MATCH 1 - USA V NETHERLANDS
DUTCH HOSTS OPEN TOURNAMENT WITH STRONG PERFORMANCE
The United States showed up with energy and patriotic enthusiasm, warming up pre match: the entire team wrapped in a single US flag, like a patriotic burrito, singing the national anthem while waddling like penguins, and debuting a fierce “RED WHITE AND BLUE / SEA TO SHINING SEA" chant.
Yet as the U.S. often finds when they go abroad, the world is waiting for them.
The Dutch team, bedecked in orange and green, came out swinging, with team captain Taco Hidde Bakker dribbling unstoppably through the US defense in a chilling sign of things to come. Within a few short minutes, the Netherlands had peered through 4 unanswered goals, a deficit the US would struggle to close for the entire match.
US Captain Gregory D. Manley had the first opportunity to equalize with a penalty, and the first U.S. goal from open play came from a ball stalled in the key finally finished by a dive from Guy Yedwab. In the end, it wasn't enough, and the first quarter ended with a dramatic 6-2 lead for the Netherlands.
It would get still worse in the second half, as the Dutch – clearly familiar with each other's style of play – outpaced the US players and played crisp 1-2 passing.
The US started to turn things around just before the end of the second half (which ended 15-7), with a trick kickoff to score a sneaky goal, and adjusted tactics for the second half to come out strong.
By the end, the gap had narrowed back to a final score of 23-17, but it was too little too late -- the Netherlands had claimed the first ever victory in a Circle Rules World Cup.
MATCH 2 - BELGIUM V GREAT BRITAIN
A NAILBITING GAME BREAKS IN FAVOR OF GREAT BRITAIN
Belgium, with players representing from the cities Antwerp and Brussels, took the field in minimalist red shirts with a black yoga ball silhouette. Meanwhile, Great Britain took the field in blue shirts with the Union Jack that proudly declared “Made In Bristol,” having left their home country at 4AM that day.
Immediately, the differences in national style took hold, with Belgium preferring to dribble the ball with feet low across the ground, while Team GB favored a chest-to-chest passing game. The tone of the game was set early, when Belgium’s Maarten Goedemé opened the score only to be equalized by GB’s Dave Ayling off a timely interception.
The game was end to end, spinning around the goal. Each time one team scored a goal or two, the lead would be erased quickly. The UK players enjoyed some flair in possession, showing off tricks, fakes, and step-overs (including a memorable hand-waving dance David Otridge); the Belgians opted for a more direct, physical play, shouldering their way to the ball and blocking with long arms.
Rapt spectators truly had no idea which way the game would turn, as both the 2nd and 3rd Quarters ended with in a tie (5-5 and 7-7 respectively), as each side mounted a quick lead in turn only to concede moments later. In the end, Great Britain gained a 2 point lead in the final quarter, and managed to hold on even as Belgium scored one last goal in the dying seconds of the match.
Match 3 - Great Britain v USA
USA SECOND HALF COLLAPSE EXTENDS UK STREAK
The USA took to the field still smarting from their opening defeat, looking to regain their pride against a UK fired up from their own narrow victory
A light but constant rain set the scene for the game, as technique and intricate passing was foiled by slick grass and a slippery ball – perhaps memorably summed up by Scott Riehs attempting a dive but winding up flopping on the ball in the key. (Don’t worry readers; his next attempt was a fantastic diving goal).
With difficulties moving the ball and difficult conditions, the first half was particularly close and low-scoring, ending 7-7.
In the second half, however, everything changed. The UK used long runs and long passing to stretch out a US team that was already running on fumes, applying more and more pressure until technique and focus broke down. In the 3rd Quarter, the UK scored 7 unanswered goals, creating a gulf that the US couldn’t recover from.
With an inspiring team talk from Scott and some heroic play from Captain Gregory D. Manley, who covered every inch of the field and gave a rallying cry to his troops, the USA managed to hold the 4th Quarter even, but the disaster couldn’t be reversed, and the game ended UK 20 – 13 USA.
MATCH 4 - Belgium V NETHERLANDS
BELGIUM MAINTAIN LEAD TO DEFEAT NETHERLANDS
The fast-paced Dutch, buoyed by their dominant victory at the start of the day, took on the physical Belgians, still looking for a win after their tight opening loss.
Quick passing games and circulating the ball did not prove as effective for the Netherlands against the low-passing play of Belgium, who established a lead over the 1st Quarter and never surrendered it.
Play circulated quickly back-and-forth in an absorbing end-to-end game, but tough Belgian man-marking often forced the Netherlands to take quick shots from further from the goal, and when the ball missed wide, Bram Velkvermans or Jasmyn Post would snatch a quick rebound goal.
Although the Dutch made back ground in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, relying on the long arms and fast legs of Captain Taco Hidde Bakker or Michel Vaanholt, Belgium pushed ahead again in the final quarter to end the game leading 20-17.
MATCH 5 - USA V Belgium
BELGIUM GIVE UP FIRST HALF LEAD TO GIVE USA FIRST WIN
A Belgium team carrying some physical injuries came out to start Day 2 against an as-yet-winless USA team with something to prove. Still, American Spirit was on display with more mind games and innovative kickoff strategies, including one kickoff where everyone is on their belly, or another where Scott Riehs kicked Guy Yedwab between the legs from behind...
At first, Belgium kept focus and built an early lead through fast moving play around the key and quick shooting, but the US players started to come back in the second half, finding a rhythm and frenetic energy, scoring many goals through diving into the box or running directly at the key. Sasha Aleksandra Arutyunova proved crafty, poached diving goals and giving more variety to the USA offense.
The US continued to change up strategies and points of attack - sometimes successfully and sometimes not - and managed to sneak back to a tie at the end of the third quarter before finishing strong with a narrow win. Final Score: USA 24-20 Belgium.
MATCH 6 - NETHERLANDS V GREAT BRITAIN
NETHERLANDS RECOVER FROM EARLY STUMBLES TO WIN FINAL GAME AGAINST UNITED KINGDOM
Perhaps too soon, the final game of the Circle Rules Football group stage arrived: the Netherlands hoping to book-end the group stage with wins, and the GB aiming to defend their winning streak.
The Dutch got off to a rocky start, with some own goals and quick turn-overs leading to the GB establishing a healthy 4 point lead, with GB’S Dave Ayling staying close to the goal to swat shots out of the air, and Alice Jones on the other side to score off a quick rebound.
But never count out the long legs and long arms of the Dutch offense: by the 2nd quarter they had found zoned in on the target -- particularly Michiel Vaanhold, who ended the first half with more goals than the GB combined (if you count a few own goals...).
GB started the second half down, but not out, and fought hard to swarm the Dutch players, but still couldn't find their way to slow down the assault. The game kept close through the 3rd quarter, but in the final quarter the Dutch drove the knife in with an aggressive display, ending the game with 23 goals to the GB’s 12.
CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH - GREAT BRITAIN VS THE NETHERLANDS
THRILLING CONCLUSION AS UK TOP DUTCH HOSTS FOR THE WIN
You really had to be there.
In perhaps the most thrilling match of the weekend, Great Britain rematched against the Netherlands immediately after lunch, only this time with a trophy on the line.
Clearly, Team GB used their break well: coming out of the gate with a surprising tactical shift, sending two defenders to box out any Dutch player with the ball. This forced the Netherlands to play far from the key, with difficulty getting passes to their teammates, and often forced into tough long shots.
But let it not be said that the Dutch were dominated: they made use of the ball quickly when they had opportunities, leveraging fast one-two passing to try and get behind the Brits, trying to force their way to the key to get a quick short shot.
Every point was hard fought, and the first quarter ended tied at 3-3, after David Otridge dramatically saved a penalty kick by leaping from behind the goal in the nick of time.
Taking their chances, Team Great Britain slowly built a slim lead quarter over quarter, and defended it with aggressive pressing defense until, at last, the final whistle. Score: GB 13 - 9 Netherlands.
And Team GB takes the trophy home to Bristol as Circle Rules Football's first-ever World Champions.