Sean Colfer has been watching the Mixed division this week and has been looking for evidence that any of the other teams can challenge the USA’s all-star roster.
The United States of America are the best team here. That much is not in doubt. They have played seven games so far before the quarter-finals and have conceded 22 points – an average of a hair over three points per game. They’ve hard-capped everyone. So, with an average score of 15-3, I think it’s fair to say they’ve been absurdly dominant.
So, are the other teams playing for second place? Australia Mixed were the USA’s latest victims, but it seemed to be a very different game to every other the States have played. The Aussies, fresh off dominating their own pool, seemed to hold something back, clearly not wanting to reveal to the Americans (or to possible spies watching from Canada, Great Britain and Japan) all their tactical plans. They were beaten 15-7 but I daresay they won’t be too concerned, and that if these two teams meet again it will be far closer.
Great Britain dominated their pool, capped by a fine 15-13 win over Japan, but fell in their crossover to Canada, 15-9. The first half was close but the Canadians ramped up the pressure in the second half and managed to run away with it – their loss to the Czech Republic grows ever more baffling.
The quarter-finals are now set, but should really be a formality in most cases. The Canadians and Brits are a class above their opponents and, while the Japanese are a very strong team in their own right and could well prove a challenge, the Aussies seem to me to be the second-best team here, at worst. The Filipino team have drawn the short straw and will have to find some way to stop the runaway train that is the USA. Spoiler; they won’t find any way at all.
That means Great Britain will have to face USA in the semi-final. The GB team is very good, and they use their very talented female players more than pretty much any other team here. The problem is that the Americans are more talented – no shame, since this American team is special – and full to the brim with confidence. Containing their offence is a Sisyphean task; take away one option and they’ll find another to pound you with. GB will give it their best shot, but I fear it won’t be enough.
That leaves the Canadians or the Australians. The team with the best shot is, I think, Australia. In Tom Rogacki they have a handler who can dictate the pace of the game and make throws to all parts of the field. In cutters like Dani Alexander, they have players who can challenge the USA physically and take away the advantage they’ve enjoyed on that front all tournament. Finally, and possibly most crucially, they have an unshakeable self-belief in their ability as a team, and have oozed confidence and composure throughout the week. Will it be enough? I doubt it. The USA are just too good, but Australia won’t leave anything behind in the attempt.