Lacrosse World Championships 2010

World Championships report, 18th July

USA 22, Germany 4

This is a matchup with the German team could only have dreamed of before this tournament started. They came in expecting to play Spain, Hong Kong and Norway, not 8-times world champions USA! The Germans had already proven their worth in the blue division in their first two games, although those were the easiest two games that they're going to get.

The first quarter showed a consistent pattern, of USA possession, USA goals and wildly-cheering spectators whenever Germany got the ball. It wasn't until 5-0 that Germany found their way through the strong and dynamic USA defence, bringing their first goal and a holler of cowbells. The relief was palpable, they weren't going to get shutout now.

In the second quarter Germany got more into their rhythm and had longer periods of attack, drawing back to a respectable 11-3 at halftime. Germany passed well and looked more organised, giving the USA more work to do than they probably anticipated.

The third quarter saw the USA step up and dominate possession once again, preventing the German team from playing the ball as they had before and forcing mistakes and turnovers. German penalties also conspired to require them to do a lot of defending, deepening the deficit to 19-3 at three-quarter time. Even though they hustled well for ground balls and worked hard, the USA pressure forced them to hurry their chances when they had them.

The USA control continued in the fourth quarter, dominating the field with energetic running and fast, crisp passing around the goal. It was telling that the German clear was happy to stand around wasting the clock even though they were 19 goals behind. Yet the USA pressed forward and chased the game, eager to extend their lead.

In the closing seconds, Germany did manage to avoid a goalless second half by popping in first one disallowed goal and then after some confusion scoring a man-up consolation to bring the final score 22-4. And the USA showed how they really can play once again, with plenty of teamwork and attractive lacrosse.

England 13, Japan 12 (after extra time)

This was another tense matchup in the blue division as both teams knew that the result would almost certainly decide who would end up fourth (and hence go through to the semi-final playoffs) and who would end up fifth (with no semis chance). So even though this was just a regular round-robin game, it was a vital match for both sides. England went in as favourites, but the Japanese had already proved capable of a good comeback (as they did against Germany) so it could end up as close as it did last time (England winning 9-8 in the 2006 round robin match).

Both teams played settled lacrosse to calm the nerves in the first quarter, probing the zone defences and watching for mistakes. England got the first goal but the play was end-to-end. Amazing scenes followed when the Japanese keeper raced out after saving a shot - the England ride forced him to make a long risky pass, which was intercepted in front of an open net by the England number 11. His open shot was athletically rescued by a diving save from defender Jiro Fukuzawa, leading to a Japanese fast break and an equalizer goal. So the extraordinary save not only prevented the 2-0 but it also led immediately to a morale-boosting 1-1.

England got one more in the closing seconds of the first quarter to go up 2-1, but the game was still wide wide open, and early in the 2nd quarter a vicious bounce shot brought Japan straight back level. Both teams had further chances but it was great teamwork and great vision which brought Japan two goals ahead at 5-3, picking apart the England defence with quick passing. However it was England who got the last word in the first half, bringing the scores back level once again at 5-5.

Despite the problems in the English defence, they chose to stick with their porous 6-man zone strategy, and Japan exploited it further in the third quarter, undoing the seams to restore a two-goal lead at 8-6. Going into the fourth quarter, that gave the England team a hill to climb, especially as Japan showed how comfortable they were moving the ball around. England only seemed to press and harry on the ride, and on the man-down defence.

In the fourth, Japan experimented with their third goalkeeper, and England experimented intermittently with man-on-man defence rather than the zone. The tempo was also raised with both sides pressing hard and checking hard. As a result, England managed to pull back to 9-9 towards the end of regular time, wasted the clock down to the last few seconds and then tried to seal the game with one final shot, which bounced way over the bar.

So once again it's overtime for England, after a fourth quarter comeback. In an intense first period of overtime, the teams traded quick bounce goals making it again even at 10-10, before Japan ripped open the English defence once again to make it 11-10.

And so the whole game rested on the last four minutes of play, with intense drama. The faceoff possessions were critical as England stepped up their game, and kept the ball in the Japanese area. Incredibly they pulled it back to 12-12, and even more incredibly Evan Roberts scored another quick goal in the dying seconds to take the lead 13-12.

Not enough drama? Ok then, how about a questioning of the legality of the stick which scored that last goal? Nailbiting moments for everyone as the referees carefully study and measure Roberts' stick, taking seemingly for ever to decide that indeed the stick was ok, the goal did stand and yes England have indeed won the game in overtime.

The highly disciplined and quick-footed Japan team certainly exposed severe weaknesses in the England defence, but the quality of the England offence saved the day in a dramatic ending to end all dramatic endings.

Canada 19, Australia 5

Australia came into this match as underdogs but were still unfortunate to go 4-0 down by quarter time. They worked hard and had bouts of good possession and pressure, but couldn't crack the eager Canadian defence and were let down by sloppy passes in midfield. The Canadians produced several chances and made them count, despite some good checking from the Aussies.

Australia did manage to get on the scoresheet once in the second quarter, but the Canadian pressure was relentless and their finishing impeccable. Their ball control and intensity let them extend their lead to 11-1 at half-time, a far cry from the narrow 12-9 scoreline from last championship's match. Certainly Australia haven't done as well this time as expected, after losing heavily the USA and struggling against England.

One highlight goal for Australia, in contrast to the general flow of the game, was a good ride by Australia with number 8 pressuring the Canada keeper into throwing the ball into touch. A quick restart and an acrobatic leaping goal from number 20 swiftly punished the mistake but only brought the scoreline back to 14-3. The Canada attack was impressive, with strong drives and accurate shots. They were also one of the few teams to execute their picks well and use them effectively to create space. Their defence also pushed out aggressively even when they were a dozen goals ahead, shutting down options for the Aussies and coming up with turnovers. Canada drew ahead to 16-3 at three-quarter time with Australian heads hanging.

In the fourth quarter, Australia were unlucky to go a man-down for 2 minutes after a challenge no more physical than most of the Canada checking, and many of the slashes and uncontrolled checks from Canada seemed to go uncalled. Yet Australia continued to battle and halted the Canada goal rout, even getting a couple of consolation goals to finish the game 19-5.

Full results list

Wales 20, Argentina 3
Italy 12, Mexico 3
Scotland 19, France 2
New Zealand 11, Latvia 5
Slovakia 7, Korea 6
Netherlands 17, Austria 5
England 13, Japan 12
Ireland 16, Switzerland 3
Finland 12, Poland 11
USA 22, Germany 4
Czech Republic 9, Sweden 6
Bermuda 11, Denmark 8
Spain 16, Hong Kong 14
Canada 19, Australia 5

Teams // July 15th // July 16th // July 17th // July 18th // July 19th // July 20th // July 21st // July 22nd // July 23rd // July 24th