The World Ultimate and Guts Championships are nearly here. The first pulls will go up at 12.30pm on Sunday 19 June, with the hosts, Great Britain, and reigning champions of the Women’s division, Japan, getting us underway – GB play Canada on pitch one while Japan play New Zealand on pitch two..
In order to bring readers the best, most comprehensive coverage possible, we have enlisted some new writers to cover the 115 teams playing Ultimate (and the eight playing Guts) next week. We asked them all to give us some predictions for the coming week – here’s what they said:
- Who will be in the finals, and who is your tip to win each division?
SEAN COLFER, tSG editor: The USA should make every final given their new, ‘all-star’ squad make up. Whether they’ll have enough to pull off an unprecedented clean sweep remains to be seen, though. Canada Mixed swept everyone away in 2012 (their closest game was 17-9 in the final v Australia) and Australia Mixed have had a strong few years – they reached the finals of WUGC 2012, World Games 2013 and WU23 2015 and Melbourne Ellipsis won the US Open in 2015. The Japanese Women are always a threat, too.
Men’s – USA vs. Canada
Women’s – USA vs. Japan
Mixed – USA vs. Australia
Master Men’s – USA vs. Canada
Master Women’s – USA vs. Japan
Guts – USA vs. Japan
JOSH COXON-KELLY, tSG editor: As we all know, GB are likely to win each division.
DAVID PRYCE, WFDF Video commentator: Definitely USA in all. Canada (Men’s, Master Men’s and Master Women’s), Japan Women’s and Australia Mixed are my other tips. I can’t see USA losing in the Canada finals but in Mixed and Women’s they could be in for a fight.
AIDAN KELLY, tSG writer: I can see the USA making every final. It’s a question of who will be joining them.
Men’s – USA vs. Canada. If we assume most games go to seed, we’ll see a massively important Canada/Japan game which sees the winner avoid the Americans in the semis. If the Canadians can handle that huge early test I make them favourites to make the final against the States.
Mixed – USA vs. Australia. I’d love to see the Aussies recreate their feat from 2012. If they can dispatch the impressive French team early on and prepare themselves for a potential showdown against Canada, they’re a good bet for a podium place.
Women’s – USA vs. Japan. The Japanese are amazing to watch and their unique style seems to be impossible to match, as proven last year at U23s. I can see them making easy work of their pools (until they play Ireland, obviously…) and repeating their 2012 glory.
VICTORIA HIGGINS, tSG writer: From the Women’s side, I predict a re-match of last year’s U23 finals – Japan vs. USA. If the weather is mild, I expect the USA’s height and physicality to secure the win by allowing them to exploit the deep looks, but Japan’s strategical movement of the disc to tight spaces and over the cup will succeed in windier conditions.
RAVI VASUDEVAN, tSG writer: It may be boring but if I’m going to have to bet on this it has to be USA vs Canada in Men’s and Mixed. I think both countries are just too strong. I also think USA vs Canada is a safe pick for Women’s as well but I will pick Japan over Canada to make the final there. They won it in 2012 and their U23 women showed that their next generation has the talent as well.
I think the safest bet is USA to win all three divisions but I think the best chance for them to lose one is in the Women’s division against Japan. I know the talent level of the USA is huge but Japan probably have better chemistry and definitely have a shot to make things interesting.
JULIA DUNN, tSG writer: Women’s – Japan vs. USA. The USA Women’s team will face off in the finals against the Japan Women’s team. Although both North American powerhouse teams have a viable chance at the title, Japan’s win last year at WU23 and four years ago at WUGC 2012 indicates that their national program is growing steadily. Given that they have had more opportunity to practice together than both the Canadian and American teams, Japan will clinch the championship with their team chemistry and their unique style of play.
Women’s Masters – USA vs. Canada. USA, with their stacked team roster, will easily beat all the teams they face at the tournament.
Men’s – USA vs. Canada. Two powerhouse teams that will give each other a hard fight for the championship, but USA will come out on top undefeated by any team, as they did just about a month ago.
Men’s – Masters – USA vs. Canada. Given Boneyard’s team chemistry, this elite North Carolinian Master’s representing the USA at World’s will defeat the defending champions from WUGC 2012, Canada.
Mixed – Canada vs. Japan. The defending champions from WUGC 2012, team Canada, will once again defend their title for their third in a row.
- Which team will be the biggest surprise at the tournament?
SC: The Australian Mixed team, as mentioned, seem a decent bet to do well. Likewise the German Women, who smashed everyone at Windmill Windup this year after a surprising third place at Europeans last year. France Men’s could do better than their 11th place finish four years ago and the Irish, who didn’t attend in 2012, have come on leaps and bounds in recent years across all divisions.
JCK: USA Men’s, constantly in-fighting in pool stages as the players compete for attention, limelight and the ‘likes’ of international superfans will take their eyes off the disc, and, under the added pressure of adjusting to self-officiated WFDF-style Ultimate, implode with a loss in the quarter-finals against Ireland.
DP: India are sending a team in the three main divisions and I am always impressed by their hard work and athleticism. I want to see more!
AK: Poland have stacked their Mixed team in preparation for the World Games and just came third at Windmill so I expect them to rip through their seeding. And while it’s no surprise to me, Ireland Men’s got a tidy result at the same tournament, beating GB. If they can pull out another win like that when it counts, they’ll continue to turn heads.
VH: Pool D in the Women’s division is nearing “Pool of Death” status with several strong teams, but Russia may still be under-seeded; they fought their way to the finals at Beach Worlds in Dubai, and boast a very tall line-up.
RV: This is a toss-up for me between Ireland or Belgium men’s. Ireland have been extremely impressive in the preparation tournament with wins over GB and France and some amazing games. I was able to commentate on their game against Heidees at Windmill and it was just all-out impressive – great efficient offense and such a solid team. We haven’t seen much out of Belgium this year but they have more fun than any competitive team I have ever seen, except for maybe Seattle Sockeye. If they can find that fire they found at EUC I think they will do just fine. I think both of these teams can make it to power pools and one of them may even squeak their way into quarters. Neither is good enough for semis but if either of them make quarters that would be a pretty big surprise and I think it is likely.
JD: The Belgian Women’s team, with their recent fourth place finish at Windmill, could definitely make some noise at Worlds. Placed in the middle of their pool, they could definitely show up well in the next week with their recent win over GB Women on universe.
- What team are you most excited to see?
SC: All of the Americans, obviously. Outside of those teams, it’s great to see India competing in all three divisions and countries like Egypt and UAE involved in some way.
JCK: I’m most excited at seeing the international competition taking on the GB teams. The Men’s squad got to the final at the last WUGC, and are built on a Clapham squad that took Revolver to sudden death in Lecco. GB Women have so much potential not yet realised in their results. The Mixed squad are a skilled and tight knit team that could be GB’s highest achiever. GB Women’s and Men’s Masters both have stacked teams that have both troubled their non-Master counterparts already this season. Outside of GB, I’m excited for any team that whole-heartedly takes on a giant-killing – I’m here for the upsets!
DP: I have never seen Egypt or Korea play before and want to see what kind of style they bring and whether they can push some of the more established teams. Exciting!
AK: India have been really fun to watch at the two World Championships I’ve been to before, even if they keep breaking Irish hearts. Their happy-go-lucky offence that combines big throws with even bigger plays is fantastic.
VH: India, Hong Kong, and the Philippines are each bringing their first ever Women’s teams so it will be exciting to see what strategies they bring to the international stage, whether any star players emerge, and their growth over the course of the tournament.
RV: Germany Women. They had the most dominant performance I have seen out of any team from any division in my six year attendance at Windmill. No team scored more than nine points against them. Last year they faltered in semis against the Swiss but with the addition of Nici Prien and a year of hard determined work they seem to be unstoppable. From what little I have seen of them they have fiery defence and great throwers and receivers. However, for them to get past quarters into a potential semis spot they have to find a way to minimise unforced errors. I saw too many of them in the Windmill final and also in their performance in the opening game against USA at WCBU 2015 last year. However, if they can shake those out of their system then they will be an absolute force to be reckoned with.
JD: I am very excited to see the excitement of all the Indian national teams with their first appearance at a WUGC. I also am excited to watch different styles of Ultimate, for instance, Japan and the Philippines.
- What player(s) are you excited to watch?
SC: There are plenty of stars on the North American teams that are going to be draws for the AUDL/MLU-watching spectators. Personally I love watching the Japanese style with the quick disc movement and unorthodox throwing so Masahiro Matsuno and Yohei Kichikawa are two I’ll be looking out for.
JCK: Outside of GB: Tom Rogacki and John Hassell.
DP: I am a huge Octavia Payne fan and along with Sarah Griffiths this pairing is going to make sparks fly. I’ve also loved watching Dylan Freechild, I want to see him dribbling the ball live.
AK: Khalif El-Salaam (USA Mixed) – The guy. Ridiculous defensive plays and a lot of spicy throws in his locker.
Siva Raman (India Men’s) – Disgustingly fast cutter who was unstoppable at u23’s.
Maria Castillo Viveros (Mexico Women) – Living in Ireland, Maria has added a new flair to the Women’s Ultimate scene here. Will be fun to watch her play with her old team mates!
Matty Feely (Ireland Men’s) – Probably the best player in the country with a disc in his hand. Can’t wait to see him ripping zones apart.
VH: Octavia “Opi” Payne from the American Women’s team is always a fascinating player to watch with flawless command of the disc and jaw-dropping layout Ds. From the Men’s side, I’m looking forward to watching Japan’s Yohei Kichikawa, who bears the burden of being labelled perhaps the best thrower in the world, execute absurd throws to every corner of the field.
RV: Anyone on any USA team will be fun to watch. But on the Men’s side I am most excited to see Canada’s Mark Lloyd. He was out of the competitive game last season but the year before he was looking like a top five player in the world. I haven’t been watching the AUDL or anything this year so I have yet to see if he will bounce back strong or if he will lose a couple of steps. It will be fun to watch either way.
For Women’s, I would love to see Hosokawa on Germany. She is an absolute beast and so fun to watch. Along with the rest of her strong German team it will be great to see her match up with the best.
JD: Too many people! Michaela Meister (GER Women), Dominique Fontenette (USA Master Women’s), Megna Shankaranarayanan (IND Women), Rohre Titcomb (USA Women), Hana Kawai (USA Women), Nathan White (USA Men’s), Sam Linnartz (NZ Men’s), and the greatest and most knowledgeable Ultimate mentor and coach, Alan Hoyle (USA Master Men’s). And finally, all the Dutch superstars!
- Will European teams be able to close the gap on the big four (USA, Canada, Japan, Australia) on home soil?
SC: It’s going to be very tough, I think. There are teams that look strong – Germany and GB Women won Windmill and Tom’s respectively, GB Men’s dominated Tour (before a hiccup at Windmill) while Germany and France Men’s also seem to have prepared well, and GB Mixed are the reigning European champions and are coming in with a Windmill trophy in hand as well. I can’t see it, though, and I’d be surprised if more than three semi-finalists across the five Ultimate divisions came from Europe.
JCK: Do you mean the gap behind them? Why would they want to close that gap?
OK – on-form, GB and Germany Men’s could break into the top four, and when playing really, really well they now have the quality to win, against the USA included. Germany seem to hold the best chance for the Women, but if GB can summon Iceni’s usual form they could bring out the talent in their roster and crash that party. GB Mixed will finish highest of the European teams in their division – they bring finesse and intelligence that, if executed well, could play into their hands against the dominant North American style of hard and fast Ultimate.
DP: GB have a chance to take advantage of true home soil but not sure they have really made ground on the all-star USA teams. Canada have, I feel, remained the same as 2012 and Japan and Australia have good shots also depending on the brackets they fall into.
AK: Consistently across all divisions, perhaps not. GB aside, I’m not sure if there are any countries that have the depth to compete at a high level in more than one division, but with countries that primarily focus on one, I can see a few contenders throughout Europe.
VH: Pool C is the most primed for an upset from a European Women’s team, with Germany, Sweden, and Great Britain all capable of making Canada work to hold the first seed.
RV: What kind of question is this? Two European teams were in Men’s semis last WUGC and GB even took home silver! I think GB and Germany have the best shot in Men’s and both look really strong this year. GB did falter at quarters in Windmill but that was somewhat due to resting Foord for the first half. We haven’t seen much from Germany this year but I expect them to be strong and have a good shot at matching up with the top countries. Also, I am not sure about Australia as they didn’t do so well against Colombia, USA or Canada at Tourneo Eterna Primavera in Medellin earlier this season, but I have no idea how complete their squad was in Colombia.
On the Women’s and Mixed side you never know, but it seems that GB Mixed is in a class of their own in Europe and have the only realistic shot at moving their way into semi-finals. As stated above, Germany Women definitely have a shot at doing some damage. Russia and EUC Women’s champions Finland are also very strong. Who knows? My gut says Germany will make it the furthest though.
JD: Depending on the division, I think Germany and Great Britain could both close the gap. Both programs have grown amazingly since WUGC 2012. With EUC just happening a year ago, these teams have been developing their team chemistry for the past two years.
- What’s the best storyline going into Worlds?
SC: The number of new teams. India (hopefully) sending three teams is fantastic, too. Hopefully one or more of them can be a surprise package.
JCK: The sheer number of nations attending.
DP: Beau has had a major injury; will he be able to play after the Flik clinic? The old Advisors vs Observers debate rumbles on, and in some divisions it looks like a question of who will come third.
AK: Probably having some of the newer countries entering the fray and the sense of mystery behind them, for me.
VH: The Colombian Women’s team is young and incredibly athletic. They will have to rely on their speed to prove that they deserve the top spot in pool D above Australia, who will be out for blood to fight their way back into the top four.
RV: I’m half Indian so I may be biased but I am very excited about seeing the Indian team. Last year in Dubai they snagged a win from Germany Men’s (not nearly as strong as Germany’s grass team). With the addition of Matty Zemel coaching them it will be interesting to see if they can get some structure behind the great athleticism that they definitely have.
JD: India sending three teams to WUGC really indicates the growth in their Ultimate scene in the last couple years. Merely a year after their U23 Mixed team made it to their first international tournament. Given the gendered divide in India with the barriers for women to play sports, it is quite impressive that this team is breaking gender norms by having an entire Women’s team come to Worlds this year. The Men’s team also has their first female coach this year!
India’s Men’s team, the Pride, also deserves a mention here. A team composed of players from cities across the country and different socio-economic backgrounds just faced financial setbacks when one of their potential corporate sponsors backed out at the last minute. Fortunately, the entire international Ultimate community is coming together to help their entire roster hopefully make it to their dream tournament.
- What prediction are you most confident about pre-tournament?
SC: The USA will medal in all of the divisions.
JCK: That we won’t have predicted the most exciting story of the tournament.
DP: USA making finals in every division and Beau not playing until knockouts (if at all).
AK: Someone, somewhere, will drop a pull.
VH: USA’s talent and experience will carry them to the finals of the Women’s division against either Japan or Canada.
RV: USA Men win gold. They will have maybe one or two contested games but never really lose control of any game given their talent level.
JD: Nothing is certain. Since the last WUGC teams have drastically improved their social media, making it easier for people to make predictions. Yet, Ultimate has also grown exponentially, to the point where some nations are showing up for the very first time, giving the seedings some wild cards that may turn into major upsets.
Featured image of top 3 teams at EUC2015 from Danish Frisbee Sport Union Intl
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