POTP Cup of Nations Where Football Isn’t The Most Popular Sport: Matchday #2

For background info, the finals draw, and a review of the opening group games in this prestigious tournament, click here.

First, here are what the group tables looked like going into Matchday 2, with orange and black bars beside names indicating a potential qualifying position:

Group 1 – Matchday 2

Matchday 2 began with Latvia – still using Lithuania’s kit – taking on Japan:

Following their encouraging four goal win against New Zealand in the first match, the Latvian’s were saddened to be down 2-0 mid-way through the first half here, with Japan’s own earlier lethal strikers, Miuara and Kitazawa, back on the scoresheet:

The ice hockey and basketball loving Baltic side did come close through a goalmouth scramble at one stage, went into the break having offered little else:

The second half seemed to be going Japan’s way too, until a goal against the run of play for Latvia set up a hot finish:

But shortly afterwards the impressive Kitazawa sealed it for the Japanese with a fine strike in the area, making them the first team to qualify for the knock-out phase:

Later in the same group came a meeting of two sides not expected to go quite far in the competition, as Puerto Rico and New Zealand both looked to pick up their first points:

The lush grass on display, on which the game was being played, ended up as the only highlight of the first half:

The second period proved equally dull. New Zealand at least managed to get the ball in the net, but it was ruled off-side – final score, 0-0:

Group 1 going into Matchday 3:

Group 2 – Matchday 2

Group 2 resumed with a match drenched in political history, as Nicaragua faced the United States:

An apparent American hand-ball raised a few eye-brows in the second half, before Dooley committed a foul in his box – penalty to Nicargua! But it went off the post and out, leaving the inevitable draw to come into fruition.

Technical purists won’t have been exactly salivating as Estonia took on Tonga next, a combination of teams which suggested a third scoreless draw in a row could well be on the cards:

Minutes into the game, however, the crowd were treated to a truly mouthwatering long-range strike from Estonia’s Zelinski to make it 1-0:

The Estonians continued to pepper the goal from distance for the rest of the half, forcing the Tonga goalie to make some fantastic stops including one double save on a rebound. But the next shot was one too many, as this time the rebound was knocked in by Reim to make it 2-0 by the break:

Estonia continued to control in the second half, testing the ‘keeper with more long-range efforts before Zelinski latched on to another rebound to put the contest beyond reach at 3-0. Tonga did not have a shot in the entire game:

Group 2 going into Matchday 3:

Group 3 – Matchday 2

The meeting of Pakistan and Canada meant another where both sides were without a point:

The Canadian goalkeeper was tipped as a strong part of their team, but Peschisolido became the hero early on with a goal to make it 0-1:

Followed by another great outside-the-box thrunker from Bunbury – 0-2 Canada:

And 0-2 it ended, with Bunbury picking up his second Man of the Match award. The result meant Pakistan’s days were effectively numbered, while Canada looked ahead to Wales next.

Wales themselves, meanwhile, prepared to play Cuba in the other Group 3 match, who had both scored twice in wins on the opening day:

The first half featured several tests for the Cuban ‘keeper, including from this looping header from outside the box that nearly crept in:

And this magnificent save forced on the stroke of half-time from another header (the ‘keeper still wearing the same kit as the outfielders in a stunning disregard of the rules):

But it would be Cubans that would break the deadlock in the second-half. First, a frustrated Speed took down an attacker to concede a free-kick in a dangerous area:

The ball was played in, seemed to hit the ‘keeper, then the post and was knocked-in in the confusion by Ramos. Disaster for Wales, 0-1 Cuba:

A frantic period followed with both sides seemingly really going for it, as Cuba had a shot cleared off the line, and the Welsh a ball trickle by the net that nearly was a late equaliser but to no avail. The result means Cuba are sitting pretty and looking good for the next round:

Group 3 going into Matchday 3:

Group 4 – Matchday 2

Next-up it was The Bahamas, who had held their own with a scoreless draw against Australia last time out, taking on a nation of billions in China:

With The Bahamas tipped as having a strong attack and China a strong defence, another draw seemed reasonable here. But within minutes there was a goal, as Heaney connected with a ball that had rebounded off the post to make it 1-0 Bahamas:

This was followed with an in-box situation eventually finished by Armstrong to make it 2-0 to the islanders by half-time, and queuing quite a strange celebration:

China could offer little in the way of resistance after the interval, with a third Bahamas goal coming midway through the half as Heaney increased his tally. Both teams seemed happy to pass it around the centre of the park for the rest of the game after this.

Finally it was time for a game that warranted a kit change, as two teams who usually wear yellow and green in Lithuania and Australia came up against each other. Now, Australia wore green and yellow:

And a fantastic strike from a boy in green, Trajanovski, gave Australia the lead going into half-time:

Nothing else of note happened really during the second half as Australia held on their lead, apart from this dramatic fall right at the end. Classic lazy tournament game:

Group 4 going into Matchday 3:

Group 5 – Matchday 2

Central America met South America in the third game of the Group 5, with Panama vs Venezuela and a blue-blue shirt clash:

Going into the match Panama had been slight favourites, but within minutes of kick-off Venezuela took the lead through Savarese which made the ‘keeper upset:

Later this was answered by a superb edge-of-the-box strike from Panama’s Avila to make it 1-1, the outstretched goalkeeper having zero chance:

But before half-time, Garcia found himself free on front of goal for Venezuela and made it 2-1, prompting joyous leaps:

The entertainment continued after the break as Venezuela’s goal-scoring leader Savarsese – hat-trick hero from the 6-drubbing of of Philippines on Matchday 1 – received a second yellow and became the first man of the tournament to be sent off:

Panama, who had been defeated by Ireland already, looked to take advantage of the sending off to save their tournament, but soon they were forced to make changes due to injury:

Frustratingly for the Panamanians, the 10 Venezuelans were able to hold on to secure the three points and qualification for the next round, negating the impact of Savarese’s suspension for the last group game against Ireland:

Ireland themselves were looking to pick-up their second win of the campaign and fire a few more goals past the poor Philippines:

The Irish patiently built-up play, not letting their opponents out of their own half for the most part, until Quinn’s initially-saved shot was headed in on the rebound by the same player:

The second-half followed a similar pattern to the first with Ireland systematically breaking the Philippines down, until this time an incredible double save was made in vein against Quinn’s efforts as Cascarino eventually slotted home the rebound:

Some retribution was made later with this punch to the back of an Irish player’s head:

But Cascarino popped up again to score yet another rebound, earning his man of the match award and Ireland’s place in the Round Two. The Philippines, meanwhile, were still yet to register a shot on target in the campaign:

Group 5 going into Matchday 3:

Group 6 – Matchday 2

In Group 6 the huge nation of India again prepared to take on a tiny island state, this time in the form of Fiji having lost to Trinidad and Tobago in their opening contest:

As two of the weaker sides in the competition, this always seemed destined to be a fairly inconsequential match. Despite this, a large crowd eagerly watched on:

At least India were able to get on the scoresheet for the first and then second time in the group, both thanks to Lal at the very start and very end of the first half:

A third was added late on by Singh trough a goal-mouth scramble, with India now hopeful off a possible 3rd place progression route:

Finally for Matchday 2, the aforementioned tropical island boys of Trinidad and Tobago came up against the boys from the north – Finland:

In this battle of “Trin vs Finn”, the teams were extremely evenly matched with many aggressive tussles during the first:

The best chance came after Nieminen took down an opponent just outside the box, receiving a yellow card in the process:

But the shot from the resulting free-kick was blocked:

In the second half the rough play continued with neither side making a break-through, although the Finns held more of the ball and looked the slightly better team:

It then appeared as if both would be happy to share a point, until the dying moments of injury time when Nixon found himself with ball in the box and slotted him a dramatic T&T winner:

Group 6 going into Matchday 3:

***

Here are full results from Matchday 2:

Which, to recap, leave the tables looking like this:

So Japan, Venezuela and Ireland have qualified with a game to spare, while biggest surprise may be The Bahamas sitting atop Group 4 at present. Next time the exciting finale of the first round, with interesting battles set to develop in several in of the groups.

*****

 

 

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