Tag Archives: Finals

2019 FIFA WWC: My Prediction for the FINAL, And Third-Place Playoff Too

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I have to say this Women’s World Cup has been excellent. It won’t break the attendance record set by Canada back in 2015 but it has already surpassed the 1 million mark. The support for the teams has been outstanding with the various football federations shouting their support and some of the biggest male football stars supporting their teammates. Play has also been excellent as there’s American Alex Morgan and England’s Ellen White chasing the golden boot with six goals each. Also there’s only been four expulsions: only one of which was an instant red. So this is a Women’s World Cup France should be very proud of.

THIRD-PLACE Playoff:

Few people are willing to make a prediction for the Third-Place playoff, or the match I call the ‘bronze medal match.’ However I’m one who is willing. Here’s how I look at it:

Head-To-Head Stats:

England and Sweden have faced off against each other 24 times before in the past. Sweden has won thirteen times, England won three times and they drew eight times. Their last match against each other was on November 11, 2018 which Sweden won 2-0.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

England fixedEngland: Women’s football has really grown a lot since England finished third at the last Women’s World Cup. The team they fielded looked like one that could pose the best challenge to the United States. Unfortunately it was not to be as the US beat them 2-1. To add insult to the injury, the US’s Alex Morgan appeared to do a tea-sipping gesture after scoring the winning goal. Many have taken this to be an insult to the English.

It’s difficult to say if England will win. They will have a lot of their top stars like Ellen white and Lucy Bronze ready to play for the game, but Millie Bright won’t be after her double-yellow red card. Phil Neville knows that he will have to get his team ready for the match on Saturday. England have already gotten this far. Perhaps they can give their team one last feat.

Sweden FixedSweden: Before the semifinal, I’m sure most of you predicted Sweden to beat the Netherlands. I mean Sweden had the clout. They’ve been to every Women’s World Cup since it began in 1991. They’ve finished in the Top 3 three times before. They’ve even beat the Netherlands way more often than they lost to them. However things did not go according to plan. Before the match, Fridolina Rolfö received a second yellow card during the match against Germany which meant she will miss the next match. The Netherlands turned out to be a more formidable opponent than they expected. Regulation play resulted in no score. Then there was the goal from Jackie Groenen in the 99th minute. Then there was the shocking injury to Kosovare Asllani where she was carried off on a stretcher.

Sweden came to the tournament with a lot of energy. They won big and were able to rebound after a loss to the United States. Their trip to the WWC semifinal was not easy as they overcame teams like Canada and Germany that had bigger expectations. However they were brought to a halt by the Netherlands in the semifinals. They could win the third-place match or they could lose it. It depends if their players are all in top condition and they attack more than they did on Wednesday.

My Prediction: England have the star strikers, while Sweden has a strong team unit. Sweden will have a one-woman advantage in this game after Bright’s expulsion. Asllani may not be recovered from her injury, but Rolfö can be brought back in play. I will predict Sweden to win 2-0.

THE FINAL

FIFA WWC

This is it. The final for the Women’s World Cup. One team has been their four of the previous seven times and won three times including the last contest in Canada. The other team is only competing in its second Women’s World Cup and won its first-ever knockout match right here in France. So this is quite the quantum leap for the team. So here’s the low-down:

Head-To-Head Stats:

The USA and the Netherlands have met only seven times before. The only time the Netherlands won before was their first meeting all the way back in 1991. The last time the two squared off against each other was in 2016.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

United_States_SoccerUnited States: The United States is the team that is most expected to win this Women’s World Cup. They’re the defending champs from 2015. They’re ranked #1 in the World. They have some of the biggest stars in women’s football who are seen as trailblazers. However they have also earned naysayers too. It all started when they won 13-0 against Thailand and celebrated after each goal. Many thought it was disrespectful. Then Megan Rapinoe made headlines for taking a knee during the play of the Star-Spangled Banner. She followed that by saying she won’t be going to the White House to a reporter. Most recently, Alex Morgan made England fans mad when she celebrated her game-winning goal by doing a tea-sipping gesture. Despite the negative press, they’ve delivered each time. They’ve won all their games, scoring 24 goals and only conceding three.

The only barrier I can see the US would have en route to winning the Cup is them being overconfident. They’ve played very well: better than any other nation. However they showed in their Round Of 16 game against Spain they could give it all away. They won 2-1, but on two penalty kicks from Rapinoe. They did come back in the QuarterFinals against France winning 2-1. However they should not go to the Final thinking they’ll roll over the Netherlands. The Netherlands has surprised all their major opponents here in France. For the US to win, they have to be on the ball and take the Netherlands seriously.

Netherlands FootballNetherlands: Before Women’s Euro 2017, people did not expect much of the Netherlands. Why should they after they finished in the Round of 16 in Canada 2015 and failed to qualify for the Olympics? However they surprised everybody by winning all their games and would win the final by beating Denmark 4-2. This made it the first Women’s Euro since 1993 that Germany didn’t win! Here at this Women’s World Cup, expectations were good but not that big. Canada was expected to top Group E, but the Netherlands did it by winning all their games, including beating Canada 2-1. Then in the Round of 16, they were pitted against Japan whom they lost to in Canada 2015. This time the Netherlands won. They were pitted against Italy in the quarterfinals and won 2-0. Then came Sweden who was more expected to win the game. It started with nil-nil after regulation, but a goal from Jackie Groenen in the 99th changed it all. Now it’s the Netherlands in the final.

What can I say? The Netherlands have silenced their critics. Especially those who dismissed their win at the Women’s Euro as host-country luck. These past six matches show that the Netherlands have earned their place in the WWC Final. However the United States team has more seasoned players and have consistently shown to be a stronger team unit with more know-how of the game than the Dutch players. Now don’t get me wrong. I think the Netherlands can win against the USA, but they will have to play like they’ve never played before, both as individuals and as a team unit, and take advantage of any American weak-spots once they find them.

My Prediction:

I hate to side with the majority so instantaneously, but I think the United States will win this 4-1. I hate to peeve off Oranje fans, I could be wrong, but the Netherlands simply making it to the final already shows how much women’s football has improved there.

And there you go. That’s my prediction for the Final of the Women’s World Cup, as well as my prediction for the third-place match. To think it will all be decided by Sunday. What a month it’s been!

 

 

2016 Eurovision Song Contest Final Preview

eurovision2016euro

I’ll admit I had no intention of posting a preview blog about the final. I was just content with watching the performers and playing ‘armchair judge’ for my own leisure. Besides I intended for my detailed blog of the ESC to be my only blog about it.

However that all changed last night as I was on Youtube and the ESC channel watching video after video of the night’s semi-final performances. Hey, when the show’s on live at noon your time, that’s your resort. That all changed after I added comment after comment with many of the videos. And that’s what inspired me to do this preview of the final for the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest.

For this preview, I’ve decided to post my opinions about the performances in the semi-finals. I will be judging the performances of both the competitors from the semis as well as those from Sweden and the Big 5 whom I will call ‘automatics’ because they automatically have their berths in the Final and their performances in the semis are simply a dress rehearsal for the Finals.

I felt it best that I place my judgements mostly on their semi-final performances. A lot of people have based their judgements from the song’s official music video released on YouTube months before the Contest. The videos are very telling in terms of how well each song will do however I feel the performances in the semis are more telling as it gives a good sense what their live show will be and even how together they are as a performer. Sure the semi won’t tell it all but it will tell it most. I do feel that the song is the key thing to base a judgement on. No matter how big of a show you put on, the song and its content is unavoidable. However I will consider showmanship as a performer will still have to make the song entertaining and eyecatching. Simply put, I will give top kudos to those performances who deliver best.

I will also start with my first section where I give opinions of the performances that have qualified for the final. I will then give my personal picks for who I would give the biggest point to if I were a jury. Note I will not be making predictions like I normally do. I will be giving my preferences and opinions. I’m not familiar with the music tastes of most European countries nor am I familiar with jury tastes. So here goes:

SEMIFINAL 1:

  • Hungary: Freddie  ‘Pioneer’ Very good song with a very dramatic opening. Freddie has very good vocals in singing the song. The song is far from boring. It will catch your ears. A deserving finalist.
  • Croatia: Nina Kraljic ‘Lighthouse‘ – Nina came to Stockholm in hopes of breaking Croatia’s bad-luck spell of missing out in the finals since 2009. She did exactly that. As for her performance, you’ll think her outfit at the beginning is ridiculous but that’s part of adding drama or theatrics to the song. I’m cool with that as long as it’s done right. Her performance was very good and deserving of her final berth.
  • Netherlands: Douwe Bob ‘Slow Down‘ – This is one of my delights of the night. I’m impressed to see how the Dutch know how to do bluesy rock or rockabilly. The Dutch did it before in 2014 with ‘Calm After The Storm‘ and they do it again here. Best song of the evening that delivers as a great alternative after so many techno numbers. Stage show is minimal but it works for the song instead of against it. I ranked it my 3rd place of this semi.
  • Armenia: Iveta Mukuchyan ‘LoveWave‘ – It’s not the best of the night but it’s still good and a deserving finalist. Very good song with good vocals. I felt the stage show was a bit iffy. Otherwise very deserving nonetheless.
  • Russia: Sergei Lazarev ‘You Are The Only One‘ – What can I say? For me that was the show of the first semi and my #1 pick for that night. It didn’t have the same song quality the Netherlands had but still an entertaining song with the most entertaining stage show of the evening. Definitely an eye-catcher and it will not surprise me if this song is a top contender for the win on Saturday.
  • Czech Republic: Gabriela Guncikova ‘I Stand‘ – Not exactly a song that stands out too much. Nevertheless Gabriela did sing it well and perform it well on stage. what it lacks in catchiness, it makes up for in its consistency and professionalism. A very deserving finalist. Especially since this is the first time in five tries a Czech performer qualifies for the final. Great job!
  • Cyprus: Minus One ‘Alter Ego‘ – You’d think with this being Cyprus, it would be ethnopop, right? Actually this is a hard rock song high in energy. I could even feel the energy of the song while watching it. Great song and great performance which was one of my favorites of the night. I feel it should do strong on Saturday.
  • Austria: Zoe ‘Loin d’Ici‘ – This was my surprise of the night. I like it when a song goes beyond my expectations. At first you’d think a number too sweet would come off as saccharine to you. However this is one ‘sweet’ song that actually did everything right and even charmed me. Excellent stage show that tried mimicking what was in her video. However if anyone had doubts about her song while watching her video before the Semi, I think her performance in the semi increased her chances of winning. It was better than the video. I consider this my 2nd place of the semi.
  • Azerbaijan: Samra ‘Miracle‘ – Once again a case of an Azerbaijani singer performing a song written by Swedes. This is one of only two semifinalists whom I did not have on my list of my ten ‘finals picks.’ The song was good but I’ve seen better performances by Azerbaijani acts in past ESCs. I think 2013’s ‘Hold Me‘ is their best ever.  Also the back-up dancers did a real tacky job of dancing. That’s all I can describe about it. Their dancing was tacky. Nevertheless Samra was dressed well and she did sing her song very well despite t not being much of a song. I just feel it didn’t deserve to be in the semis.
  • Malta: Ira Losco ‘Walk On Water‘ – Once again a case of a stageshow that was hard to swallow thanks to backup dancing. Ira did her song very well. However the dancer on stage just plain came off as ridiculous and irritating. It actually turned me off the song. This is the other finalist from the first semi that I felt didn’t deserve it.

SEMIFINAL 2:

  • Latvia: Justs ‘Heartbeat‘ – The biggest thing about the song is its arresting instrumentation. The stage graphics fit the song very well and Justs delivers the song in style and with the right moves you’d expect from a male pop singer. Justs does it solo without backup singers or backup dancers and does it with style. I ranked it the best performance of this semi because it grabs your attention from the very start and won’t let go.
  • Poland: Michal Szpak ‘Color Of Your Life‘ – This is a good ballad delivered very well from Michal. Its style really stands out. Michal delivered it very professionally despite missing a note near the first chorus. The biggest glitch I feel has to be the vintage military jacket he wears on stage. I don’t think it fit the performance that well. Especially since Justs that was on just before him came on stage with a leather jacket. Backup violinists and stage graphics blended well with the performance.
  • Israel: Hovi Star ‘Made Of Stars‘ – This is an excellent ballad delivered very well with excellent singing from Hovi. I almost thought he was doing a cover of an Adele song. The stage graphics added excellently to the song. However the two dancers on the spinning hoop had me questioning whether they were worth it or not? Do they add or subtract? Because Hovi delivers well in a no nonsense performance.
  • Serbia: Sanja Vucic ZAA ‘Goodbye‘ – It’s both a ‘Balkan Ballad’ and a power ballad. Excellent vocals full of emotion and a set up back-up singers that add to the drama and power. Might bring back memories to some of 2007 winner ‘Molitva’ but it holds its own. The male backup dancer didn’t add but he didn’t subtract from the performance either. If there’s one weakness, it’s her stiff black dress. Overall an excellent package and I rank it second-best of this semifinal.
  • Lithuania: Donny Montell ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This Night‘ – A powerful song with a lot of energy and Donny knows how to deliver it vocally. However I didn’t like how he added Michael Jackson-like dance moves to his performance. I feel it did not fit the song at all. Maybe the front flip near the end helped but the dancing didn’t. This is one of two from this semi that qualified for the final that didn’t make my personal Top 10.
  • Australia: Dami Im ‘Sound Of Silence‘ – A very powerful ballad delivered excellent by Dani. I also have no problem with the dress since it was meant to fit the song. However I’m not too happy about some of the stage choices she was given such as sitting on that platform until after the second chorus. She does walk around after that and deliver the song well but I don’t think she was given enough movement.
  • Bulgaria: Poli Genova ‘If Love Was A Crime‘ – Many people felt Poli was robbed of a finals berth five years ago with ‘Na Inat‘ but she finally gets it here. I’ll admit this is not that much of an attention-grabber of a song. Nor were a few of her dance moves the best. Nevertheless Poli delivered the song well and gave it its energy and made it enjoyable to hear. It’s very good for the most part.
  • Ukraine: Jamala ‘1944‘ – This is the first song at the ESC with Crimean Tatar lyrics. This is probably the most political song at this Contest. She has a song with a message and she delivers it with emotion in the song. The wailing at the end of the song is a big plus and especially shows off her vocal abilities. However political songs are touchy grounds at the ESC. They welcome it as long as it’s subtle. I feel this is deserving of its finals berth.
  • Georgia: Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz ‘Midnight Gold‘ – The number starts with a lot of potential with some exciting rock instrumentation and fitting stage graphics. However it goes downhill when the singer delivers vocals with notes that don’t seem to fit the song. I don’t know if he did it for creative purposes but his choices don’t really fit at all. Can’t complain about the instrumentation as it’s the best part. However this is the second qualifier to the final from this semi that I felt didn’t deserve it. Actually I ranked it second-to-last of this semi.
  • Belgium : Laura Tesoro ‘What’s The Pressure‘ – At last! A song that makes you wanna get down! Laura delivers a funky, feel-good energetic number that delivers all the best qualities of a pop number including vocals, dancing and even trying to get the crowd involved. I ranked this the third-best of this semi.

AUTOMATICS:

  • France: Amir ‘J’ai Cherche‘ – Good song, has a lot of energy, very good singing, but it comes across as rather boring. I don’t know what it is but when I saw Amir perform, I felt like there was something missing. I don’t know how this will fare on Saturday.
  • Spain: Barei ‘Say Yay!‘ – Now this is one number I feel will go far. A very good song that is full of energy and has good potential of being catchy. Also she performs excellently on stage. She dances like she’s in control and delivers the song as she should. I question her dress, especially with the 03 on it. However I feel she will be great on Saturday night.
  • Sweden: Frans ‘If I Were Sorry‘ – Sweden has one of the best success records at Eurovision. This number however is very questionable. Frans delivered a boring performance where the background tries to make the song interesting by flashing key words. He does sing the song well but his accent is too thick to comprehend some of the lyrics. I think he might score well in the popular vote because of his teen idol status but I don’t think he’ll score well with the judges.
  • Germany: Jamie-Lee ‘Ghost‘ – I have to say a good song and Jamie-Lee is a very good singer. However her outfit was too over the top. I’m cool with a weird outfit done for theatrical purposes such as Nina Kraljic’s outfit during the opening of ‘Spotlight’ but that was too ridiculous like Alice In Wonderland went through a flower garden. The backup singers had on sensible clothes and the trees that shot laser beams worked good but that outfit is dumb and works against her performance. However the outfit will make her win the Barbara Dex award.
  • United Kingdom: Joe & Jake ‘You’re Not Alone‘ – I have to say it’s a very good song with a very good performance. The two sing the song very well and add to the young energy of the song. It’s hard to find something to dislike about this number, especially since it’s very low in gimmicks. I think the one cheesy thing was probably the jumping near the end. One thing we have to keep in mind is that ‘no nonsense’ performances like these are great but they face the obstacle of winning attention from both televoters and the juries. Nevertheless I do wish the best for both of them. Especially since the UK used to have quite a Eurovision legacy and the 21st century has been very unkind to them with only two Top 10 finishes.
  • Italy: Francesca Michielin ‘No Degree Of Separation‘ – Italy rarely disappoints. They’ve mostly delivered some top notch performances to the Contest over the years, even in the last few years. And this year’s entry is a delight too. 21 year-old Francesca Michielin is already a seasoned pro. You’ll notice it as she sings the song consistently and with feeling. Adding the feeling to the song is a big plus. A big minus to the song however is all those stage props and stage graphics. I don’t know if they were trying to reflect a theme or emulate the music video but I feel it went too far and they were distracting from the song. This could work against her performance which holds its own without all the added stuff.

So those are my thoughts for the qualifiers. As for the ‘also-rans’:

Semi-Final 1: I know I said Malta and Azerbaijan didn’t deserve to be in the final. In their place should be Iceland and Moldova. They did their performance better. Finland’s Sandhja was good but came off as flat. That’s not good especially when you’re first up. Greece must have forgotten the golden rule of rap acts at Eurovision: rap acts go nowhere, even if it’s mixed with ethnopop. It’s a shame because I usually like the Greek numbers. San Marino’s Serhat had a style but I didn’t see it as enough to qualify for the final. Estonia came off as ridiculous in his stage antics and his voice. Montenegro’s number sounded like a mashed-up song and Bosnia’s on-stage theatrics made me wonder if it was really necessary for the song.

Semi-Final 2: If I were to trade Georgia and Lithuania from the finals, I’d put in Ireland and Macedonia. Ireland was full of energy and delivered well. Macedonia was also excellent, especially in her vocal range. Switzerland had a good song but it all fell apart with all the on-stage props and moves she was given. Belarus had potential but I thought the face stripes were dumb. Slovenia was good but the singer delivered awkward stage poses that worked against her. The Danish vocal trio came across as rather boring. Norway delivered a song that alternate from one tempo and mood of the verses to a different tempo and completely different mood in the chorus. It didn’t really mix well. And Albania had good potential but I feel her chances were marred by lousy backup singers.

Overall I have to say this is a mostly good set of performers for this Contest. There is a bit of the eccentric in some elements but it’s nothing compared to the ‘freak shows’ of five years ago or even ten years ago. I think the freakiest moments will come from Germany and Italy. I guess the country’s are now getting the message that doing something super-eccentric or super-gimmicky doesn’t pay. I didn’t notice too many off-key moments and those that did recovered well.

Like I said, I don’t know enough about European music tastes to make predictions. So instead I’m giving my personal Top 10. Eurovision style, of course:

  • Poland, 1 point.
  • Australia, 2 points.
  • Spain, 3 points.
  • Cyprus, 4 points.
  • Netherlands, 5 points.
  • Belgium, 6 points.
  • Serbia, 7 points.
  • Austria, 8 points.
  • Latvia, 10 points.
  • And my personal 12 points goes to…Russia!

So there’s my summary of the 2016 Eurovision finalists and their semifinal performances. I’m glad I don’t have to be a jury member because it’s a headache ranking them. Mind you anything can change on Saturday. They may go off key or something may malfunction or the energy that was there in the semi may not be there in the final. Even things like performance order can play a factor. How ironic how Belgium who ended the second semifinal will open the final? Ending the final will be Armenia. Whatever the situation, I wish all the performers the best and the winning performer’s country to get ready to host next year!

Euro 2012: It All Comes Down To The Finals

Will Spain win for the third time?
Or Italy for the second?

The Group Stage came and went. The quarterfinals came and went. The semifinals just finished. Now all that remains is the Euro Final to decide who wins the Henri Delaunay Cup. It’s between two teams: Italy and Spain. Both have their strengths. Both have their weaknesses. The question is who will win this year’s Euro?

SPAIN-To start things off, let’s have a look at the defending champion Spain. La Furia Roja has traditionally been known as football’s greatest underachievers: known for being a team loaded with talents players that gets eliminated from major tournaments sooner than most expect. Spain has sure changed a lot since 2008. The first sign of Spain’s new-found consistency came at the 2008 Euro. They won all their games and even survived a penalty shootout against Italy in the quarterfinals to meet Germany for the final. Tradition would have it that Germany would win. Instead Spain won 1-0.Then came the 2010 World Cup. After losing their first match against Switzerland, they really came alive. After that it was all straight wins. Even the knockout round resulted in 1-0 wins for Spain including the final for the Cup against Netherlands in overtime.

Euro 2012 has continued to showcase Spain’s consistency.  They started with a 1-1 draw against Italy but won their other Group C matches against Ireland and Croatia. A 2-0 win over France continued their success. It almost came to a halt against Portugal in a scoreless semifinal but penalty kicks gave Spain their ticket to the final.

ITALY-Italy has always been one of Europe’s greats in football. Hard to believe the Forza Azzurri have only ever won a single European Championship. The crazy thing is Italy has its good years and its bad years. When they have their good years, boy does it show. When they have their bad years, boy does it show too. It really showed at the 2010 World Cup when they failed to win any of their Group Stage games and faced an early exit. Ironically the 2010 team was coached by Marcello Lippi: the very coach who coached the Azzurri to the World Cup win in 2006.

Since the World Cup, Italy has been in rebuilding mode. They hired a new coach in Cesare Prandelli. They’ve kept some of their most consistent talent and even scouted out new talent, like young Mario Balotelli. Here at this Euro, they had a lot to prove and prove they did. The Group Stage was not easy however. They drew 1-1 against both Spain and Croatia. It took a 2-0 win over Ireland to guarantee them to the quarterfinals. Over in the quarterfinal against England, it was all theirs. They may have had a scoreless draw but their control of the ball and frequent attempts on goal showed they were ready to perform. It took a penalty kick round—England’s Achilles heel—to give them a berth in the semifinals. In the semi against Germany, they continued to perform well with continued ball control and phenomenal scoring from Balotelli. Italy has been known to be Germany’s Achilles heel and tradition continued with Italy’s 2-1 win. Interesting how Italy has already earned the UEFA berth for next year’s Conederations Cup since Spain has already qualified as the reigning World Cup holders.

Now comes the final. Interesting how we started the quarterfinal with two teams from four groups each, the semis had two teams from two different groups and now the final will have two teams from Group C. And we thought Group B was the Group Of Death. So who will win? Italy or Spain?

Spain looks poised to become the first team to successfully defend their title. Spain is also poised to join Germany as the only other nation to win a total of three Euros. It’s obvious Spain has a lot of strengths as they know how to control the ball well. However their scoring abilities have faded a bit in recent Euro matches. They went all out against Ireland but it was all scoreless against Portugal. They have to be as good at attacking as they are about ball possession. They’ve demonstrated against Ireland and France that they are good at scoring but they have to deliver when it matters. It’s going to be needed against Italy because they’re the team they drew against in the Group Stage.

As for Italy, they were lackluster in the Group stage and but came alive in the quarterfinals and semis. Like Spain, they’ve demonstrated ball control. They’ve also showed they can score well. However like Spain, they also showed that they can hold back in terms of attacking. Their scoreless game against England showed it. Joe Hart turned out to be one tough goalkeeper. If they play as well against Spain as they did against Germany, they could do it.

So what’s my prediction? I believe the game will be 1-1 with Spain winning on penalty kicks. Both teams drew in their Group Stage match. Both have demonstrated great ball control and both have stellar goalkeepers in Gianluigi Buffon for Italy and Iker Casillas for Spain. Both also have good scorers with Mario Balotelli for Italy and Xavi Alonzo and Fernando Torres for Spain. However neither is going to give way during the match and it would have to be penalty kick to decide it, in which Spain has the edge.

So will my prediction of Spain repeating hold true? It’s hard to say. A lot of my predictions have come true. However don’t forget I predicted a Portugal – England final in my article from last week. Anyways may the best team win in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

Stanley Cup Finals Game Seven: All Or Nothing

This is it. On Wednesday June 15th at Rogers Arena, the Stanley Cup will be decided in a single game. The two finalists–the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins–both have won three games apiece. Both have shown their strengths and both have shown their weaknesses. Both have some key players out, either by penalty or injury. Both have also been the subject of negative opinion and positive opinion. Whatever the situation, tomorrow decides it all. But who will win? Instead of predicting the winner for tomorrow, I decided to sum the two all up and break them all down:

VANCOUVER-Three wins on home ice. All of their wins have been very close: 1-0, 3-2 overtime and 1-0. One thing about the wins is that they may not have been big or spectacular but the Canucks knew how to play smart at home in order to make the wins happen. Yes, the wins were mostly conservative but their conservative play would pay off at home. Their losses to Boston have been a lot bigger: 8-1, 4-0 and 5-2. Part of the reason for their losses in Boston have to be with the lack of confidence many would display. It would be noticeable as they would miss many important plays. Also during the Boston games, there was a noticeable weakness in Roberto Luongo as he let in a total of fifteen goals. Whenever he was replaced by Cory Schneider, the Canucks would soon get their confidence back and start playing better hockey. Already two top players: Aaron Rome and Mason Raymond are out.

BOSTON-Also three wins on home ice. All three of their wins against the Canucks have been decisive: 8-1, 4-0 and 5-2. The Bruins definitely know how to go all out on them while at home but during the away games, they’re lacking. All three of their losses have been tight games. They’re not as good at scoring in Vancouver and despite having a lot of puck control, they don’t materialize it at Rogers Arena as well as they could. One thing about their big wins is that they’re hoping to use it to intimidate the Canucks en route to winning the Stanley Cup. The big wins didn’t intimidate the Canucks enough as they would win 1-0 on Game 5. Tim Thomas has been an excellent goalie conceding only eight goals in the final. However this would prove to be a weakness as there would be two Canuck wins of 1-0. Plus Boston’s big wins in Game 3 and 4 didn’t succeed in intimidating the Canucks as they would win Game 5 1-0, putting the embarrassments of Game 3 and 4 behind them.

Now there’s the overall play. The media are already calling this the ugliest Stanley Cup finals in recent years. It all started in Game 1 with the Burrows Bite. Then in Game 3 came the check from Canuck Aaron Rome to Bruin Nathan Horton. That left Horton hospitalized and out of Finals play. For Rome’s part, he was slapped with a four-game suspension also leaving him out of Finals play. Then came the ‘pumping his tires’ reference from Bruins goalie Tim Thomas to Roberto Luongo that has been well-published. Already the Canucks were labels the most hated team of the Finals by many. Then things took a worse for Boston. Game 6 saw a check to Canuck Mason Raymond which left him hospitalized with a fractured vertebrae. Also many on the web have suspected the Boston ice to be too soft and the Boston referees too ignorant to the Bruins own penalty-worthy misdoings. Already the Finals are memorable for a lot of wrong reasons.

With Game 7 just more than a day away, people are already giving out their predictions. There has even been some numerology and trivia bits floating about to hint who will win. Now I’m not one who completely believes in numerology or trivia odds and ends but I have been hearing some interesting facts that may lead to tomorrow’s fates. I heard that a Canadian host city of an Olympic Games would win the Stanley Cup the following year: Montreal hosted in 1976 and won in 1977; Calgary hosted in 1988 and won in 1989: Vancouver hosted last year and it’s just so close. Also in favor of Vancouver, there’s the fact that of the fifteen previous Game 7’s of the finals, all but two have been one in the Game 7 host city. However there’s also one going against Vancouver which I learned of during Game 5’s telecast. Of the previous fifteen Cup Finals that lead to a Game 7, all but four winners of Game 5 would not win the Cup.

Whatever the odds and ends, whatever play happened in the previous six Finals games, only tomorrow will decide the 2011 Stanley Cup Winner.. Will Vancouver’s conservative style of playing and winning at home pay off? Or will it take its toll in Game 7? Will Boston’s big wins succeed in intimidating the Canucks for Game 7? Or will it be like in Game 5 in which the Canucks were able to bounce back from humiliation and show the Bruins they weren’t so intimidated? It will all be decided when the puck drops in Rogers Arena tomorrow, Wednesday, June 15 at 5pm Pacific time. May the best team win!

Me with the Stanley Cup. Which team will hoist it tomorrow?

My Stanley Cup Experience

So some of you may have already got my first taste of Canucks talk. Well guess what’s happened since? I was at the very first Stanley Cup Finals Game at Rogers Arena! Don’t ask me how much my tickets were. The most I’ll say was they were over $500. I will say that I was glad to be in the arena for a once-in-a-lifetime event. Looking back, I can say I was there when it all started.

Tickets for the Finals games didn’t go on sale until 10am on Tuesday, May 31st,, only the morning before Game 1. They were originally intended to go on sale Monday at noon but they were delayed 22 hours for inexplicable reasons. I took an early lunch break at that time to buy a fair-priced ticket for Game 1 from Ticketmaster. By the time I got on, they were either impossible to buy or completely sold out. I know that before ticket-buying I promised myself that $500 was the most I’d attempt to spend on a Stanley Cup ticket, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I called ShowTimeTickets to place an order because I had trouble logging in to their website. Luckily, I was able to buy one ticket for Game 1, for up on the balcony. Unluckily, I broke my promise to myself. I mean it is history in the making, right?

Okay, Game Day. On Wednesday June 1st, I was finally done my job at 4:30. I was told by ShowTime to wait until 3 at the latest to get the best seats in the house for my order.  Once my work was done, I took my Canon Rebel camera and bag out of my backpack to make my trek to the ShowTime office. Luckily I get my ticket just a minute as soon as I arrive. Amen! My order was for a balcony seat and I ended up with Section 329, Row 13, Seat 107. Original ticket price, $150. Luv-lee! I immediately head to the nearest path to get to Rogers Arena. I get to one entrance and security demands that they check my camera bag and  backpack and removed all my empty liquid bottles. Real fun.  Then my ticket was taken and scanned. Easiest part of getting in.

First thing’s first, I find my seat. Okay, first thing’s not first. I go to get a medium soda and huge pretzel. Yes, my favorite game snack is the huge pretzel! I get my goodies and then head to my seat. I find there’s no finals towel there. Which means either arena personnel forgot to put one on or the guys in the seats above me stole it as an extra thing to hock on Ebay.

I set my bags underneath my chair and have my camera around my neck. Nice SLR camera I bought for the Olympics for the sake of taking some good action shots. Now ready for another set of action shots. Before the game began, there was a rap from rapper Kyprios—whom I personally don’t care for—who rapped “How The West Was One”. Game begins with the Bruins and the Canucks on the ice. The national anthems are sung. Meanwhile Luongo is warming up the whole time. Anyways the game starts off on an exciting note. During the first two minutes, the Canucks produced four shots on goal. Boston would respond strongly. First penalty of the game would go to Daniel Sedin and that landed him 4 minutes in the box. Despite more shots on goal, Boston failed to score. The second half of the first period saw more Canucks dominance with a powerplay and six shots on goal compared to Boston’s four. After the twenty minutes were up, the period was scoreless. One thing I have to say is that being so far up in my seat made it hard to notice the Burrows Bite at the very end. It looked like a typical hockey squabble from where I was sitting and I wouldn’t know until tomorrow’s news what exactly happened.

During intermission, I left my seat and learned some yahoo spilled beer on my backpack. As annoyed as I was, I should have expected it. Anyways I made a full circle around the lobby to check out the shops, concessions, exhibits and fandemonioum. During the break, I bought another pretzel, this time salted. I took photos of the exhibits and some of the more colorful fans: both Canucks and even a Bruin or two. I hope those Boston fans inside know that Vancouver has a store that sells all sorts of ‘different’ meats, including bear meat! I bought some souvenirs in time for Father’s Day. Oh yeah, Supertramp and Michael J. Fox were spectators that night and Don Cherry was there too.

Before I get into my talk about second period, I have to say that being up there in my seat was not an easy thing. I wanted to watch the game and take pictures at the same time. It was not an easy thing to do being from my seat and sometimes using my camera as binoculars for the game. Sometimes I’d forget to take pictures of some of the highlights. I must admit that watching is easier without the camera.

I arrive back into my seat minutes after second period began. By the time I arrived, Boston had four more shots on goal and the Canucks had a power play. I returned around the time an injured Dan Hamhuis delivered one of the more entertaining tackles by flipping Bruin Milan Lucic. After that, there was some boring play for a while and then came the penalties- three in a minute. Thanks to a Bruin getting a penalty, I get my first look at the green men. Vancouver loves them but I bet every other team hates them! Vancouver soon came on strong and then Boston had more goal attempts. Nevertheless, the period ended with the game still scoreless. I didn’t want to deal with a soaked bag again so I remained in my seat during intermission.

Third period came with the Canucks coming on stronger but Boston continuing to challenge. There was music mixing from DJs Marlon J English and Jay Swing and the Canucks band played in our area. The last half of the third period saw the Canucks come out of their shell and start making more of a serious attempt to score. However in the final minute, most of us were groaning about a possible overtime after a scoreless game. Then the miracle happened. With 18.5 seconds to go, Raffi Torres delivered the goal, much to the euphoria of the full venue. It was there and then we knew the Canucks did it! Even though Boston called a time-out, we knew there was no hope for them. The game was ours and the Canucks began their quest for the Cup with a Win and Torres was the savior of the night. The final mark of the win was Fin waving the Canucks flag on top of his hockey stick.

After the win, it was a party as people were leaving the Rogers Arena and into the streets of Vancouver. As I exited arena with my backpack soaked in beer, the streets were loaded with fans. I met one guy who came from Winnipeg to see this. For three blocks until I hit the Central Library, it was like a complete parade of fans. Even after I left the library ½ hour later, it was still active with fans. Already the quest for the Cup began with a good start.

Hard to believe it was five days ago. Hard to believe Game 3, Boston’s first Finals game as host happened tonight. We had a second game on Saturday where the Canucks started good but Boston pulled a second period surprise. I was with friends in a church hall at the time. I kept on telling them ‘It’s not over.’ In the third period was the game-tyer. However with an event taking place upstairs, the church was under a strict regulation to end telecast of the game at regulation, overtime or no overtime. When we made it to the chapel, we were reassured that the Canucks won: 11 seconds into overtime by Burrows.

All I can say this last while is fan euphoria like no other. There have even been fan videos from Youtube. My favorite is of a Victoria comedian imitating a Bruins fan with Boston accent, attitude, foul mouth and all. I think he could rival the green men.

Just now, Vancouverites are recovering from an 8-1 loss to Boston. I was working when it all happened but I heard a lot and saw enough from replays on Youtube. Canuck Aaron Rome has gotten the biggest heck for that check to Nathan Horton that left Horton carried off on a stretcher. Boston sure came back with a vengeance, although many Canuck fans are complaining about bad reffing. Bad reffing or not, the Bruins won the game. Personally I had a bad feeling that Boston would win today but not by that much. I knew that both Canucks wins came from very tight games. Game One was won by a goal in the last minute. Game 2 was won by an overtime goal after just eleven seconds. Before Game 3, Boston was able to show the Canucks that they can be a formidable rival, even though they lost both games. Boston knows the Canucks are a tough team but they also have a vulnerable side and they really exploited that tonight. Many Canuck fans are claiming they appeared tired after the second and that’s where it all went Boston’s way. Now the Canucks know they will have to play harder smarter games if they don’t want to give anything else up. I believe the next Boston game will be another nail biter for both teams. Nevertheless Vancouver can take comfort that they still lead the finals two games to one. It ain’t over yet.

I don’t think I’ll ever see another Stanley Cup Finals game ever again. Not that I doubt the Canucks in the future but I believe the next Stanley Cup Finals tickets will be way more expensive the next time. It’s even possible that in the near future, $1000 won’t even be enough. All I can say is I was glad to be there when it all started. Now I have something to tell my grandkids!

Me With The Stanley Cup During The 2010 Paralympics

Me With The Stanley Cup During The 2010 Paralympics