As the Unity Cup approaches the weekend of the quarterfinals, three of the four games will feature rematches from a year ago. Jamaica defeated Italy a year ago to win their group, Ivory Coast defeated Sierra Leone in the same match a year ago, and Liberia punched their ticket to the championship a year ago by defeating Germany. Senegal and Puerto Rico are the only non-rematch of the weekend, but don’t think for a minute that it won’t be highly contested. Want to know more? Individual game previews are below; all games will be held at the Temple Sports Complex (13th & Master, 19122) on Saturday, October 21.
#4 Italy vs. #13 Jamaica – Saturday, 10am
The first of three rematches of the day comes from last year’s group stage, when Jamaica defeated Italy in South Philly to win their group. Neither team advanced past the quarterfinals as Italy lost to Ukraine in the round of 16, and Jamaica lost to Liberia in the quarterfinals. The good news for these two is that ends for one of them this weekend. Italy plays a more conservative style of soccer: they patiently wait for their opportunities, play solid defense, and strike when given the opportunity. On the other hand, Jamaica plays loose and free; they’ll fly all over the field and get numerous scoring opportunities. The question in this one is whether or not Italy can weather the storm and counter for a lead that they can control, or if Jamaica will score on an early flurry of goals, making it difficult for Italy to recover. Jamaica seems poised to take the next step, and Italy may just not have the scoring in their arsenal quite yet to pull this one off.
#3 Puerto Rico vs. #12 Senegal – Saturday, 12pm
In the game of two teams who busted too many brackets to count, Puerto Rico wants to prove they belong with the elite of the tournament, and Senegal wants to play Cinderella and hold onto the glass slipper for one more week. These teams are very similar in style: they are quick, disciplined, solid on defense and don’t have a lot of scoring. Expect a low scoring match, especially in the first half as both teams feel each other out. The second half will likely be more of the same, with the winner coming either in the final 10 minutes, extra time, or penalty kicks.
#10 Germany vs. #19 Liberia – Saturday, 2pm
This is not only the match of the day, but the rematch of the day. Liberia knocked Germany off 5-2 last year on their way to a championship loss at Citizens Bank Park. There is still a bitter taste in the mouths of the German players thinking of that match as they try to secure another trip to the semifinals. Liberia is looking to take the next step by getting back and finishing the job, walking away with the cup this year. On paper, these teams are pretty evenly matched. Keep an eye on Liberia’s offense as they will be without last year’s cup leading goal scorer, and perhaps the most dynamic player in the tournament. If they find a way to score on the new German goalkeeper, they will be in great shape. Germany needs to keep doing what they’ve been doing: communicate and take advantage of errors. Expect the lack of depth on Liberia to show up late, allowing Germany a late goal for the win.
#1 Sierra Leone vs. #9 Ivory Coast – Saturday, 4pm
If it wasn’t for Germany facing Liberia before this match, it would certainly be the match of the day. It is another rematch of the same match in the same round a year ago, although with a different venue. Last year’s game took place at La Salle, this year at Temple. Sierra Leone is hoping the change of scenery will help them solidify the victory over their friends from the southwest. No mistaking it, these teams know each other – well! So much so that Sierra Leone was able to pluck a player from last year’s Ivorian championship team to play for Sierra Leone this year. Coach Foday is hoping that move will put them over the top not just in this game, but in the tournament moving forward. Remember – the champs are the champs until another team proves otherwise, and Ivory Coast will not go quietly in this one. It’s looking like another photo finish, and in games that come down to experience it is hard betting against the champs!