Today is the last day of the opening round of the 2010 FIL World Championships. At this point we know that Canada is advancing straight to the semifinals. The US is assured an opportunity to move on. Germany cannot advance to the medal round. And the Iroquois have been officially disqualified. Nearly everything else is up for grabs in the Blue Division.
Coming into today's games, Canada is sitting on a perfect record (4-0) and is facing England (2-2). Aside from the single goal loss to Canada, the US (3-1) has been perfect. We will face Japan (2-2) today. Australia (1-3), ranked third prior to the tournament is looking for a chance to squeak into the semifinals against winless Germany (0-4) today.
The top two teams from the Blue Division will advance directly to the semifinals. Canada has clinched their spot and the US will most likely receive the second. In a surprising turn of events, Japan will advance to the quarterfinal round following yesterday's 11-9 upset against Australia. Despite the prospect of losing to the US today, the win is enough to propel the Japanese toward medal contention. England may sit atop the Japanese in the standings, but their loss to Australia might be their undoing. According to the tournament website:
England can still get through to the semis if they beat Canada, the defending champions, tonight, or Germany surprise Australia. But with the top four positions decided by head-to-head meetings it now looks like both Australia and Japan will progress.
The third and fourth place teams from the Blue Division will advance to the quarterfinals where they will face the top two teams from the remaining divisions. The winners of those games will advance to the semi finals and medal round.
The Netherlands confirmed their spot in the quarterfinals with a 9-8 victory over Wales earlier today. Scotland and Ireland will play for the last spot later today. The two are very familiar with each other after playing in numerous European and Celtic Cup competitions over the years. Scotland is more established, but Ireland seems to have more access to American players and instructors. This game will be a battle which may wear the winning team out to the point of fatigue in their next game.
I predicted the Japanese win yesterday in an email to my wife. Although I am cheering for the US, Japan has won my heart. In a way, they remind me of lacrosse in the Midwest. Most of the athletes in Japan never played the sport before college and have to rely on their raw athletic ability to win games. They incorporate their basic knowledge and use what strengths they have to make up for a lack of experience. They stay committed to their game plan and demonstrate a lot of heart on the field. At this moment, no other team in this tournament embodies the spirit of lacrosse like the Japanese.
Mark it down: Japan will win the bronze this year.
As a side note - did you notice who makes their uniforms? Look closely. That is a Mizuno logo on the left chest. You may recall that way back in November 2008 I said that Mizuno will eventually move into lacrosse, most likely after Easton. Now that the latter has done so, surely the Japanese company cannot be too far behind. I realize that the uniform means very little, after all Nike made lax uniforms for years before producing equipment. But it is an interesting thought, isn't it?