The first day is over at WUGC 2016. In the Men’s division, the “Pool of Death” in this format is pool H with Belgium, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and China. Today, we saw New Zealand face China while Belgium took on the Czech Republic.
The first game, New Zealand vs China, seemed intriguing since not much was known about China and there was a possibility that they were underseeded, but New Zealand proved way too strong for the Chinese and won the game 15-2. The other game was a tighter affair.
Belgium and the Czech Republic are both historically strong Men’s teams in Europe. Belgium achieved a great result of fourth at EUC last year in Copenhagen while the Czech Republic got second at Windmill in 2015. The first half of this game was extremely tight in terms of scoring. The Czechs started on offence and held with ease to take the lead 1-0. Belgium then stuggled a bit in their first O point and were stalled out, but got the disc back and tied it up at 1-1. After another hold the Czechs got their first break to take the lead 3-1, which was followed by a Belgian hold and another break to even it out at 3s. The teams would then trade points to 7-7 before a “galaxy point” for half-time.
Though the scores were even at this point, the difference in level of the two teams was starting to show a bit. When Belgium did score they seemed to have a really easy time with it. The strong O-line, with standout performances by Jelle van Collie, Benoit Spapens and Quintin Walsh, did a great job of taking whatever the Czechs gave them. On the other hand, the Czechs were having a lot of trouble despite some great grabs by Filip Halámka and a huge layout D from Martin Prach. They traditionally have a very strong deep game but in this game they just threw a lot of floaty hucks that were usually eaten up by the stronger Belgian defenders. The main problem was that the Belgian D-line did was not able to play patient offence. They had many opportunities that were squashed by a rushed throw. However at 7-7, Belgium decided to take a timeout and throw on a power line. After a huge pull the Belgians came down and completely shut down any prayer of a Czech under cut and after about five sets of dump/swing passes, the Czechs lost the disc on their own brick mark. Walsh put up a huge throw to Piterjan De Meulenaere for the Belgians to take the first half 7-8.
Coach Yves Mans of Belgium made some great adjustments in the second half. He told me after the game: “We had to put more pressure on the marks and take away the under cuts.” As for their problem with D-line offence: “I just told them to be a bit more calm and keep their patience. We were too eager to score on offence and made some bad throwing decisions.” These adjustments paid off and the second half was all Belgium. They rattled off four points in a row to extend the lead 7-12. The defense from Dajo Aertssen, Arno Kuijpers and Raf Celis really shone through for Belgium in the second half and this time they were able to convert the breaks they needed. Though the Czechs did get one more break off a Belgian miscommunication on a dump cut, Belgium held the rest of the game and took it with confidence, 10-15.
Shutting down the under cuts was the key for Belgian dominance. With a weak deep game from the Czechs it was just too easy for the Belgian defense to shut their offence down. The energy from the Belgians was also extremely high throughout the game, whereas the Czechs really held their heads down in that long string of six points in a row from 7-6 to 7-12. If Belgium can clean up their D-line offence they will be a force to be reckoned with at this tournament further down the line.
So, the Belgians and New Zealanders take the early lead in pool H and we are yet to see how the Europeans will match up against the Kiwis. China seems to be not quite be competitive enough for this pool so New Zealand will have a pair of important matches tomorrow against Belgium at 11:30 and against the Czech Republic at 17:30 on field 8. Only two teams get to move on to power pools, and the team who comes second will likely run up against USA and Australia in power pools so there is also a lot of motivation to draw an easier power pool by coming in first.