REPORT ON THE US TEAM AT THE WORLD CUP, FRANCE 2017
~ The US team continued its incremental improvement in
World Cup performances in Paris, September 2017 ~
First up on the Thursday before the World Cup was an international 4-team competition called the Tournoi de France. The four-man US team of Daniel Cranston, Christian Filippella, Paul O’DR and Lenny Foster performed creditably over the three matches, with a 3-1 win over Tunisia, 2-0 over Hungary and then 3-1 over a capable but inexperienced French team in the deciding match. Christian won all his three matches, Dan was undefeated, and Lenny and Paul scored important wins at the right time over their Hungarian and French opponents respectively.
The focus and challenge of playing in a World Cup team is to try to galvanize our performances and test ourselves against the best in the world… some of us like the serious fun! Christian, Paul and Dan are all experienced playing in the World Cup and Europe, but for Lenny this was his first time at the top table, and a first World Cup experience can be quite intimidating. Whilst his mind blown by the scale, noise and color of the occasion of 350 players from over 20 countries battling out the week-end, under the pressure Lenny performed really well.
This year the US only took four players, and our particular (high-level) aim was for Christian to reach the last 8, Dan the last 16 and Paul the last 32. All three players fell one round short of that, Dan meeting his match 0-4 against World-ranked no. 2 Saverio Bari in the last 32. Dan was almost out of the tournament in the qualifying group as well but an amazing 4-1 victory with a last gasp goal in the final group game saw him edge into second place on goal difference with three points.
Christian progressed strongly in winning his group including beating the highly-ranked Derek Conti of Malta 1-0, but after a high scoring last-32 match he lost in the last 16, 3-2 in overtime to the creative Jean-Guillaume Einsle from France, after leading 1-0 and then 2-1 with four minutes to go. The margins at this level are so fine, Christian putting one shot to win against the bar, and with a block flick then coming up short, it was game over.
Paul won 2-0 against Abdel Rouis of Tunisia, held Einsle to 0-1 and finished 3rd in the group, his best World Cup performance in 5 years. Lenny stood his ground against tough opposition, including 2016 world champion Wolfgang Leitner and top Italian Luca Battista, and he scored two goals in his three group defeats, an excellent first showing. Even getting a shot at this level can sometimes be a challenge.
In the final analysis, Dan felt that his shooting let him down; Christian demonstrated his ability to win emphatically at this level, and was four minutes away from a last 8 place; Paul showed a different level of mental strength and Lenny now has a choice to make because he showed he has the character to compete at a serious level, and he put in the pre-work to get to that point too in taking up the offer of 7-times US champion Gregg Deinhart’s specialist coaching.
The Open Individual World Cup was won by Remy Huynh of Belgium. Hunyh beat Wolfgang Leitner (Austria) 1-0 in the final.
In the team tournament our aim remains to reach the last 8 of the 16 countries playing. To do that in Paris we would have needed to knock out one of Italy or Belgium, two of the top three teams in the world, as well as beat England, who whilst in our sights have shown the last two years' that they are too strong for us at this point. So we definitely had the toughest of the four groups!
The US lost 0-4 to Italy, 1-3 to Belgium with Christian beating Christophe Dheur 1-0, and finally lost 1-2 to England though we were drawing 1-1 at half time. Paul was unable to hold the draw against Matt Lampitt losing 1-2 and Dan had taken the lead against Luca Martinelli with a few minutes to go only to be equalized on for 2-2. Again, it is in such small margins that 3rd and 4th places can be decided.
Our two group opponents Italy and Belgium went on to contest the Open Team World Cup Final, won by Italy 3-0.
We will continue to use the bright lights of this performance to motivate us to re-focus for 2018, and also work longer-term on the new player pipeline and improving our coaching/training towards for 2020 (when the World Cup becomes biannual). We are able to play together so infrequently during the season in the US due to distances, needing us to focus more on our mental game and tactical awareness, leaving the skills development needing to be done by ourselves between tournaments.
A big thank you from the ASA to the French table soccer federation, Eric Naszalyi especially, and to FISTF, for organizing a great international tournament and giving us the chance to test our mettle. Also to our great player-friend from France Emmanuel Gorgette for his 5th man support to our team. The next World Cup is in Gibraltar in September 2018, and the squad is already readying itself with improvement programs, to try to do the US proud!