The second weekend of the group stage did not disappoint. In this week’s winners and losers post, you’ll see a trend – it is tough to deny what makes an upper echelon team and what makes a team that falls back into the pack!
Winners: Teams that behave themselves
As week 2 concluded, the Unity Cup was left with fifteen teams that were ranked 2-0 (worth 6 points in the standings). A closer look will show that while it is important to play at a high level, there is a definite connection between the number of cards your team receives and your overall record. Last year’s two finalists (Sierra Leone and Liberia) combined for a total of 1 card in four total games so far this season. Teams like Brazil, El Salvador, Ireland, and Ivory Coast have managed few, if any, cards. Limiting cards is important to ensure a full roster as your team moves on. The good news for teams with a significant amount of cards is that they will reset to zero if they advance to the round of 16. Chances are, if they continue to accumulate, they’ll be watching the round of 16 with the rest of us… from the sidelines!
Losers: Teams that lose their cool
Another trend over the first two weeks is that teams who start to lose their cool (i.e., committing fouls, yelling at officials or teammates, or even in-fighting with their own team) are either eliminated or on-the-brink with this weekend’s coming matches. Italy currently stands at 0-2 in the standings table, but could be sitting at 1-1. Once they tied the game with Argentina on Friday night, they fell into the trap of giving Argentina what they wanted – a reaction! Italy reacted to everything Argentina threw at them in the wrong way, and in losing their cool, they lost the match. The same can be said of Puerto Rico and South Africa. Each of those teams could have pulled off upsets versus USA and Liberia, respectfully, but the inability to stay calm cost them in the long run, and may cost them a birth into the next round.
Winners: Teams that manage to sneak out a draw
Over the course of the first two weeks of the tournament, there have been 6 games that ended in a draw (tie score). Group C has had 2 draws already, both involving Morocco. The thing about draws is that no matter how underwhelming they may be, a draw, especially one at the last second, provides new life and all sorts of possibilities for knockout play. Thanks to the draws in Groups B, C, D, E, and M, all the third weekend games in those groups become important because all teams have an opportunity to advance to the play-in round.
Winner: Coach George of Ghana
While no one was paying attention, Ghana has turned in two stellar performances, leading Group G with England on deck to see who the group champion is. A quick look at the Unity Cup tracker and you’ll see Ghana has yet to receive a card in two matches. Ghana plays strong and fast, but more importantly, clean and fair. This can be attributed to coach George Attah-Asante, who preaches to his men over and over again the importance of playing clean. We caught a little of Coach George’s pregame talk with his team where he stresses this. Coach George and Ghana truly embody what the Unity Cup is all about!