The 2014 World Championships took place from July 10th to July 19th in Denver, USA. Because it takes place every four years, it once again coincided with the slightly more popular football world cup.
The best sources of scores are the impressively comprehensive wikipedia page but the overall match reporting and information from worldlacrosse2014.com is surprisingly rather poor this time. Just the basic results appear to be available, and some match stats, but very few real reports and incomplete coverage.
Also, there is no online match coverage from 247.tv this time, so everything is down to ESPN's "exclusive" (and expensive) coverage instead. This was only hastily announced in July 2014, which is quite odd given the hunger for information in Europe.
This year, a record 38 nations took part in the competitions, including some rather surprising entrants (who knew people played lacrosse in Costa Rica and Colombia?). This huge entry field means this time there were nine divisions instead of seven. Six teams in the top blue division, and four teams in the other eight colours. Bad news for Germany, who despite their recent performances will miss out on the chance to play the big blue teams, and instead have to sit in the red group with Hong Kong, Austria and Belgium.
No passport problems for the Iroquois team this time around, so they take their place back in the blue division along with the other usual suspects, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and England. It will be interesting to see how the England team get on against such powerful opposition.
The teams making their first appearances in a world championship are: China, Turkey, Costa Rica, Israel, Russia, Belgium, Colombia, Thailand and Uganda. Speculation that Vanessa Mae had managed to qualify for the Thailand team has turned out to be false. Speculation that lots of US players had managed to qualify for a variety of other teams such as Israel turned out more difficult to dismiss.
In the first round, each team will play each of the other teams from their division once, in a 'round-robin' tournament. That means five games for the blue division, and three games for everybody else. The match reports are very scarce for some reason, but the results so far look like this:
|USA||USA 10-7||USA 18-5||USA 16-7||USA 21-3||USA 20-1|
|Canada||Canada 9-8||Canada 12-4||Canada 20-3||Canada 23-3|
|Iroquois||Iroquois 12-10||Iroquois 24-9||Iroquois 15-4|
|Australia||Australia 14-13 (aet)||Australia 10-7|
|Japan||Japan 13-12 (aet)|
There is once again a huge gulf in this blue division. USA ends the group unbeaten after five games, and England end it without a win. The last game between England and Japan was a nailbiting 12-12 at full time, but the single Japanese goal in extra time relegated England to a winless 6th place.
What happens after the group round, is that the top two teams from this blue division (USA and Canada) go straight into the semi-finals. They're guaranteed to finish in the top four. The teams finishing third and fourth in this blue division (Iroquois and Australia) get the chance to play through to the semi-finals, by beating the best teams from the other-coloured divisions. So they could (and probably should) also finish up in the top four. Those teams finishing fifth and sixth in this blue division (England and Japan) will scrap it out with the other teams to find their final positions (but definitely not in the top four). All clear?
The other eight divisions had four teams each, and most of these divisions ended up with clear, unbeaten winners: the Czech Republic,
USA 2Israel, New Zealand, Germany, Finland, Scotland and Ireland all finished their groups with 3 wins. But the green division ended with a three-way tie, with Italy beating Norway, Norway beating the Netherlands, and the Netherlands beating Italy. So it came down to goal difference, where the Netherlands came out on top.
In the next complicated stage, the group winners played each other to work out who goes through for a chance for the semi-finals. Of those first games, Scotland beat Finland, Germany beat Czech Republic, Israel beat Ireland and New Zealand beat the Netherlands so they're all now one step closer.
The next stage saw Scotland beating New Zealand, and
USA 2Israel beating Germany, so those two winners will now go forward against the two blue teams Australia and Iroquois.
One notable game (a little more exciting than a 23-3 whitewashing in the blue division) was Wales against Switzerland, where Wales took a 5-2 lead in the 3rd quarter, only to see 5 unanswered goals from the Swiss go past them, sending the Swiss on with a 7-5 victory.
Based on these playoff games, the teams got crystallised into groups of four:
These groups now each had their own mini-tournament to decide each and every rank between 1st and 38th. It's not just the winner that counts, each team's successes are just as important. Even if you lose, you keep on playing.
The excellent wikipedia page has the scorelines of each and every game, so it's not worth repeating them again here. Suffice it to say, Colombia got their first win, the Gold medal final was yet again USA v Canada, with Iroquois v Australia for third place, and Japan lost to both Israel and Japan to finish up 8th. That must be a disappointing result after their blue team performances, but of course a great result for Scotland (or Scaht-lund as they say in British Columbia) and Israel (USA 2).
In a remarkable but low-scoring world championship final, Canada wore down the USA and somehow prevented them from playing their game. Handing them their first loss in the championship, it sounds the final result of Canada 8-5 was more of a strategic success at prevention rather than a crowd-pleasing thriller.
So, Canada are world champions again, avenging their defeat in 2010's final. USA and Canada continue to dominate over the other teams, with the top 3 teams all coming from the North American continent. As expected, there's an enormous range in abilities in the 38-team field. Interestingly, English-speaking teams fill the top 7 world places, with Japan and Germany reaching 8th and 9th.
After an unbelievable 142 games, and hundreds of goals, the tournament is at an end. Every single team suffered defeat, and every team except Costa Rica savoured a win. Finland acheived the only shutout of the tournament at 19-0, and three games went to sudden-death overtime. Many of the games went according to the form book, but there were some ding-dong battles and spectacular comebacks, especially in the lower divisions. If anyone has got any sense there will be a highlights DVD released soon for us to purchase, to catch up on the best bits of this colourful and action-packed tournament.
The official site of the World Championship is currently at worldlacrosse2014.com, but as discussed there isn't much there at the moment. Seems like a wasted opportunity. There is also some England-focused reporting at englishlacrosse.co.uk, read it before they move it!
The next world championships will take place in July 2018.