Nations Cup revisits World Cup mania

By Don Fennell

Published 10:35 PDT, Wed July 18, 2018

Every four years, the World Cup captures the attention of football (or soccer) fans around the globe.

While the 2018 tournament that played out in Russia was an exclusively European event from the semifinals forward, North American footballers were just as tuned in and passionate to cheer on their favourite side as ever.

But after every World Cup, the same question is asked: how to transfer that interest here at home.

“I believe the World Cup certainly has the potential to increase the excitement and atmosphere at the 2018 Nations Cup,” says Jeff Wilson, chief organizer of the annual Richmond summer soccer festival, kicking off for the 39th consecutive year July 20 to 22. “It seems to remind people of the energy and passion that international provides. It’s that same passion and international flare that the Nations Cup brings.”

From its inception, the Nations Cup has always been unique. Grouping players based on their ethnic backgrounds or countries of origin creates an exciting atmosphere that promotes ethnic pride.

Each year, more than 1,000 players and 5,000 spectators converge on parks throughout Richmond to watch the action. Various age groups take to the pitch to compete for bragging rights, from the Open Age men’s and women’s divisions, to the men’s Over 30, Over 38, Over 45 and Over 52 divisions.

The same 16 teams that made up the men’s Open Division in 2017 will again be in the spotlight this year. But while Italy topped India in last year’s final, there’s no guarantee of a repeat performance.

“Until the first round of matches kick off on the evening of July 20, it’s difficult to know which teams might be vying for the championship,” says Wilson. “That said, there is a very interesting group to watch in the round-robin stages as several formidable competitors—Germany, Italy, Ireland and Fiji—all find themselves in Group A.”

Only the top team in that group will advance to the semifinals, with the others bowing out at the group stage.

The top seeds from each of the other groups are, of course, also anticipated to be strong, says Wilson. Those top seeds include Iran, Croatia and Canada.

In the Women's Open division, look for perennial favourites such as Canada, Ireland, India and England to be among the top competitors, with newcomer USA, who come up from Seattle, possibly adding to the mix of contenders.

For team groupings and schedule of the 2018 Nations Cup tournament, click here.

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