head coach Norio Sasaki in recent months through injury and a dip in form. Sawa wasn't selected for Japan's 23 woman squad for the Algarve Cup tournament in March this year. A major setback for the midfielder's hopes, but after Japan finished second bottom of their group, and ninth overall in the tournament, Sasaki had a rethink and felt that the squad needed a player of Sawa's experience for the upcoming Finals in Canada. Sasaki's late change of heart filled Sawa with boy joy and relief. "It's a very special feeling to wear the jersey of the national team," Sawa said. "I want to play for the team and for Japan in order to get a good result in the World Cup." With her recent injury concerns, is Sawa ready to go in the tournament? She certainly looked the part at training, cutting a striking figure with her long ponytail, and the veteran feels she's ready to play a key role once again for Japan on the world stage, but she's not taking anything for granted. "I am ready to play 90 minutes but it depends on the head coach," Sawa continued. "It's his decision whether I will play on the pitch or not but I am ready." As defending champions, a lot of eyes will be on Japan to see if they can follow in Germany's footsteps and win back to back titles. Watching them train, they come across as a slick, well-oiled machine, running relentless, productive and impressive attacking drills. Despite sitting fourth in FIFA's Women World Rankings, they'll be hard to beat if they can play to their best. But just how much improvement should we expect to see from the team from four years ago? "That's something that I want you to see in the games!," Sawa joked. "That's difficult for me to explain." The group stage should prove to be little concern for Japan. Drawn alongside Ecuador (ranked 48th in the world) and Cameroon (ranked 53rd), their toughest game will be their first one against Switzerland tonight. The Swiss are ranked 19th in the world and do pose a threat after a strong qualifying campaign that saw them go undefeated, recording nine wins and one draw, banging in 53 goals in the process and conceding just one. Japan may be the favourites, but they're not taking anything for granted against the Swiss. "Switzerland are newcomers to the World Cup, but they're one of the strongest teams in Europe," Sawa said of the match. "Even though we have won the title four years ago, we are still challengers. We'll respect Switzerland and we want to show our style of football." We'll see just what that is, and what threat the Swiss pose, at 7pm this evening at BC Place.
  11. This isn't the first football World Cup to be played on artificial turf. Finland hold that "honour" in 2003 when ten of the matches in the U17 Men's World Cup were played on such pitches, including the final. Two years later, Peru hosted the whole tournament on them and Canada played several games at the Men's U20 World Cup in 2007 on the surface. In the Women's game, the 2012 and 2014 U17 World Cups were played on the surface in Azerbaijan and Costa Rica, as was last year's U20 World Cup here in Canada. Elsewhere, a number of World Cup and EURO qualifiers have been played on non grass pitches. It doesn't make it right, that's an argument for another time for this grass lover, but it does show the growing acceptance of the pitches around the world. What that means is that a number of women in this year's World Cup have played on an artificial pitch, whether at international or club level. The flip side of that though is that the vast majority likely haven't and as such, their unfamiliarity with such surfaces could very well impact their performances and their team's results. As of Thursday, all bar six teams had already arrived in Canada to acclimatise to both surroundings, time zones and football turf. How used can you get to such a surface in a short period of time if you've never set foot on one before? Or seldom have? It will certainly give some teams and some players a competitive advantage. But what can you do? Well you could moan a lot like Abby Wambach or you could say ok, this is the hand we've been dealt, let's get on with it. And that's just what Australia have done, going as far as to say, well if you can't beat them, join them in the whole turf debate, and having a special artificial surface constructed for them to play and practice on ahead of the World Cup. "We were lucky enough to have one built for us back in Australia," Matilda's midfielder Katrina Gorry told AFTN. "We've been training on it pretty much since January. So we've had a bit of experience in the last six months. Obviously America and Canada pretty much play all their games on turf so they're probably more experienced on it. "But in the last six months, we've had a lot of experience on it. We've come to terms that we're going to be playing on it so that's not really in our minds any more, we're just here to play. The turf is just a part of it." That certainly seems to be the right attitude to have. The reigning World Cup Champions, Japan, have BC Place as their home for two of their group games, and maybe more as the tournament goes on. They seem pretty unfazed by the whole turf issue. Former Women's Player of the Year and 2011 World Cup winner, Homare Sawa, is non-plussed by the fuss surrounding the artificial surfaces and the woman regarded as the best Japanese player of all time is in fact very used to playing on such pitches from her many years playing in the US and with her current club, INAC Kobe Leonessa. "I train on artificial grass when I train with my club in Kobe every day," Sawa told reporters through a translator at training on Tuesday. "So it's just natural to me." Japan coach Norio Sasaki takes that attitude a step further and feels that the turf will actually be a benefit to his team because of the way that they play their football. "Japan has had a training camp in Japan for two weeks before coming to Canada," Sasaki told reporters through a translator. "We trained on grass rather than artificial turf. For Japan, we don't think that we need to change the style of football. It's kind of like an advantage for Japan because we move the ball a lot compared to other countries." We'll get a good idea just how much of an advantage or a leveller Canada's turf pitches will be for certain teams pretty soon. We'll also get an idea of just how the pitches are accepted across the world with a view to future tournaments being held on artificial surfaces. Will we ever see a senior men's World Cup played completely on football turf? You still feel it's unlikely, but if one ever is, Canada will be remembered for leading the way.
  12. The campaign to introduce goal-line technology into football was a long one that certainly split opinion. Purists didn't want it to change the game or slow it down with referees having to take time to review decisions. Advocates felt that with so much at stake in the modern game, and with the ever increasing and intense scrutiny on referees from television cameras, the introduction of the technology would reduce crucial, and often multi-million dollar costing, wrong decisions, easing pressure on the officials in the process. After years of arguments, matters came to a head when Frank Lampard wrongly had a goal not awarded for England at the 2010 World Cup against Germany. Replays showed the ball very clearly crossed the goal-line but the goal wasn't given. England went on to lose the match 4-1, but had the goal been given, it would have levelled the match up at two apiece and changed the whole dynamic of the game. Now, as a Scot, I found that particular decision to be absolutely fantastic and hilarious! I still do! But it was to be a literal game changer in may ways. The non goal triggered the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to review the introduction and use of goal-line technology once more in the months after the World Cup. Less than two years later, in July 2012, and after rigorous testing, the IFAB approved, in principle, the use of the technology and in December that year, the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan made history when it used it in competition for the first time. Since then it's been used several times by FIFA, UEFA and other governing bodies on the international stage. At club level, goal-line technology has been successfully implemented in the English Premier League for the past two seasons and the Dutch Eredivisie is another top league in Europe to use it. From next season, you will also find the technology used in the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A, with "a lot of interest" being shown in the technology from other leagues around the world, including Major League Soccer over here. There are actually a couple of different providers of goal-line technology systems now, but the best known name is that of Hawk-Eye. The Hawk-Eye name probably first came to most people's attention with their instant replay system in tennis, and it is their technology (in association with Acorn) that will be used at this summer's Women's World Cup in Canada. We'll all remember the television graphics from Brazil showing whether the ball had crossed the line or not, even when it most obviously had! You have to show off your new toys though. But just how does the actual system work? There are two different technologies in use - a magnetic field system and a camera based system - and it's the latter that was used in Brazil last year and will be used in Canada this time around. With the camera based system, there is no technology in the ball, in the goal or on the posts or crossbar. The information is all captured in 3D by 14 cameras placed around the stadium, with seven focused on each goal. "The goal-line technology system we have is completely optical," Laurence Upshon, Head of Football Operations at Hawk-Eye Innovations, told reporters at a demonstration at BC Place on Wednesday. "It's a completely passive system. We use 14 high speed cameras around the field of play, seven looking at each goal, to provide all tracking and triangulation to work out exactly when the ball crosses the goal-line." The positions of the cameras are quite flexible. They can be mounted on catwalks, the back of stands and floodlights. "There's seven cameras looking at each goal, dotted around the field of play, so that in a close, goal-line scramble the ball is always found in at least two of them to triangulate up to show a goal," Upshon continued. "We have two, which are typically located behind the goal. We have three on one side, one of them looking down the goal-line. We have two on the reverse side as well looking at each goal." The cameras automatically tracks the ball and automatically tells match officials, assistants as well as referees, whether the ball has crossed the line by sending an almost instantaneous decision through to a watch worn by the officiating crew. That decision comes through in less than a second via a special wristwatch worn by each official. If it's a goal, the watch vibrates for several seconds and "GOAL" flashes up on the screen. We were given one to wear during the demonstration and it really is impressively instantaneous. "As soon as the ball crosses the goal-line, it alerts all the match officials by using the goal-line technology watch," Upshon added. "They'll have a vibration and an alert [on the watch] to show that it is a goal and they can award the goal. "The really key thing about vibrating is that the referee, and certainly the rest of the match officials, can keep their eye on the game, watching for fouls and handballs." But can the technology be fooled? What if it isn't the ball that crosses the goal-line? Not an issue. "A ball is very particular, so it looks for certain characteristics of a ball," Upshon said. "Not only the shape but how it's moving, the colour of it, what's on it. So it uses all of these factors to work out what is a ball and also what is not a ball, so it's not fooled by a keeper throwing his towel in or a water bottle or a sun cap or something like that. It looks at all these parameters." The other aspect in this technological age is just how secure is the entire system? Can it be hacked and could other transmissions in the stadium on gameday interfere with it working? Again, that turns out not to be an issue. The watches are not on a public network. Systems are encrypted and very reliable. Even in the most congested stadium with bluetooth, wifi etc all pinging around, the goal message will get through. Seeing the whole system in action really is quite an eye-opener. Any qualms about it delaying games are far removed, but there is still one big issue we have with goal-line technology and that is the universal accessibility of it. The beauty of football is that it is the same rules, the same game basics whether you're playing a match at the Nou Camp in Barcelona or on some gravel pitch in the middle of nowhere. Goal-line technology is not a system that continues that. It's fine having it in World Cups and in the top flight leagues around the world, but it will likely be a long time before you see it in say the Scottish lower leagues, the English non-league or USL games at Thunderbird Stadium. And let's not even look at youth soccer. It's a rich man's toy. The big money leagues and governing bodies can afford it, helped by the huge television revenues that present a growing need for such technology in the first place. But the costs are prohibitive for many leagues and clubs to even contemplate installing the system. At least for now. But like all technological advancements over the years, whether it be DVD players, mobile phones, tablets or televisions, one thing is a constant. Wait a little bit from when it first comes out and the prices come tumbling down. "When you look at technology as a whole, systems as a whole, the price is always evolving and getting more attractive and I think it's only a matter of time," Upshon told us. "We've had a lot of interest from other leagues as well. Two years ago it was a brand new system and over time it will evolve."
  13. While everyone wants to focus on the football without any distractions (which will be close to impossible with the happenings back at FIFA HQ), the reality is that some will be awaiting the first opportunity to berate the turf pitches and further their argument that the tournament should not be getting played on them. And let's be honest here, we are just one bad injury away or one bad bounce costing a crucial goal for the whole situation to blow up. The likelihood of that happening? Pretty high I would say, especially due to many players unfamiliarity with the surface. The newly laid BC Place pitch will be one of the centres of all the attention. It is after all hosting the Final, along with eight other matches, and has been held up as state of the art. Anyone who follows the Whitecaps or Major League Soccer knows the reputation of the turf at the stadium. Well the old turf at any rate. It was widely panned. Visiting teams hated it, Robbie Keane was always good for a soundbite about it, and Thierry Henry was one of the players who wouldn't even travel to play on it. Even the home players hated the damn thing. Thankfully it's now gone. Ripped up and sent to place where turf monsters go to die, or Surrey as the locals call it. In its place is a brand spanking new turf pitch. Top of the range and one of only three such pitches around the world, including Bayern Munich's training ground. The Polytan Ligaturf surface, or to give it its full name LigaTurf RS+CoolPlus World Cup Edition 260 W ACS 90 Bionic Fibre Infill, is a FIFA 2-Star field. What does that mean in everyday language? It's not as crap as a 1-Star one. The new BC Place pitch was installed at a cost of $1,327,000, with BC Place owners PavCo contributing $827,000 towards it and Canada Soccer and Rugby Canada splitting the $500,000 balance between them. The pitch is two shades of green and has a special infill. The infill has been specifically made for the use in sports fields. It's made to look like natural dirt, just coloured green for maximum HD quality TV viewing at home. It's also meant to prevent as much dust and pellets coming up. The jury's still out on that one. It's like no other pitch in the tournament, which has in itself already seen questions being raised as to why that is. Why were all the stadia not refitted with a similar pitch? "It's not the same manufacturer across all six of our stadia," NOC Chief Stadia Officer Don Hardman told reporters at a media turf briefing at BC Place on Wednesday. "What we have is a FIFA preferred producer program. There's a number of manufacturers that all meet the specific criteria and football turf so we have different manufacturers across the country." But surely FIFA and the organisers would want continuity between the six pitches being used. "We tried to develop the legacy and the infrastructure that we have in place," Hardman continued. "We've been utilising the football turf that has been in place at a number of stadiums and also going through the tender process to get the best installation possible." That installation of the new pitch is not even one week old at the time of writing this and there's already been moans about it and some anguish behind the scenes from officials. There's only been one actual game played on it so far, last Saturday's MLS match between the Caps and Real Salt Lake. Neither team were able to get a full practice session on it prior to the game and it didn't win a lot of plaudits from the visiting RSL players. A new pitch usually takes around eight weeks to be fully broken in. By the time the first World Cup game kicks off at BC Place on June 8th, the pitch will have been ready for just 10 days. "If you have a brand new pitch, you have to bring people on to the pitch and need activity on the pitch," Johannes Holzmüller, Group Leader of the FIFA Quality Programme, told reporters at the briefing. "Only after a few weeks or after this activity, depending how much you always try to maintain the pitch, then you have the best pitch conditions. "Similarly, when you have an older pitch, you have to maintain the pitch accordingly. That will bring the fibres upright. Especially here in Canada, where we have some pitches used not only for soccer but also some other sports, it's very important to maintain the pitches so at the end you have upright fibres in the end. If everything is done the right way, then these pitches can meet the FIFA 2-Star requirement." With that in mind then, why was the new BC Place pitch only installed last week when it clearly doesn't meet that criteria for breaking it in? "Part of it was timing," Hardman told us. "This is a very busy building between the trade show in the offseason and the MLS schedule. We had a window of opportunity in May and we made the best efforts we could." Officials say the prep has been fast-tracked, to break it in and age at a quicker rate, and it's not a concern. It was on Saturday though when the Whitecaps took on Real Salt Lake. "It needs time, it needs time. It is what it is." That was the view of RSL boss Jeff Cassar after Saturday's game, who was one of many who bemoaned the fact that their shoes were left dirty and in many cases had now become green in colour. RSL's veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando expanded more in his criticism of the new surface. "I wasn't a fan," Rimando told reporters after Saturday's game. "Every time a ball comes, the sand gets in your eye and rubbers gets everywhere. As you saw, everybody that's played, it's all over your feet and legs. Hopefully that kinda wears in as more players play on it. "Slippery for sure. You saw all the guys slipping out there. First game though, so you can't be too critical on it. I think as more players play on it, it's going to get broken in and be better hopefully." Now you can take the view of a losing visiting team with some pinch of salt of course. More concerning are the rumours that the pitch didn't fare well in FIFA's official initial testing of the surface on Sunday, although that wasn't confirmed by the team doing the testing, Sports Labs Ltd. Sports Labs are an Edinburgh based, FIFA accredited test institute that carries out all the performance testing on the surfaces and they told us that the testing is ongoing and still far from complete. "The process we carry out is on the surface and then we go back to the lab in Scotland and carry out the performance test," Sports Labs engineer Niall MacPhee told AFTN. "It's a phased process. It doesn't happen that we just turn up and test, so we're still going through that process. "As you can see, I'm still here with the equipment. We need to get back to the laboratory and do all the sample checks. So it would be premature to say pass or fail." The actual testing of the surface is rigorous. What does it involve? Well here's FIFA official blurb on the subject from their "Football Turf Background Information" document: The FIFA Quality Programme for Football Turf is a rigorous testing programme for artificial football surfaces. At the core of the FIFA Quality Programme for Football Turf are four basic objectives: - Playing performance (ball/surface interaction) - Safety (player/surface interaction) - Durability - Quality assurance This quality testing scheme compares results on football turf against those on natural grass pitches in good condition so that the playing characteristics are mirrored. The football turf has to be rigorously tested both in the laboratory and in its installed location to ensure that the surface reacts to the ball as it would on a grass pitch in good condition in terms of roll and bounce. Similarly, the tests are designed to ensure that players can play on football turf with the same confidence as they would on a natural grass pitch in good condition. Successfully tested fields are awarded one of the two FIFA RECOMMENDED marks, provided that all of the stringent criteria are met during the testing procedure. The FIFA Quality Programme has set the industry standard and put the focus on player well-being and playing performance. So there you go! But to break it down specifically to what's happening at BC Place, all tests are around the safety of the player and to make sure the pitch plays the same all over whether you're a winger, a defender or a goalkeeper. The tests are also to make sure that the pitch is built to endure. All new pitches are expected to last for way more than one or two seasons and ideally six to eight years of high quality use is the expectation, depending on the correct maintenance. Part of the testing at BC Place has seen the use of a torque metre by dropping weights and seeing how much traction is there when you turn your foot. They're also testing the rolling and rebounds of the ball, ageing and the dimensions. It's all very thorough and exhaustive. "We've tested the surface on over 19 occasions and carried out performance tests in the laboratory back home in Scotland, but we also carry out performance tests on the surfaces," Sports Labs MacPhee told reporters. "The performance tests we carry out are players surface interaction tests and ball surface interaction tests. "A lot of these tests will tell you how hard the surface is compared to concrete, how much the surface deforms under your foot, how far the ball rolls on the surface, how much a ball rebounds on the surface and we also look at the type of polymers used. All these tests are carried out on the surface and prior to that in the laboratory. Although no-one is admitting it, it's fairly obvious to the layman that the pitch is not ready yet. My shoes will also testify to that. The amount of dirt and debris coming up off the new pitch is not good and how healthy it is for the players playing on it is a whole other debate. "This pitch has been installed very recently and you're going to get that," MacPhee told us. "You'll get compaction of the rubber over a period of time." Can the rapid ageing process they're putting it through compound the pellets enough before Monday's opening matches? Publically, at least, everyone is hopeful. "This is probably just the natural break in process, with this being less than a week old," Hardman told us. "We still have to work on some of the compaction and letting the natural settlement of the pitch happen and this will dissipate in time." "We're working with the manufacturer and the stadium groundkeeping staff and we're definitely addressing all those issues in advance of the first match here." Let's hope he's right. For now, we have to hope that the artificial pitches don't become anything like one of the main talking points from the tournament and all the action and drama stems from the actual action taking place on them. FIFA would love that too right now.
  14. Until next time, have a great soccer! @24thminute @KevLaramee https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/two-solitudes-soccer-podcast/id833616975?mt=2 https://www.patreon.com/twosolitudes5rings https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1XTTehckvHGtr1OXC9Bs6g http://feeds.feedburner.com/TwoSolitudesPod http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-two-solitudes-mls-podcast
  15. Well, technically it's Burnaby as it's at Metrotown Shopping Centre today, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free and it's open from 11am till 7pm at the Grand Court lower level. Sponsored by Coca-Cola, this is the first ever tour of the trophy and similar to what Coke did in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics, the event features interactive elements, a photo opportunity and a free commemorative bottle of Coke at the end of it all. Interactive aspects feature a Beat the Goalie competition against a robot competitor that doesn't quite have the loud commanding presence of David Ousted. There's also two foosball tables and chance to visit the "locker room" where jerseys are hanging commemorating the four countries that have lifted the trophy since 1991. The scary/sexy owl mascot Shueme and some football freestylers are also meant to be there but they weren't when we headed along on Friday. In fact, neither were the crowds! It was very quiet and when one of the volunteers asked us if we knew it was on or if we'd just stumbled across it, she was surprised when we said that's why we had headed to Metrotown. Apparently, not many others have known about it. I do have to say that it is somewhat indicative of the whole tournament here in Vancouver so far. There's been little buzz, little hype and little promotion that I've seen around the place, but hopefully this will change once the competition gets into full flow next week. The pinnacle of the tour is the trophy itself and once you've had your fun in the interactive sections, you can head through the "Winners Tunnel" to have your photo taken with the actual Women's World Cup trophy. Well beside it as it's encased in glass. You can't take your own pictures but someone is there to take them for you and print off a couple of copies for you to keep. All that's left is to make your way out, pick up your special limited edition Women's World Cup bottle of Coke (regular, light and zero varieties available) and outside the attraction you can get your picture taken at a TSN Sportscentre desk. The whole thing is likely to take you 5 to 10 minutes to go through once you get to the front of the queue. We expect it will be bust at the weekend, so head along if you can for a fun memento of the World Cup. The Trophy Tour in all its glory Beat The Robot Goalie! "You'll never beat the robot Erin McLeod" chant doesn't scan so well Will a "Canada 15" shirt be hanging on the next Trophy Tour? The "Winners Tunnel" - we're pretty sure everyone we saw enter actually left, apart from that kid in the TFC shirt The Women's World Cup trophy in all her beauty Your chance to be a TSN reporter for the day And if you want to see more photos, check out the slideshow below:
  16. Until next time, stay non-corrupt! @24thminute @KevLaramee https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwsfvuPbhWFf0I9zT4uJOig https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/5-rings-podcast-olympic-amateur/id824073858?mt=2 http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/5-rings-amateur-and-olympic-sports-podcast http://patreon.com/twosolitudes5rings http://facebook.com/5RingsPodcast
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