Has it been five years since I last saw the Reel Youth Film Festival? It’s been a long time. Nevertheless having VIFF online gave me the chance to see it again.
This year’s films were a mix of films that looked like they were done by youth and films that were obviously directed by 20+. Some looked very professionally done while some make the amateurishness obvious. All of them did have themes and messages that appeared to be directed to the youth or would be of youth interest.
This year, there were eighteen films. There were five Canadian films, but only two local. Film entries for this year came from the United States, Brazil, India, Bulgaria, Spain, Australia, Romania, China, Ethiopia, Switzerland, Iraq and the UK. Films were a mix of animation, documentary to live-action fiction. They ranged from drama to comedy to informative.
Topics were of a wide range. Even with this pandemic, there was one Canadian film by a teen girl about the struggles of physical isolation and only being able to reach out through a computer. There was another from India of a woman using her creativity to work from home. There were other themes of focus like breaking social barriers, generation gaps, regaining silence in a world full of noise, choices that can change one’s life, a future of pollution, overcoming loneliness with your passion, dealing with post-war trauma, and dealing with autism. There were also some light-hearted films like an animated film about monkeys and baby aliens.
The two themes that most stood out among the short films were themes involving racism and racial identity, and sexuality. With racism being a hot topic in 2020, the Fest didn’t stray away from it this year. One film was about a black girl admitted into an all-white private school and made to feel inferior. Another is of a Mexican-American girl and how she deals with the identity of herself and her people at a time with calls of ‘build the wall’ from Trump and his supporters. There were two films of Inuit people. One was of an elder from Nunavut who passes down to the younger generation hunting skills, cultural traditions and the language. Another film focuses on Inuit youth and what culture means to them. The film ends with them doing traditional throat singing.
As for films about sexuality, there were three. One was a documentary about a Vancouver drag performer who performs by the rule “Don’t do drag for free.” Another was a drama of a girl from China returning home after her grandmother’s death; a grandmother who rejected her after she spoke of her orientation. The third was a comedy about a girl who never had a first kiss from a boy. She realizes she’s a lesbian and gets her first kiss from a girl during the first snowfall.
They again had the ballot for the three favorite films of this year. This year’s ballot was completely online. I had lots of problems trying to access the online ballot. So it looks like I will have to post the picks of my Top 3 here:
- Monochrome – The story of Essence, a 17 year-old girl who’s the only black student in an all-white private school. The teens and students don’t hesitate to make her feel like a misfit. She feels like the only way to fit in is to assimilate herself. It’s a very powerful message about the racism we don’t always notice.
- Little Swallow Coming Home – A Chinese film about a young girl who returns home after her grandmother died. The memories of how her grandmother rejected her when she came out as a lesbian flood her mind and make her nervous. Then she notices a photo with a message from her grandmother saying she always loved her. It’s a reminder that LGBT struggles are universal. Not just at home.
- Dayo – A man named Dayo is lonely at home. But when he walks into the kitchen, he’s an artist and beloved for his culinary confections by the customers and his co-workers. It’s a brief three-minute animated film, but it packs in the charm in its time.
This year’s Reel Youth Film Festival didn’t offer too much in terms of local film. Nevertheless the Festival was very good at providing a wide variety of films from around the world with common themes relating to young people.
With the World Cup getting ever so closer, it’s time for another group review, along with another stadium review. Also this blog will give you an added bonus feature. Anyways lots to anticipate. Lots to focus on here.
-Brazil (2)- I’m not going to bring up the humiliation Brazil went through during the 2014 World Cup. I will say it has been an interesting four years since. The first two years were the hardest, but also very hopeful. Dunga had assumed the role as head coach and things looked promising, until the 2015 Copa America. There, they were ousted in the quarterfinals. For the next year, they struggled in international play and were even ranked low in World Cup qualifying. Then at the 2016 Copa America, another early ouster: in group play. With the Olympics coming soon, they changed to coach Tita, who was most experience in play and coaching with Brazil’s Campeopnato Brasiliero league. The change has worked to success. Brazil won gold at the 2016 Olympics and won every World Cup qualifying game since. Brazil would become the first team to qualify for this World Cup.
The Seleção’s success continues. It has not lost a game since the 2016 Copa America and even won a friendly against Germany 1-0. Brazil is one team coming to Russia not simply for victory, but redemption as well.
-Switzerland (6)- Switzerland is one team that’s been waiting long and hard for their big breakthrough. They have a lot to prove, but have often come up short. The last time they won a knockout game was back in 1938. Their best ever result is the quarterfinals which was last achieved in 1954 which they hosted. They’ve grown in talent and prowess in recent years. At the last World Cup, Xherdan Shaqiri delivered a hat trick en route to qualifying to the Round Of 16, but their trip to the Cup was ended by Argentina.
The Swiss team has had its strongest years in this past while. This is the fourth straight World Cup they’ve qualified for. The team features defender Stephan Lichtsteiner, midfielders Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka and striker Haris Seferovic. The team is coached by Bosnian Vladimir Petkovic. The Swiss team come to Russia with a good track record in this past year with wins against Hungary and Greece and a 1-1 draw against Spain. However they also had to endure a 2-0 loss to Portugal. Switzerland comes to Russia with a lot to prove.
-Costa Rica (25)- Costa Rica is a team that will surprise you when you least expect it. At the last World Cup, the team wound up in Group D where they would have to play Italy, Uruguay and England. Just about everybody, including myself, thought Coast Rica would be the team least likely to qualify. Instead they topped the Group with wins against Italy and Uruguay and drew against England. A win against Greece on penalties in the Round of 16 took them to the quarterfinals for the first-time ever. Despite losing to the Netherlands on penalties, Costa Rica defied all expectations and set a new standard for the team.
This year’s team features a new coach in Oscar Ramirez. Their star striker Bryan Ruiz from Sporting CP is back. Many of the team’s top players play for MLS. In the past year, Costa Rica has had good wins against Northern Ireland, Scotland and the US. However it’s had to endure losses to Hungary, Spain (5-0) and Tunisia. Who knows? 2018 could be another Cinderella story like 2014.
-Serbia (35)- Serbia is a national team that’s rather young: only 12 years old. Its national team may not have the experience as most of the teams present in Russia. However they’re a team of surprises. If you remember the 2010 World Cup, they won against Germany 1-0. The team of the former Yugoslavia has had way better success in the past; even going as far as fourth. Serbia hopes one day to emulate the past success. The team does show promise as they won the under-20 World Cup in 2015.
Possibly as a result of their win in 2015, seven players of the Serbian team were born in 1995 or later. The team also features top veterans like defenseman Branislav Ivanovic and goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic. In the past year, they’ve acquired notable wins against China, Ireland and Nigeria. However they’ve had notable losses to Morocco and Chile. Don’t rule Serbia out for 2018.
And there’s my rundown of the teams from Group E. As for who will qualify for the Round of 16, I believe it will be Brazil and Switzerland.
Moscow: Spartak Stadium (Okritie Arena)
Year Opened: 2014
World Cup Groups Hosting: D, E, G, H
Additional World Cup Matches Contested: Round of 16
Spartak Stadium is one of two venues in Moscow that will be hosting matches for this World Cup. Its current name is Okritie Arena after the Russian Okritie Bank, but will be known as Spartak Stadium during the World Cup.
The stadium cost $430 million to build. Actually the second Moscow stadium that was planned for the World Cup was VTB Arena, which was to combine a soccer stadium and ice hockey rink all in one. Instead Spartak Stadium was build first and won the right to be an official venue. It was even one of the four venues that played host to last year’s Confederations Cup. After the World Cup, the stadium will be the host venue for FC Spartak Moscow and the Russian national team.
Stadiums aren’t the only thing I will be focusing on in this World Cup. I will also focus on other things unique to the World Cup. For this first bonus, I will be focusing on the official World Cup Ball.
Official Match Ball: Telstar 18
It’s a given that with each world Cup, Adidas delivers a match ball that is designed to take football technology to a new level. Some like 2014’s Brazuca are welcomed well. Some like 2010’s Jabulani hit a sour note with the players. For 2018, Adidas launches Telstar 18.
The ball was unveiled by Adidas on at its official presentation in Moscow on November 9, 2017 and it was Lionel Messi that announced the name. Telstar 18 plays tribute to the original Telstar ball (from 1970) which was Adidas’ first ever official World Cup ball. This Telstar ball features six textured panels that aren’t sewn together, but seamlessly glued together. The ball has an embedded near-field communication chip which allows the consumer to access information personalized from the ball and including interactivity themed on the upcoming World Cup.
And there you have it. That’s my review of the Group E teams. Only three more groups to go! Time sure does pass fast! Stay tuned!
The Altered States series at the VIFF provide for a lot of films that cross into the genres and subject of horror, paranormal and the supernatural. Animals is a Swiss film that taps into the supernatural with mysterious results.
The film begins with a suicide outside an apartment building in Austria. A young woman falls to her death. Soon after, a couple by the name of Nick and Anna are to leave on a long trip in the Swiss Alps. Nick rents his suite out during the trip. The taker is a woman named Mischa, who looks very similar to the woman from the floor above.
The two then go on their vacation. Nick is a celebrity chef and Anna is a children’s book author. You can tell the marriage has been going through a lot of difficulties. Some things, like how Nick doesn’t want to have children, are said, but some aren’t. Then all of a sudden, Nick accidentally hits a sheep on the road. The collision kills the sheep and damages the car, but the two aren’t hurt seriously. Later that night, Nick receives the dead sheep wrapped up.
Back at the apartment, a man comes knocking to win back the love of Andrea. He keeps insisting in tears that he wants her back terribly and that his life is nothing without her, but Mischa keeps insisting: “I don’t know you.”
Nick and Anna try to go on with their lives and their marriage after the collision. However Anna is very suspicious of infidelity. Especially after she sees Nick get too friendly with a waitress by the name of Andrea. An attack by a robber on Anna from their car late at night seems to reconfirm Nick’s love to Anna. However Anna had a dream days earlier that Nick was the one who pulled her out, which is why she’s uncomfortable. Nick keeps notes of recipes that he is to use for some of his shows, but Anna is suspicious. Anna gets what she suspects; there is another woman in Nick’s life. When she tells him the news, it appears that Nick hears something completely different. It’s like he’s deaf and in another world.
Back at the apartment, Mischa is in love with another man. Two men are outside her apartment how they were both loved and neglected by her. Days pass and Nick comes across a news article about a ‘horrific sheep collision’ on a country road. The picture of the incident shows Nick looking distraught with a woman being carried away in an ambulance. Nick is shocked. That can’t be since they both survived the incident. They next day, another collision with a sheep happens. This time Anna is taken away in an ambulance. The film ends with a surprise, albeit too rushed.
The film focuses on a wide variety of common themes in a thriller. It focuses on the supernatural, a case of image versus reality, the power of dreams, and even the foretelling of the future. Nick and Anna are living out a slow but intense personal drama in their lives. However things intertwine right after they rent the house to Mischa. There are images of the future, not all pleasant. There is a barrier of communication, or Nick could be in another world of his own. There is a housesitter who either looks like a person who used to live at the apartment or is the same person with a completely different identity. Plus there are the animals that appear to tell something about what will happen in the future. There’s the sheep on the road, the birds that hit the house, and the cat that talks in French. The film can often be seen as including many thriller elements Alfred Hitchcock included in his films. It’s not just the birds reminding one of The Birds. It’s even the feel of the unknown, the mysterious and even the feel of being chased down that adds to the Hitchcock feel in this film.
The problem with this thriller is that it sometimes moves too slowly. The film has a lot of moments that create suspense, but it drags on in a pace that can be too slow for a thriller of such. I can understand why directors would want to slow scenes down for the sake of creating the intensity of the moment, but it appeared to take too long. The film creates intrigue, but it doesn’t keep its feel of the thriller consistent. It also seems like Swiss-born Polish director Greg Zglinski is trying to pack too many elements into the film. It’s impressive that it uses a lot of common thriller elements like the supernatural, the power of dreams, and the future happening in the moment, but it gives a sense that something’s missing. On top of it, Zglinski and co-writer Jorg Kalt appear that they don’t have the story stitched together properly. It’s a film that like a puzzle set that needs to be pieced together, but it doesn’t feel like it’s pieced together well. Even the ending that shows two completely different emotions on Nick gets one wondering.
The film’s actors are the highlight of the film. Birgit Minichmayr does a very good job of playing the wife caught between a fading marriage and this mystery happening before her eyes. Philipp Hochmayr is not given very much range in his role, but he does a good job in what he is given. Mona Petri also does a good job with her multi-personality role as Mischa/Andrea. In addition, the music by Bartosz Chajdecki adds to the drama of the film when it’s there.
Animals is a thriller that shows a lot of potential at first, but comes off as slow, not all together and even incomplete at the end.
I’m lucky to be living in Vancouver. It’s one of the few cities one can be able to see the nominated shorts in a big-screen theatre. Gives me a chance to review them myself and even make a should-win pick for myself. This year is quite an array of nominees in both animation and live-action. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on the nominated shorts:
-Blind Vaysha (Canada/France): dir. Theodore Ushev- This is a unique 2D animation story of a Bulgarian folk-tale. A story of a girl with one eye that can see the past and one eye that can see the future and cannot live in the present. The story also shows the attempts of others to fix Vaysha’s blindness. The linocut-style animation, however, was unique and had a lot of style and flare to it.
The story doesn’t really end. Instead the film ends asking the audience their perspective. It has a unique narrative point and I get why it’s done that way, but I often wonder if the film ended on the right note.
-Borrowed Time (USA): dirs. Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj – At first you’ll think this is a family-friendly story at the beginning but soon learn it’s not such as you move on. It’s a dark Western story of a man returning to the spot of a family tragedy from his childhood. The hurt comes back from it and he decides to do something drastic but something happens.
I have to admire Pixar animators Coats and Hamou-Lhadj for making a brief departure from their traditional family fare and doing something more mature under Quorum Films. No, it’s not R-rated like Pear Cider And Cigarettes but it’s dark enough to be adult. I think this short is most likely to upset my pick for the winner.
-Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Canada): dirs. Robert Valley and Cara Speller- Now this is a refreshing R-rated alternative. It sometimes reminds you of a Grand Theft Auto video game or the film Waltz With Bashir. However it is a personal story from director Valley. It’s a story that makes you wonder how far would you go for a friend? Especially if that friend is selfish, conniving, irresponsible and manipulative?
It’s a story that entertains and charms and even gets you to hate Techno too. Sometimes I wonder why was he friends with that jerk? I don’t know if it’s because it was set in Vancouver or because it was an R-rated alternative but it won me over and I make it my Should Win pick.
-Pearl (USA): dir. Patrick Osborne- This is the first VR short to be nominated for an Academy Award. A musician and his daughter travel in a hatchback with a song as a bond between the two. We see the two age, the daughter mature into a musician of her own and have her own version of the song. The viewer gets a 360 degree view of the whole 5-minute story.
Looks like something Richard Linklater would do. Actually it might remind you of Waking Life. An excellent short that’s entertaining and will touch you too. Might even make you go to iTunes and download No Wrong Way Home.
-Piper (USA): dirs. Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer- This is the short shown before Finding Dory. A baby bird looking for food on the beach with her mother looking on and guiding her. Pixar does it again by delivering a clever, charming, and entertaining short with the dialogue absent and the animation as detailed to a tee as it gets. It’s excellent, but it’s something we’ve come to expect from Pixar even with their shorts. Nevertheless this is my Will Win prediction.
And those are my thoughts for the Animated Shorts up for the Oscar. A lot of styles of animation between Canadian and American companies. All five were very entertaining. We’ll see who wins.
LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILMS
This year there are no films with English as the language of the majority. All five are from European countries. Here’s the rundown:
-Ennemis interieurs (France): dir. Selim Azzazi – A man from Algeria seeks to be a French citizen but the interrogator at immigration has big questions for him about meeting with a group of Algerian men back some years ago which led to him being arrested and imprisoned for two years. The interrogator keeps insisting he answers but he’s very reluctant to do so. Even to the point of neglecting his chances of French Citizenship. Why? What will make the man give his answers?
It’s a story that appears boring at first but grows with intrigue with each minute and with each new detail. The interest builds over time. It even makes you wonder why is he withholding the names of the other men? Feelings of brotherhood? Fear of retaliation from them? Also this may be about an incident in the past but it’s very relevant, especially with the Paris bombings happening in November 2015. This is my Will Win pick.
-La Femme et le TGV (Switzerland): dirs. Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff – Elise is a woman who wave her Swiss flag at the passing TGV train to Zurich every time it passes her house at 6 in the morning and 6 in the evening . After that she bicycles to her job at the town patisserie. It’s her daily routine for 30 years; a routine she doesn’t want to change. One day, she comes across a letter that was thrown to her by a man who goes on that daily TGV. He’s a man from France looking for work. The two develop a friendship only by mail and packages. Over time she hopes to meet this man. Then one day the train stops coming. It’s changed route? How will she deal with the change? Will she ever see the man?
It’s a charming comedy that has you engaged with the character (based on a person who has existed and did wave her Swiss flag at passing TGV trains). Gets you thinking about the woman. Is she an eccentric? Is she naive? Lonely? Unpredictable ending but a happy one.
-Silent Nights (Denmark): dirs. Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson – Inger is a young Danish woman who helps at the Salvation Army during the day and looks after her ailing mother at night. Kwame is a Ghanian immigrant who came to Denmark for a better future and to support his wife and children at home. However he’s been left homeless and makes money from recycling.
They both meet as Kwame agrees to help. The two develop a mutual friendship and even progress into something more. However it’s put to the test when Kwame steals money from the charity to pay for his daughter’s malaria treatments. Even though Kwame is banned for life, Inger forgives him and still loves him. Then Inger’s mother dies and she learns about Kwame’s family in Ghana just as she learns she is pregnant. It’s over between the two. However Inger sees Kwame one last time where she gives him advice, and something else.
It’s obvious that this story is about the immigrant situation in Denmark and the difficultly of the times for all. It presents both Inger’s side and Kwame’s side. However it’s more. It’s about a love that’s true. Inger loves Kwame so much, she’s willing to forgive him for all the terrible things he did. It makes the choice she makes for her and her baby look like the right thing. This is my Should Win pick.
-Sing (Hungary) dirs. Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardy – Zsofi is the new girl at a school. She most looks forward to singing in the choir. However on her first rehearsal, the instructor talks of a choir competition where the prize is a performance in Sweden. She also tells Zsofi her voice is not ready for the choir and tells her to lip sync. Along the way, Zsofi finds a friend in star singer Liza. The two become good friends. However Liza notices Zsofi not singing but others. When she brings this up with the instructor, she not only admits it but tries to convince the children it’s the right thing for the competition. All of which leads to a surprise ending and the ending you think is right.
Often I question what the point of this film is. Is it about competitiveness to the point the ‘lesser’ singers are not allowed to sing for the sake of the big prize? Or is it a reminder of Hungary’s past communist regime; of how those that fit in are allowed to and those that don’t aren’t, but make like everything’s okay? Even the choir director could remind you of a communist dictator on retrospect. Whatever the point, the story was entertaining and sweet. Reminds you of the joys of childhood and the right thing paying off in the end.
-Timecode (Spain) dir. Juanjo Gimenez – It starts as a check for a woman on a security job during the day. One day she learns of a broken car light. Upon viewing the video of what happened, she sees the worker before her dancing before hitting the car. She decides to give him a dancing video of her own. Video after video follows. Then on their last day, magic happens.
At first you think the man is something eccentric but this story builds into something that ends on a bizarre note. A very good film.
And there are my thoughts on this year’s nominated shorts. Now remember both categories are the hardest to predict the winner. For example, last year the consensus of critics ranked Stutterer the least likely to win Best Live Action Short and it won. Even Annie wins for Piper and Pear Cider and Cigarettes are not a guarantee that either will win.
With my shorts predictions out of the way, I just have my main predictions for all the categories to deliver. But not before my last Best Picture summary. Coming up tomorrow morning.
It’s that time for the second-biggest football tournament on the planet. The UEFA European Championships or EURO. The tournament returns to France, the host country of the very first Euro all the way back in 1960.
The Euro may not be the first continental championships but they are the biggest no doubt about that. The first Euro tournament was only a four-team tournament that consisted of two semifinals, a final and a third-place match. However qualifiers were held in the months leading up to determine the four as well as the host nation as hosting was relegated to one of the four semifinalists at that time. That would continue to be the play of the tournament until Italia 1980 when it was expanded into eight qualifying teams and the host nation decided years in advance. Group play was held for the first time with two groups of four to determine the four semifinalists. The Euro would really take off in 1996 when the number of teams in the tournament was expanded to 16 and have a quarterfinals added to the tournament for the first time.
Here in France, there is another expansion: to 24 teams. This tournament is also the first to feature a Round of 16 and ‘wildcard’ qualifiers as there will be six groups of four. There will be ten stadiums facilitating the matches in nine different cities. There was concern over security in the months leading up as Stade de France was one of the places bombed in the November 13 Paris bombings of ISIS. In fact there are videoclips of the match of France vs. Germany when the bombing took place. No one in the stadium was injured. France has made it clear that security will be a serious issue during the event and will use the maximum measured needed to facilitate.
Throughout the next two weeks, I will be focusing on the teams participating at the 2016 Euro group by group just like I do for most football tournaments. I will analyze each team per group and make my predictions on which two teams will advance as well as a third-place team. I think predicting the four wildcards who will advance will be too tricky. I’ll leave it at that. Also the number in brackets is the team’s FIFA ranking for May 2016. So here goes it for Euro 2016:
France (21): So France is host nation for the third time. Les Bleus even won it as host back in 1984. France has a reputation of going all the way or going nowhere in major tournaments. Very rarely are they an in-between team. At the 2014 World Cup, France made an investment in putting a lot of young talent on their team and it paid off as Paul Pogba won the Best Young Player award and Raphael Varane was third. A lot of France’s young players like Pogba and Antoine Griezmann have come of age since. The current team consists of a good mix of young and old including 35 year-old captain Patrice Evra.
France however has had a lot of inconsistent moments in the months since the World Cup. They’ve had some noticeable losses to Brazil 3-1, Belgium 4-3, England 2-0 and Albania 1-0. They’ve also had some noteworthy wins like the Netherlands 3-2, two wins against Denmark last year and a 2-0 win against Germany which occurred on the day of the Paris attacks. France could just come alive as host nation again.
Romania (19): Romania is a team whose success seems to come in waves. There’s usually a time when the team has what it takes to go far or a time when the team doesn’t have what it takes to even qualify. I still remember the period of time after the Romanian Revolution of 1989 when they had their best World Cup success and even made it past the Group Stage of Euro 2000 for the first time ever. The team is hoping to bring its success back here in France. However it won’t come without challenges. They did succeed in qualifying for Euro 2016 but drew in four of their last five matches. They have been able to bring both Italy and Spain to draws in the last 12 months so they are able to prove themselves to be tough opponents. We’ll see how they turn out here.
Albania (45): This is Albania’s first ever appearance not just at a Euro but at any major tournament. Albania may lack the past successes of the other three teams but they are very capable of pulling surprises. That was especially noteworthy during their first game of Euro 2016 qualifying against Portugal whom they beat 1-0. Portugal’s loss embarrassed the team enough to find a new head coach. They’ve delivered other surprise wins over the past two years like 3-0 to Serbia and 1-0 to France. Albania still has a ways to go to prove themselves further. They’ve lost to Austria and Italy and have drawn against Georgia and Kosovo. However Euro 2016 could prove to be the stage for another upset by the team. They’re in their best form ever so now’s the time.
Switzerland (14): Switzerland is a team that’s also either on or off. They’ve been on at the World Cup when people least expect it but they’ve also been off especially when they play at the Euro. In fact they’ve never made it past the Group Stage in the three previous Euros they’ve played in. The current team doesn’t have that consistent of a record right now. They may have had notable wins against Slovenia and Austria but they’ve also had notable losses against Belgium, England, Slovakia, Ireland and Bosnia-Hercegovina. The latter is a bit disheartening since current head coach Vladimir Petkovic is from Bosnia. However they will have to come alive in France if they want to develop their reputation.
Trivia: Switzerland’s first Euro game against Albania should be noteworthy since six members of Switzerland’s team are ethnic Albanians!
MY PREDICTION: As I said, I only plan on predicting first, second and third. I expect France to come out on top with Switzerland second. I’ll take a chance and say Albania will be third.
And there are my thoughts on the first Euro 2016 group. Five more group reviews to go.
Here are my other group predictions:
Normally you’d expect me to make quarterfinal predictions today. I made my quarterfinal predictions same time as my Round of 16 predictions. Actually I made a recent edit on my quarterfinal predictions since I got two wrong. Check the edits here. In the meantime I’ll tell you all about my experience seeing a Women’s World Cup game. It was Sunday, June 21st–Father’s Day in North America– and I was to see the Canada vs. Switzerland game live at BC Place.
This day was three weeks in the waiting for me. I bought the ticket during the Trophy Tour with the hopes that Canada would be the team to play. It seemed right. The berth was to go to the team that finished atop Group A and Canada looked like it had excellent chances. However I know there are no guarantees in sport. When I bought the ticket, I had the attitude that if Canada doesn’t play this, I’d still see it as this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. I paid very close attention to how Canada was playing here. Yes, I was nervous after the draws but Canada did top their group and did become the team I wanted to see.
It was also a chore to see who Canada’s rival was. I knew it would be the third-place team from either Groups C, D or E. Wikipedia explained the match allotment for the third-place teams. Over time it was decided it would be Switzerland. I was confident Canada would win this. I heard two different sides of things as far as stats go. One was from Wikipedia; Canada has played Switzerland five times and won four. Another was from FIFA.com; Canada never played Switzerland before. What’s up with that?
I got off at the Stadium Skytrain station 45 minutes before the start of the game. Just as I was walking up Beatty St. to the stadium, you could tell the crowds were getting bigger. The streets had banners of the WWC. BC Place had decorated their walls with the WWC images. By the time I arrived at the main entrance at Gate A, there was already a load of people trying to get in. Of course there were a lot of Canadian flags and people with their faces all painted. The most I wore that day was a Canada shirt that said ‘Strong And Free.’ Yeah, I kept my fanfare conservative.
Despite the long lineups there, I tried making my way to Gate F as my ticket said ‘Enter Gate F.’ I made it past the lineups at Gate H and Gate G but saw any access to Gate F blocked off. Fortunately I saw someone in the lineup of Gate G who said they also had the same instruction as mine did. I took Gate G instead. Security wasn’t too much of an issue. They did have to check bags. It was a typical routine stadium check. It’s not like the Olympics where entering the event is like going through an airport.
Once inside BC Place, I wanted to do some looking around and see what they had up for the World Cup. Not too much except they did have WWC images in the walls and they had the WWC take over the stadium confectioneries charging their own prices which were way higher than during any Lions game. This was the first time I had to spend over $5 on a pretzel. I didn’t even have to spend that much during the Olympics. There were even WWC souvenir vendors. It was mostly T-shirts and scarves. I was hoping there would be something like glassware or spoons to give my parents as gifts. I wanted to look around, see the shops, see the fanfare. I even wanted to spot a few Swiss in the crowd. I was fortunate to do so.
I made my way to my seat in good time: 25 minutes before kickoff. At first the stadium didn’t look all that filled but it would build over time. Both the Canadian and Swiss teams were training on the field. Then they had to make way as someone was driving a sprayer over the field to spray water. I thought that was odd. Spraying water on artificial turf? Actually I think they did that so that players wouldn’t sustain the dreaded injuries feared before the start of the WWC.
Then the game began. The FIFA flags came out, the flags of Canada and Switzerland came out, the FIFA Anthem played and then the ref and the teams came out. As tradition at all FIFA games, the national anthems of both countries were played. The Canadian crowd was respectful during the playing of the Swiss national anthem but of course they erupted into singing to ‘Oh Canada.’
Then it was game time. Interesting how you’re trying to watch a game and take a lot of pictures at the same time. I was seated near a net. During the first half, it was Canada’s to save and Switzerland’s to challenge. During that time, I was able to watch some good defensive skills from Canada but I was also watching in fear. Any miss could lead to a goal from Switzerland. Over at the other end, it was Canada’s domain to score and it was hard to watch from where I was sitting. Often I had to look up to the jumbotrons to see what was happening. One thing I did remember seeing from that far away was Christine Sinclair getting a yellow card. The ref’s yellow card was enough to notice from 80 metres away. One thing to note is that I heard a lot of people saying that there was a lot of terrible reffing in this game. It was interesting trying to take pictures. I didn’t have my mode set on Sport so I ended up shooting a lot of pictures that were blurrier than they should be. I did get some good action shots.
At the end of the first half, the game was scoreless. Canada and Switzerland did attack and did challenge at times. I decided to remain in my seat. There were some players out to train. The sprayer came out again. And Shueme came out to greet the crowds and get pictures from fans.
Then the second half started. Things switched around this time. The net I was near was now Canada’s to score and Switzerland’s to defend. However it was only a matter of seven minutes when I was able to witness the goal from Josee Belanger. The crowd erupted! Actually it was hard to see with everyone standing up to cheer. Even I did. The crazy thing is that right after I sat down, I accidentally put my hand on top of the covered beer of the person next to me, causing a puncture and some spilled beer. She didn’t complain. She even gave me some popcorn to munch on. As for the goal, it was hard to see the actual goal so I had to rely on video replay to see it performed. Belanger delivered when it mattered. Belanger was also the most active Canadian striker that night delivering five of Canada’s seven shots. That goal gave the crowd enough positive energy to start a wave!
One thing about the game is that I was able to see some crazy injuries from where I was. I saw on where Christine Sinclair was lying on the ground. Fortunately she was able to get up. However Melissa Tancredi was less fortunate. She was lying on the ground in pain and yes, she got up but she was limping around and a substitution was needed. Actually both teams went all out and used all three of their substitutions.
Seeing the Swiss action at the other end would make me nervous as I would want Canada to win as would most of the 53,000 others in attendance. Each time the Swiss team posed a challenge, Canada delivered. My biggest memory from that was right into stoppage time, a Swiss player attempted a goal but goalkeeper Erin McLeod caught it and refused to let go, even as she was lying on the ground. It was like she was saying: “No, Canada is going to win this!”
Then the final whistle blew. Canada won! Their first win of a WWC knockout game since 2003 and it made Canada the only other host nation of a WWC besides the US to win a knockout game. The whole stadium was cheering. The whole team gathered to celebrate. Coach Herdman of course was happy. Goalkeeper Erin McLeod was declared the Woman Of The Match. Then the whole Canadian team took their victory lap. This was a great day for Canadians to be happy.
I have to say that watching a football game live is different than watching it on television. It’s exciting to see the action close at you but when it’s far away, it’s hard to tell what’s happening and you have to rely on watching the jumbotron to know what exactly is happening. There were many times I wanted to get some pictures of Coach Herdman and his reactions but my zoom lens wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t even good enough when the action made its way to the other end of the stadium. I’m just glad Canada’s goal happened when I was close by.
The interesting thing I noticed about the crowd during the whole game is that you didn’t see the typical lunatic fringe type of crowd you’d normally see during soccer games in Europe or South America. Makes you wonder what the difference was. Was it because it was a woman’s game? Or because it was held in Canada? Sure there were people cheering loudly, the whole stadium was cheering for Canada and there were the occasional musicians in the crowd but there wasn’t that loud boisterous fanfare you’d normally hear at men’s World Cup games. I even watched the final of the U-20 World Cup that was contested in New Zealand and even there you heard the loud boisterous cheering you’d come to expect from a soccer match.
Nevertheless it was still a good event. The cheering may not have been loud or full of musicians but it was very supportive and passionate enough. That’s especially what I like best about this Women’s World Cup. Every men’s World Cup, Canadians always cheer for another country; most likely the one of their ethnic background. Canada has only qualified for the men’s World Cup in 1986. I don’t think there’s anything bad about what we do but it got on my nerves when I saw tweets and videos from Americans cheering for the USA. They’re not cheering for the country of their ancestry. They’re cheering for the USA! Knowing that cheesed me off. Here we can finally cheer for Canada!
Now when I bought the ticket back three weeks ago, I bought it as my best chance to see Canada play. I did not buy a ticket for the quarterfinal her in Vancouver which the winner of the match I saw would play in. I have to say I don’t mind. Sure, it would have been nice to have a ticket to see Canada play England in tomorrow’s game but I still have the satisfaction knowing I saw Canada play at the World Cup. Even better satisfaction that I saw Canada win. If they win tomorrow, great. I won’t be jealous of those who do have tickets. I had my time on Sunday and tomorrow will be their time.
So that was it. My very first World Cup game of any kind.You can forget about me having a ticket for the final. They all sold out long ago. Nevertheless it was a good experience and I’m glad I had the chance. That’s one item to cross off of my life’s ‘To Do List’ and hopefully chase a ticket or two for the men’s World Cup in the future.
I think Group C will be the hardest group to make predictions for. Why? Because none of the teams have ever played each other in the past. I think the fact that Japan is the only country here who’s played in a past World Cup may have a lot to do with it. For these predictions, I had to rely on stats involving past achievements and recent play results. So without further ado, here are my Group C predictions along with my latest stadium focus and a bonus feature:
-Japan (4): What can I say? Japan have been at every Women’s World Cup since it began in 1991. Japan are also defending Cup champions. The win of the Cup was definitely an upper for Japan since the only other World Cup they were able to make it past the Group Stage was back in 1995. They’ve also won the Olympic silver medal in 2012 and their first ever AFC Asian Cup in 2014. Much of it has to do with the football boom in Japan over the past 25 years. Before that, Japan didn’t have much interest. Over time the sport has boomed thanks to the big success of the J-League for men and the L-League for women.
Their chances of winning again here are quite good. I cannot see any other team in Group C that could rob them of a 1st place finish. It’s questionable once they move into the knockout rounds. They have had a lot of good wins in this past year but they’ve also endured losses to France, Denmark and North Korea. Canada’s the stage for another chapter for the team.
-Switzerland (19): This is not only Swizerland’s first ever World Cup. This is their first ever major international tournament. They’ve never qualified for an Olympic Games or even a Women’s Euro in the past. No doubt they’re looking to this World Cup to make a name for themselves. Already they’ve shown signs of coming of age. Last May they had their biggest win ever: against Malta 11-0. Although I don’t think they’ll win, I feel they’ll fare well. Switzerland has some players who play for women’s teams of the Bundesliga and that will be an advantage here.
-Cameroon (53): This may be Cameroon’s first ever World Cup but they’ve already been developing a reputation for themselves. They competed at the 2012 London Olympics and they’ve been runners-up three times at the CAF Women’s Championship including last year. However women’s soccer in all of Africa is still growing and learning. Nevertheless I feel Cameroon will fare well due to their past experience and the fact some of their players are playing in European leagues, especially France. Cameroon have a lot to learn and a lot of talent to deliver.
-Ecuador (48): Ecuador was lucky to host the 2014 Copa America Feminina. It sure helped them as they finished third thanks to a 3-2 win over Argentina in the final Copa America game and winning the playoff against Trinidad and Tobago thanks to a last-minute goal. Ecuador, like most of South America, have just started to accept women’s football in recent years. Like Cameroon and Switzerland, this World Cup will be a learning experience for Ecuador no matter how they finish.
MY PREDICTION: Without a doubt, Japan will win the group. The rest of the spots will be harder to predict. I will predict Switzerland for second and Cameroon for third. I chose Cameroon because they have more international experience including an Olympic appearance.
Year Opened: 1976
World Cup Capacity: 61,004
World Cup Groups Hosting: E,A,F
Additional World Cup Matches Contested: Round of 16, Quarterfinal, Semi-final
Us Canadians are very familiar with Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. The whole stadium–roof, tower and all– was to be completed by the 1976 summer Olympics. However construction problems and budget problems caused its delay leaving the Olympics with a stadium but no tower or roof. The Olympic left Montreal with such a debt the roof and tower didn’t get completed until 1987.
Since then, things have had easier moments in the early decades. After the Olympics, the Stadium became the main home of the CFL football team Montreal Allouettes and the MLB baseball team Montreal Expos. However ever since the Expos moved to Washington, D.C. in 2004 and since the Allouettes moved to a new stadium and use this one part-time, they’ve lacked a full-time tenant. The venue still does host the CFL’s Grey Cup and host bigger games for the Montreal Impact of the MLS. The venue hosted the visit of Pope John Paul II when he came in 1984 and has hosted many large concerts.
BONUS – MEET THE MASCOT: SHUEME
Shuéme (pronounced shwe-MAY) was first unveiled on June 17, 2014 at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa introduced by Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She would also make an appearance in Brazil last year during the men’s World Cup where she was greeted warmly by Brazil mascot Fuleco and Brazilian football player Marta. She has made many appearances since including the World Cup Group Draw in Ottawa back in December and has toured the country promoting the World Cup event.
Shuéme is a great white owl: a bird common to Canada. In fact the name Shuéme is based off the French word for owl: ‘chouette.’ Her name pays tribute to the bilingualism, multiculturalism and inclusiveness of Canada. She was inspired by the strength and the elegance of the game. Her colors inspire peace and fair play while her hair exudes self-confidence and pride. Her contours denote her ability to grace under pressure and her wings and tail provide precise control and agility needed to play the game well. No doubt Shuéme will make appearances at all the games in Canada and make a good impression at the World Cup.
And there you go. My review of Group C. I’m already at the halfway point. Just three more groups to go.
VanCity Buzz Staff. “Meet Shuéme, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 Canada Mascot” VANCITY BUZZ. 16 July 2014<http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2014/07/meet-shueme-fifa-womens-world-cup-2015-canada-mascot/>
Group E consists of four teams that have a lot of strengths but also have weak sides that are very noticeable. But even though Group E isn’t a ‘Group Of Death,’ don’t count them out completely. Here’s my rundown of the Group E teams:
-Switzerland (8)- It’s a surprise to see Switzerland among the seeded teams during FIFA’s World Cup draw back in December. Sure Switzerland was in FIFA’s Top 8 but traditionally Switzerland was never a football powerhouse. Switzerland has been to the World Cup nine times and have gone past the First Round five of those times. However they’ve never gone any further, not even when they hosted back in 1954. Nevertheless Switzerland has been playing very impressively lately. They especially did well in World Cup qualifying, taking their qualifying group in seven wins and three draws. Of the eighteen games they’ve played in the last year, they only lost one game and that was to South Korea. They’ve also proven themselves further by winning against Brazil in a game and tying Croatia. Chances are Brazil could be the stage for Switzerland’s best World Cup performance ever.
-Ecuador (28)- Ecuador isn’t one of the more celebrated South American countries in football but it does have the ability to surprise many. Ecuador was able to finish second in the Group Stage back in 2006 and advance to the Round of 16 for the first time ever in only their second World Cup. Ecuador however has struggled at the Copa America and has not gone past Round 1 ever in this century. Ecuador did however have a setback last year when one of their best players Christian ‘Chucho’ Benitez died of a heart attack last year at 27. It was a struggle for the team as they saw him not only as a key player but as a friend. Ecuador did qualify for the World Cup finishing fourth in the South American qualifying pool. Ecuador’s play records include recent wins against Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and a tie against the Netherlands. This World Cup will define Ecuador even further.
-France (16)- If anyone were to answer who the seeded team of this group was in the draw, I’m sure they’d most likely pick France. With good reason: winners in 1998 and finalists in 2006. However France has a reputation of being an ‘all or nothing’ team as of late. In fact if you remember the 2010 World Cup, you may remember France had a terribly disappointing time that even cause the president of the French Football Federation to resign even before their last game in Group Stage. Since then, France has worked on rebuilding itself. They’ve done better but it didn’t come without difficulties. France lost to eventual winners Spain in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012. That led to the new coach being fired after just two years and being replaced by Didier Deschamps, captain of the World Cup-winning 1998 squad. France has had an up-and-down time in terms of play. For World Cup qualifying, the team finished second to defending World Cup holders Spain in their group and were delegated to a repechage round in which they were paired up against Ukraine. They first thought it would be easy since Ukraine has never won against France in their seven matches. This would be a surprise to France as Ukraine won their first repechage match 2-0 and would be Ukraine’s first win over France. France knew they would have to give Ukraine a hell of a game in the second match to qualify and a hell of a game is what they delivered, winning 3-0 and qualifying. Recent friendly play has been less stressful on France as they’ve beaten Netherlands 2-0 and Norway 4-0. However they’ve also lost to Uruguay 1-0 and Brazil 3-0. The latter is odd because France has a reputation of being Brazil’s ‘achilles heel’ especially at the World Cup. Whatever the scenario, France will have to prove their comeback in Brazil whether they’re ready or not.
-Honduras (30)- Honduras should be seen as a ‘little giant’ in football. This is their third World Cup and second in a row. However even though they are a rising team that has included making the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals the past three times, they’re still looking for that breakthrough moment at the World Cup. Being in this group makes their chances look next to impossible but you shouldn’t immediately dismiss them or their talent. They have a reputable coach in Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez who coached Ecuador to a Round of 16 finish in 2006. Although most of the lineup including top scorer Carlo Costly play for Honduran teams, They have Emilio Izaguirre who plays for Chelsea and four players who play for MLS teams. They’ve also given Mexico and the U.S.A. defeats in recent play and even tied Ecuador 2-2. So don’t count Honduras out. They may have their best World Cup ever in Brazil.
Okay, my prediction for the two advancers: France and Switzerland. However a surprise from Ecuador is possible.
I like reviewing stadiums but I admit it does get kind of tiring. Fortunately I only have one to review and it’s a good one.
Year Opened: 1969
World Cup Capacity: 48, 849
World Cup Groups Hosting: B, E, F, H
Additional World Cup Matches Contested: Round of 16 (G1 vs. H2)
This stadium has long been home to Porto Alegre’s team Sport Club Internacional. The stadium in recent years has undergone through restoration and developments for the World Cup. For one thing, the stadium received a metal roof with appropriate drainage. Timeliness was a problem as the first FIFA test match had to be scrapped because of construction delays. Yes, even stadiums that already were in existence had problems with renovations. It was however ready for the second test event in February and should go off without a glitch during the World Cup.
And there you go. My take on Group E and another stadium. Hard to believe nine days to go. Hang tight.