Yesterday was full of big names – Bruce Grobbelaar, Mark Clattenburg, Marius Stankevičius, Paddy Power himself and Matabeleland – but what was the football like?
All three African sides began their CONIFA World Football Cup campaigns yesterday, with mixed results.
Despite hosting the competition, Barawa were last to kick off – meaning all eyes were on Kabylia and Matabeleland at 3PM.
GROUP D – Panjab 8 v 0 Kabylia – Arbour Park
It was always going to be a tough ask for Kabylia against the beaten finalists of the last Football World Cup, and they received a baptism of fire in their competitive debut.
Whilst not as one-sided as the scoreline suggests, with the Northern Algerian side threatening throughout the game, the Kabylians will hope to learn from this landslide defeat ahead of their next game against United Koreans of Japan.
Group C – Padania 6 – 1 Matabeleland (Ndlela 78′) – Gander Green Lane
After a long and arduous journey to the finals, the odds were stacked against Matabeleland in their competitive debut.
Their entire participation was in doubt until literally days before the start of the competition, but last minute fundraising saw visas granted for a 70-hour journey.
Padania are one of the pre-tournament favourites, and their four first half goals proved them worthy of the tag.
Representing a region of Northern Italy, Padania boast a few Italian based semi-pro players, as well as one big name in the form of Marius Stankevičius, the former Sevilla, Lazio, and Valencia defender.
With 62 caps for Lithuania, Stankevičius and his teammates’ international experience proved too much for the debutants.
A quick-fire double followed in the second-half, but to the Zimbabwean side’s credit, they never gave up, operating a high-press through out that game that never really faltered.
Whilst their constant pressing could be cynically labelled as naive, the African side were right to stick to their guns as they eventually got their reward.
A short corner was worked into the box, where the ball met the head of Thabiso Ndlela, who duly sent the ball into the back of the net.
The goal was met by the loudest cheer of the day, as the Sutton crowd have clearly latched onto Matabeleland, who, thanks to their underdog status and fashionable kits, are slowly becoming everyone’s favourite team at the tournament.
Their energy was infectious, and despite the heavy loss earlier on in the day, they were still in very high spirits at the Opening ceremony.
You can see more Matabeleland photos here.
Group A – Barawa 4 – 0 Tamil Eelam (Sambou ’17, Lucien ’31 (Pen.) ’81 (Pen.), Chirchlow ’44)
The third and final first-timers got off to a winning start – getting revenge on Tamil Eelam.
In their first ever international match, Tamil put four past Barawa – but this time Barawa inflicted the damage to cruise to a first competitive win.
The 4-0 winning margin now means, somewhat amusingly, that Barawa’s record defeat and victory is by the same margin against the same team.
In terms of the quality of football on show, Barawa were not totally dominant – but comfortable enough in front of a loud home crowd.
A poor clearance from Tamil’s goalkeeper saw Solomon Sambou strike from the edge of the area to set Barawa off to a flying start.
Shortly after, Tamil threatened to equalise – smacking the bar from range, before a Barawa counter ended with referee Mark Clattenburg pointing to the spot, allowing Shaun Lucien to slot home and double the hosts’ lead.
Gianni Crichlow’s cross-cum-shot from range caught Tamil’s ‘keeper out again, setting up Barawa to cruise to a win. Lucien had another chance from the spot late on, finishing off the game.
You can see all of our photos here.
GROUP A STANDINGS – MATCH DAY 1
GROUP B STANDINGS – MATCH DAY 1
GROUP C STANDINGS – MATCH DAY 1
GROUP D STANDINGS – MATCH DAY 1
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