WMFC 2023 in Vienna, Austria
27th Annual Championships
On Canada Day the Canadian team found out it’s fate as the draw was made and they fell into a group with Mexico, Great Britain, and the founding team of the WMFC, Catalonia from Spain. A formidable group no doubt. Great Britain are recent back to back winners.
July 2nd, was game day 1
Canada’s opponent …Mexico
A late afternoon kick off made for ideal conditions on a fast turf surface. Canada started strong, controlling possession with a lot of 1 and 2 touch passing. They created a number of quality chances which culminated in their first goal of the tourney when Nubi made a great cross from the left wing and Ous snuck in with a late back post run to one time it home! A great goal to kick things off! As often is the challenge after a big goal emotions get high and can a team manage those emotions and continue to play with focus and effectiveness. Despite being aware of the need for this kind of discipline, Canada struggled to continue playing the same way and found themselves forcing play, not managing the ball as well as they had and momentum swung to Mexico. Their focus was to knock balls deep with the hopes of getting a good bounce on the fast turf. Canada was managing the new pressure and was looking to get back to their game. Unfortunately, a small error of judgement by one of Canada’s Centre Backs allowed the Mexican forward to get by on a 1 on 1 battle for the ball and make his way into the box. He got a shot away that the Canadian keeper got a piece of but it wasn’t enough to keep Mexico from tying the game.
Half time score 1-1
Canada, despite giving up the goal was feeling good about the game and hopeful to build on the good things they were doing in that first half.
The Mexico team was determined and ready for battle. They had a fleet footed younger Doc on their left wing that was posing a challenge for the Canadians in the second half.
A 2-1 lead for Canada came mid way through the second half off a scramble in the box when first timer, Michael O’Brien, slotted home his first goal in his first cap for country. He was making his mark at both ends of the pitch!
An end to end battle continued and with the Canadians under considerable pressure in their box a clearance didn’t make it far enough. Mexico’s player fired the ball back towards goal and the oncoming Canadian had his left hand up beside his head when the ball made contact. Penalty shot for Mexico. Canada’s keeper, Roman, made the correct dive to his right but the Mexican player struck a great pen into the bottom left corner to tie the game at 2
A roller coaster of emotion for sure. The Canadians showed their tenacity and grit as they continued to play with purpose and that focus resulted in a beautiful goal in the last 10 mins. Danny Jones, playing a dominant role in the middle of the pitch, played a great diagonal ball to Ous streaking up the right side. He calmly brought the ball down, did not force a cross when the Mexican defender blocked him, but turned back buying himself some time before calmly striking a great on the deck pass into the pen spot area where a late run timed perfectly by Pawan allowed him to slam home the winner!! 3-2 Canada! Their first opening day win of the tournament!
Great Britain and Catalonia tied 0-0
Canada faces the mighty Brits today in which will be a difficult test.
WMFC Vienna 2023
Day 2 and 3 updates
A busy two days in Vienna, Austria for Canada’s Medical Football Team.
First up was a mid day game in the heat vs one of the top teams in the tournament, Great Britain. Across the board a younger, fitter, and better technical and tactical team than the Canadians. Playing teams like this is a reminder of how far Canada’s team needs to advance to compete with the upper echelon of medical football.
The Brits game plan was to high press the Canadians as soon as their fullbacks had the ball. This worked well for them as their coordinated pressing resulted in the Canadians giving the ball away more often than not and as result they spent much of the game out of any meaningful possession. They typically defend well and were doing so until an unlucky break resulted in GB opening the scoring. One of Canada’s CB’s blocked a shot however it slowed it enough that instead of it going out of play it deflected to the opposite side of goal from where the Canadian keeper dove. The young Englishman had an easy tap in with the Canadian keeper out of position.
It wasn’t much later when one of the Canadian defenders, newly into the game, made a poor touch in the 6yd box basically passing the ball to the oncoming British player who just had to pass across to an open teammate for another easy goal. 2-0 GB
It was a very physical game and despite being outmatched in a number of ways the Canadians weren’t backing down. Despite their will and efforts, the heat and the loss of momentum created an uphill battle the all white Canadians were not going to overcome. Before the end of the half an unmarked British player headed in their 3rd goal at the back post. 3-0 at halftime
The second half was more of the same where the Canadians struggled to maintain any quality possession. The GB team put an exclamation mark on the game with another quality cross and headed goal with about 15 mins left to seal a big 4-0 win for them after tying Catalonia the day prior. Canada limped off the field with their first loss and some need for self reflection.
Before and after game pics below
Tuesday July 4th was game day 3 and things would not get easier for Canada as they would be facing perennial powerhouse Catalonia from Barcelona. Catalonia was needing a win after they had a surprising 1-1 tie with Mexico the day prior.
It was a pretty even game for the first 20 mins with Canada doing a good job of frustrating the Catalans by forcing them into the midfield and not allowing them to play down the line and get in behind their defensive line. However, a team of their quality will make you pay if you give them an opportunity and that is what happened halfway through the first half when their right winger wasn’t picked up and he got down the line and put a perfect cross to an unmarked teammate at the back post for an easy header. 1-0 Catalonia.
Canada has struggled to pick up players in the box and as a result have been victims of a number of headed goals this tournament.
Half time score 0-1
Second half the Catalans came out pressing but Canada did a good job absorbing that pressure though they struggled to create much offence as they often were losing the ball in the final third of the pitch.
About 15 mins into the second half the Catalans went ahead 2-0 when their midfielder struck a perfect shot from 25yds out and surprisingly was able to catch the Canadian keeper off his line putting the ball over his head and into the top left corner of the net.
The Catalans smelled blood and with their two ties knew the more goals they scored the better when it came to goal differential and seeding for the next round. They started pressing and pushing even more. The Canadians were under full assault. Their right winger was able to get down the line and to the touch line where despite being under immense pressure he was able cut the ball back to his on running teammate who timed it perfectly finishing the pass for a 3-0 lead. The Canadians defended furiously clearing the ball off the goal line on 3 successive occasions. Catalonia got one last goal near the end when their left winger got free down the left and crossed the ball onto the head of his teammate for an easy header from the six yd box.
Final score Catalonia 4 and Canada 0
Humbling for sure. There were some positives to build upon but the last two days were especially good for newer players to the team to experience to understand the level of play required to have success vs the best medical football teams in the world.
The good news is there is an off day today and when they get back to playing on Thursday the games will be much more competitive in the seeded playoff round. And we have a better record than the U.S. which is always good
WMFC Vienna 2023
Day 4 of competition July 6th
After a day off from playing where many players ventured out and about Vienna and beyond, the Canadians were back on the pitch during the first day of “playoffs”.
They were excited to be playing on grass for the first time (turf is much harder on the body especially day after day) and also excited to be playing their rivals from the United States. They have a friendly rivalry as they have gotten together with the US team to train and play in exhibition matches a number of times in the past 3-4 springs.
After resounding renditions of their respective national anthems the game was on.
Canada started strong with good patience, good possession and ball movement throughout the pitch. The Americans really didn’t cause the Canadians much trouble other than on corner kicks. Canada, like many teams, has picked up injuries and as is typical in this tournament is struggling to have enough fully fit players to impact the game in an aggressive way. As a result, creating scoring opportunities continues to be a struggle.
On one of the US corners in the first half they were able to pick out one of their tallest players at the back post. He headed the ball off the touch line back across goal and into Canada’s top near post corner. Unstoppable. Down 0-1 at half.
Second half Canada was determined. The US had fresh legs in the midfield and upfront and moved their Captain back into the centre back position to try and prevent any goals against.
Much more possession by Canada was still not resulting in enough scoring chances and the corners they had left them wanting as they struggled to pick out anyone in the box.
Their coach had them go to a back three late on to put more bodies forward in hopes of tying the game up but it just was not meant to be. It’s at this point in the tournament where the loss of three quality players a week before the games began starts to really show.
A valiant effort all around but same result nevertheless….a loss.
Game day 5 is on July 7th and Canada will play a familiar foe in South Korea
For those interested the standings after the group stage is below. Canada’s goal differential in the group stage prevented them from getting into the mid tier of the tournament.
Sorry for the delay in my final update from WMFC Vienna 2023…it’s been a busy few days but the games have sadly come to an end.
Competition day #5 of 6 was July 7th and Canada was up against South Korea, a team they had played against and beaten in both 2017 in Leogang and in 2018 in Prague.
It was a challenging game for both teams playing in the heat of the day on a turf field (4th time in 5 games for the Canadians). Both of those factors plus the general fatigue that sets in contributed to a thin lineup for Canada. Korea while a younger team now was likely feeling similar effects.
Overall it was a good game. Korea likes to play a lot of short passes and rely on trying to spring their taller striker that has been their best player going back to 2017. Canada’s focus was on doing a better job of being patient in possession and creating more going forward. As has been the case throughout the tourney, Canada gifted the Koreans their first goal approx half way through the first half. While Canada had been patient in possession, South Korea was pressing them hard and in one such instance some passes between the back line resulted in Korea’s top striker pouncing on a loose ball at the top of the 18. He made no mistake. 1-0 Korea.
Canada controlled much of the game but continued to break down in the final third, either not taking shots when they had opportunities or forcing passes where a completed pass was not likely. They were lacking a true striker throughout the tournament.
Minutes before half time, Korea played a ball down the left hand side and the right full back and one CB headed after the Korean winger. Canada’s other CB was covering the cut back to the player at the top of the box, while Canada’s keeper was covering the near post. The Korean player managed to make a hard cross through the six yard box and the streaking right winger was able to elude Canada’s left full back beating him to the cross and slamming home Korea’s second goal. That was a tough one for the team to experience right before half and put them in tough going into the second half.
They were determined nevertheless to make a comeback and continued to control possession and snuff out any opportunities that Korea might come up with. They finally broke through with lots of bodies forward and sustained pressure in Korea’s six yard box when Clint scored one five hole (meg) to make it 2-1!
Unfortunately, they left it too late. The ref told them the game was done, though he did allow the kick off. Surprisingly, Korea played the ball back to their midfielder and he hammered a shot from 60 yards out and impressively put it over the Canadian keeper that was out at the top of the 18. The whistle was blown immediately following. 3-1 final for Korea.
Canada was feeling pretty low. The week had not gone how they had wanted. They started strong with an excellent win vs Mexico. They had two difficult games vs some of the best competition in the tournament but didn’t play up to their expectations. They felt they deserved a better result vs USA but they also know if that was the case they should have made it happen. And despite the attrition they had again experienced throughout their lineup they were optimistic about getting a result vs South Korea. Definitely similar experiences to previous years and they need to ask themselves some of the hard questions about their goals as a team and how might they achieve them. One thing is clear and has been consistent since the teams inception, the group of Docs ( new and long time players) is made up of great people. The goals they have had off the pitch are being achieved; getting more involved and taking on roles within the organization, pushing to have more scientific presenters, and ensuring new physicians are getting an opportunity to take part. Can they continue to achieve those goals while achieving the goal of being more competitive on the pitch?
One huge success should be noted and that is Canada’s Vogel team. They are the 045 team that plays in the 7v7 Vogel tournament at the WMFC. This was the third year Canada has had a team in that event and out of 20 teams this year they finished 6th! They had 3 wins and 3 losses, including a shootout loss to Great Britain in the game played for 5th/6th. We expect that team to continue to push for a title.
As for Canada’s 11 v 11 team, they finished their tournament on July 8th with a game vs Puerto Rico. They had played them for the first time in Mexico in 2019 and had a good result. This time they were down to 4 subs and had several players playing injured. Pretty typical for most teams at this stage of the tournament. Good news is they played on grass for the second time which was a relief as it is much easier on the body.
Canada played great possession in this game and had the Puerto Ricans chasing for most of the time. It was clear early on that Puerto Rico had one dangerous player and if they were going to make a game of it, it would be through him. Canada’s back line made adjustments to make sure he was never free and there was always a second player in support to defend when he had the ball. Something happened in this game that hadn’t happened since the first game they had vs Mexico, and that was Canada scored first! Nabil received a ball at the top right side of the box and made a great shot into the left corner of the net making it 1-0
Canada controlled the game the rest of the way and had multiple chances to increase their lead until half way through the second half, Ous made a great individual run beating 3 opposition players before calmly rounding the keeper and putting it into the empty net! 2-0 and that is how it would end up.
A good way to end the week. Bookend wins. Lots of lessons learned on the pitch and friendships and bonds strengthened off the pitch. Some other great news is that Canada had been a leader having had female players with the Vogel 7v7 team now twice and Great Britain did this year as well. The organizers introduced a mixed international team in the Vogel competition this year and the hope is that next year in Australia, there will be the first ever Women’s WMFC with at least four full women’s teams. The mission of WMFC 2023 was to “unite us in Sports, Science and Peace” …I think they more than accomplished that. Another great story was the Ukrainian Medical Football team was able to get enough Docs out of the country for a week to take part and they managed to win the Vogel 7v7 competition…very fitting!