Pool F looked to be a very close on before the games started this week, with three strong European teams fighting it out for power pool places – Switzerland, France and Italy. Ravi Vasudevan took in the crucial games between the teams on Monday.
Day two is finished up here in London. For the Men’s division that means that pool play is over and it is time for power pools. Pool F started off with a surprise yesterday as Switzerland notched a nice win over France 15-12. With a traditionally strong Italian team in their pool, it looked like it was going to be quite a battle between Italy, Switzerland and France since only two teams can move on to power pools. Poland rounded out the pool but were not quite strong enough for the rest of the competition and lost by significant margins in each game.
The first interesting match today was between Italy and France. The wind was swirling and the rain driving so the conditions did not make for the prettiest Ultimate. France had some issues with discs slipping out of their hands on simple throws earlier on in the game. However, their tenacious defence always got the disc back allowing the French to hold their points. Meanwhile, Italy was having more problem than just slippery discs. The first break came with a throwaway huck from Italy that France worked up methodically to make the score 4-2. Some great handling from Jean-Sebastien Guillou and Quentin Roger kept the French offense flowing as well as some fantastic catches from Thomas Wiart and Pierre Lemerle. Italy, on the other hand, played, quite frankly, poor offence for this level of play. They just threw away too many discs. Perhaps “huck and D” was their strategy, but they could surely make some better options for those hucks than they did. Despite some great athletic defense from players like Andrea Mastroianni and Filippo Simonazzi, they were simply outmatched by France and lost the game 15-7.
Italy’s next game was against Switzerland. Because of the big point difference here, Switzerland needed to win this game in order to ensure that they won the pool. Italy, on the other hand, was basically playing for pride since they would have needed a huge point differential in order to move on to power pools. Though the conditions improved, Italy still was plagued with problems on offence. Switzerland threw an absolutely stifling zone defence that hardly allowed Italy to throw more than a couple of passes before forcing a turnover. Switzerland also used massive pulls and huge energy to clamp down on all of Italy’s under cuts. Italy had a lot of trouble finding deep receivers and threw some extremely questionable shots, allowing Switzerland to focus on Italy’s short game. Freespeed stars Robin Brüderlin and Luca Miglioretto had a big game but some lesser known players such as Marco Pfister on offence and Levin Sommer on defence made a huge impact. Switzerland were simply too strong for Italy with their clamp down defences and their great offences. They were able to close out the game and therefore take the pool with a final score of 15-8.
I talked to Switzerland’s Luca Miglioretto after the game. Last year the Swiss team did not perform particularly well at EUC and this year the only major tournament they played was Confederations Cup where they lost to the Czechs in quarter-finals. I asked Miglioretto what changes were made to achieve such positive results at WUGC so far:
“First of all, we have a better squad this year. It’s not necessarily the skills or level of play, but it’s the team backing each other with cheering and intensity all through the game. Though they had a break early in the game, we stayed loud and positive through the game to come back and that really helped us get the win.”
He followed up, saying: “Freespeed learned about this at tournaments like Windmill. We don’t have to even be very smart with what we yell. Just be loud and have a presence and the body language that shows confidence. That’s it.” In talks about personnel changes that have helped the team he said: “We have some new U23 players that played in London last year who could not play on the open team at EUC. We also have David Moser who played Masters last year. He is not only good for intelligence and team management, but he plays well beyond what a 39-year-old should.”
I also asked about preparation, since the Swiss allowed their club teams to compete at tournaments like Tom’s Tourney and Windmill while their national team only really played at Confederations Cup in Frankfurt.
“We thought that would be enough, we think that players can develop strongly in their clubs and think that is important. At Confederations Cup we did play well but something just went wrong against the Czechs in quarter-finals. We were up the whole game, but they just got a late upwind break. However, we knew we were better than how we performed there and came here with a lot of confidence going into this pool.”
As for adjustments tomorrow, he told me: “We have the loudness and team-backing but we don’t have the clean game yet. We know we need to have less turnovers when we reach the stronger teams in power pools tomorrow.”
The Swiss will join a power pool with Germany, Austria and Sweden tomorrow. The French secured second place in pool F and will join a power pool tomorrow with Canada, Japan and Ireland.