There were 26 games played at four locations over the first three days of the 2018 Unity Cup tournament, presented by Goya. Some teams played as expected, some underachieved, and some broke tournament expectations. With all those games, there are bound to be some stories of who the big winners and losers of the week are.
Winners: Middle East Teams
Saudi Arabia and Israel entered the tournament with low expectations from those in tournament circles. Saudi Arabia is one of the new kids on the block, and Israel had a less than stellar showing a year ago. Well, all of that can be thrown out the window! Saudi Arabia proved to be too fast for the Italian team to keep up with. Israel stayed true to the promise coach/player Ilya made in his team’s profile and to the Jewish Exponent last week: Israel will play as a team, control the ball, and come out with a win. Both teams really helped themselves in looking to the knockout rounds by getting the difficult first victory in week 1.
Losers: South American Teams
In World Cup play, teams like Argentina and Colombia are expected to compete for the cup every four years. In the Unity Cup, anything goes, and it didn’t go all that well for four out of five South American teams this past weekend. Brazil was the only beacon of hope, defeating Venezuela in a Saturday prime-time match. The four countries other than Brazil (Argentina, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela) managed only a single goal between them while giving up a combined 17. All four teams are in must-win situations in week two if they want a shot at a play-in game in three weeks.
Winners: Powerhouse Teams
The teams that are household names now in Unity Cup circles did exactly what they were supposed to do. Liberia, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone– all of whom represented in the first two Unity Cup championship games– dominated play and cruised to easy victories. Ireland and the USA have been on the brink of making a run the last few years but have come up short somewhere in the knockout rounds. They dominated the early morning games this weekend. It may be too early to tell, but these could be five of the final eight teams in September at Temple University!
Winners and Losers: Asian Teams
This category has to be included because even though the teams from Asia all either lost or tied, they have tightened the gap dramatically with the rest of the teams compared to past years. Bhutan and India did not play the role of giant killers, as they faced off against two of the perennial powerhouses in the Unity Cup. Teams like Myanmar and Thailand pulled off last-minute goals to steal a point in the draw column. Mongolia, who was a top eight team a year ago, struggled early with Guinea and also managed to pull off a draw. It is likely more than Mongolia will advance from the group stage, but which Asian country is ready to take that leap?
Winners: Zero Waste Philly
It is a little known addition to this year’s Unity Cup, but Zero Waste Philadelphia is an initiative to better educate residents on reducing and diverting waste. City of Philadelphia staff and volunteers attend special events and educate attendees on what can be recycled, put into compost, or go into the trash. This past Friday at Ramp Playground, 67% of potential waste was diverted from going into the trash and instead was recycled or composted. This waste would otherwise all go into normal trash. If you see the Zero Waste teams out and about, please thank them and do your part by putting trash into the proper receptacles. Or, better yet, volunteer as part of the Zero Waste team!