U23 – What I’ve seen

Readers, I’ve returned from Praha and while there’s much to discuss from that event I want to provide a quick update on the players I watched at WUCC 2010.

The four main sets of players I watched were the Aussies, Canadians, Colombians, and Italians.  I had a chance to see players from the other countries and have played with quite a few of them so I’ll try to comment on as many as I can.  I would also like to mention that I’ll be referring to the Open division as I have yet to find somebody that’s familiar with the other players (there have to be folks out there); but this may just be because the other divisions are substantially smaller.

The Canadians (with whom I’m most familiar) are going to be considered the team to beat after strong performances over the past few years (WUGC) and also due in part to the USA not attending.  Most of the players on Team Canada (Open and Women’s) play on the top teams in their respective divisions and play a common style.  Many of the players are in good condition and are resting over the next week prior to U23.  I would consider Canada to be the top seed.

Australia may have the edge on Canada with a history of wins against Canada and have one of the best handlers I’ve ever seen:  Cupcake.  In addition, 23 of the 25 players on the Aussie Open team (they only have an Open team) were at WUCC and got plenty of experience playing together.  If anybody can challenge Canada then this team is the one to do it.

Euforia (Colombia) did well at WUCC, finishing 18th, and exhibited quite a bit of energy against better opponents.  Unfortunately Euforia (and hence Colombia) showed the same energy with regards to foul calls and in general slowing play down with repeated violations.  The lack of poise has placed them 46th out of 48th for spirit at the tournament and that is due almost entirely to the younger players on the team.  Given that only the younger players will be playing one should expect much fire and energy which may translate into an upset; but I wouldn’t expect that.  I will write later about Colombia and spirit, in general, in an upcoming post.

Playing on their home turf Italy has many athletic players that will be on the pitch but unfortunately they’re still raw at this time.  With Ultimate competing against Football for field space the Italian program has few major centers that can provide adequate training.  Each region also has a specific style that makes it hard for players to adapt and as a result the teams don’t quite fit together easily.  I don’t know how many training camps the Italians have played in but expect a middle of the pack finish unless they click (which has happened).

Finally we come to the Swedes.  While Skogs didn’t perform as expected the youth in Sweden were playing on Viksjöfors who finished 8th.  I have played with many of the players that compose Team Sweden and they are amongst the best in Europe.  There are calm handlers as well as willy ones on the team who can combine with the powerful mids and strikers to slice any defense apart.  If there’s a dark horse at this tournament then Sweden is it.