Friday, 8 June 2018

TLFG: Saturday 9 June 2018

Ten days since getting underway, the CONIFA World Football Cup has reached its final day.

Conducted at a breathless pace, the tournament has been a joy to watch as teams representing 'nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories' have put themselves firmly on the football map, certainly in the minds of all those watching.

With an average of over four goals per game, a number penalties, red and green cards - entertainment has been in rich supply.

There was drama too in the form of the Ellan Vannin/Barawa 'ineligible' player row which threatened to derail the tournament at the end of the group stage and the effects will still be felt on Saturday as the 15th/16th Placement Match has been turned into a dead rubber.

The form book has also gone out the window with a number of shocks and upsets along the way. Neither the current leaders in the rankings nor the reigning world champions made it to the semi-finals and a team who filled in at short notice have gone all the way to the last two and could well win the whole thing.

Northern Cyprus make it 2-2 against  Padania shortly before scoring the winner which sent them to Saturday's final
The fans of various nations have also made their mark on the tournament - be it the music and colourful clothing of Matabeleland and Tibet, the pyro of Szekely Land or simply the large numbers of vocal fans from Northern Cyprus and Abkhazia.

If you haven't been to a game yet, Saturday is your last chance and Enfield is the place to be. If you want, you can get tickets to watch the Third Place Play-Off (3pm) and Grand Final (6pm) played back-to-back and then watch the Closing Ceremony afterwards. We should get the biggest crowd of the tournament by some distance and the atmosphere should be great.

You can buy tickets in advance here or you can take a chance and pay on the gate.

There is also a range of merchandise you can order online or buy at the stadium - CONIFA is a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers, all purchases will make a difference.


For a flavour of what to expect from a Northern Cyprus game at Enfield Town watch this fine piece by
 'Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game

My tournament so far has seen me watch Northern Cyprus draw 2-2 with Abkhazia, Matabeleland beat Tuvalu 3-1 and on Thursday I went to the thrilling semi-final between Northern Cyprus and Padania where I took the photo above.

I've got my ticket for the final and am genuinely rather excited. The buzz around the tournament has been great and I believe CONIFA are set to announce who will host next year's European Football Cup before the end of the tournament - the last I heard was that County of Nice and Nagorno-Karabakh were the two main contenders.

Don't forget that individual membership of CONIFA is available to anyone for 25 euros giving you the chance to vote on all kinds of things at the AGM - I got mine a couple of months ago.


Copies of the official programme are available at grounds and a rather good

There are eight matches in the tournament on Saturday with several grounds hosting two games so a double or triple, at a push, is possible. The only realistic possibility of this is if you shuttle between Fisher, Haringey and Enfield but a car or bike will be required to see all three games. Please note, that a significant part of the London Overground network is shut on Saturday making travel to games at Haringey and Enfield less straightforward than normal but more on that below.

As always, please make sure you check with clubs before you travel just in case a game has been called off or venue has been changed. Also, please let me know if anything is wrong or missing.

Details on all of this day's games can be found on the following match maps. If you've never used them before, please note that when there is more than one match at a specific ground you'll only be able to see individual match pins if you zoom right in. If you don't, the pins obscure each other and you might miss them. To avoid this, you can also scroll down the list of games on the drop down menu at the top of the map page to make sure you get all the information.

MATCH MAP 9 JUNE





Saturday 9 June

CONIFA World Football Cup Final Day

If you've come late to this, you might not be aware that after the group stage no-one gets entirely eliminated. Those who finished in the top two in their groups move forward to the quarter-finals in the traditional sense while the remaining eight, rather than go home, move into a placement competition to see who finishes in 9th-16th.

With the quarter-finals completed, all the losers from those games move into the placement competition for 5th-8th, while the losers of the first round of placement games move into a new contest for 13th-16th. After the semis, we get to see who will contest the third place play-off too. This guarantees that each team which makes the journey to London plays six games and gets their money's worth.

Tickets are £12 adults, £6 U18s per game on the gate. Seeing two games at two different grounds is possible on Saturday with matches at taking place at 12pm, 3pm and 6pm. If you're prepared to shave off a few minutes at the end or start of a game, squeezing in a third could be done as well if you go to the 12pm game at Fisher, the 3pm one at Haringey and the final at Enfield at 6pm but you will need your own transport to have any chance.

Please be aware that a large chunk of London Overground is shut on Saturday so there will be no train service to White Hart Lane, Southbury or Enfield Town. Therefore if you are travelling to the games at Haringey Borough or Enfield Town by train you are advised to catch a Piccadilly Line train to Wood Green for the former or a Great Northern service from Moorgate to Enfield Chase for the latter.

Here is a rundown of what's on:

Grand Final and Closing Ceremony

Karpatalya v Northern Cyprus @6pm - after 10 days of international competition, the CONIFA World Football Cup comes to an end with this intriguing contest at Enfield Town's Queen Elizabeth II Stadium. These two started the tournament by playing each other in Group B on the opening day. Karpatalya, made up of ethnic Hungarians based in Ukraine, came in as late replacements for Felvidek so not many knew what to expect of them. When they held one of the favourites to a 1-1 draw, people started to take notice. Two games later, they had won the group after beating reigning champions Abkhazia and Tibet. They notched up further victories over Cascadia and Szekely Land to make the final, meaning the only team they failed to beat were Northern Cyprus.

Mustafa Boratas's side look the stronger on paper and are one of the big boys of CONIFA. Runners-up in last year's European Football Cup, they arrived in London at number three in the rankings. The draw against Karpatalya was followed up by a win over Tibet and another draw against Abkhazia. However, with this less than stunning group stage performance behind them they then thrashed Barawa 8-0 and came from behind to beat Padania, who looked like champions up until that point, 3-2 in the semi-finals.

This game will undoubtedly be close again but that doesn't mean there won't be goals - this tournament has produced loads with 157 from 38 games (excluding the two friendlies following the exit of Ellan Vannin) which is an average of over four per match. With a large Turkish Cypriot community based in north London and all the other squads and many of their fans present for the Closing Ceremony after the game, there should be a very decent attendance and fantastic atmosphere. Don't miss out - book your ticket online now and print it out before you set off.

Third Place Play-Off

Padania v Szekely Land @3pm - the pre-tournament rankings suggested that Panjab or Padania, the top two, would make it to the final. As it turns out neither of them did. Panjab never got going but more on them later. Padania, on the other hand, came flying out of the blocks and crushed Matabeleland 6-1 in their opening game. They then put eight past Tuvalu before beating Szekely Land 3-1 in a more challenging fixture to win the group. In the quarter-finals they put an end to Panjab's title hopes before meeting Northern Cyprus in the semis. They led twice in the match before conceding two late goals to lose 3-2. On reflection it looks as if Padania had a considerably easier group than Northern Cyprus and perhaps their huge wins distorted my and many others views of just how good they were. Szekely Land are by all accounts a very competent side and play some good stuff but, as already mentioned, they lost pretty comfortably to the Italians on Sunday so might struggle here. However, the disappointment of their semi-final defeat could weigh heavily on the Padania squad and they might struggle to motivate themselves for this one

5th-6th Placement Game

Cascadia v Panjab @3pm - Cascadia, the sole representatives from North America, had never played a game before arriving at this tournament so it was no surprise when they lost 4-1 to Ellan Vannin in their opening game. However, they bounced back superbly with back-to-back wins over hosts Barawa and Tamil Eelam. They thrashed the latter 6-0 to edge ahead of Ellan Vannin on goal difference and make the quarter-finals.Sadly, their progress ended there when they came up against eventual finalists Karpatalya but they still gave a good account of themselves in a 3-1 defeat. They returned to winning ways in their first placement match, thrashing a previously impressive Western Armenia side 4-0 so come into this game in good form. As mentioned above, Panjab arrived in London as CONIFA's top ranked team so a possible fifth-place finish must be seen as a disappointment. With only two wins from five games they certainly don't deserve any more but when they click they really click - the two wins came against Kabylia (8-0) and Barawa (5-0). This could be one of the games of the day

7th-8th Placement Game

Barawa v Western Armenia @3pm - despite being tournament hosts, Barawa weren't expected to do too much with some of their warm-up games ending in heavy defeats. However, with two wins over Tamil Eelam and Ellan Vannin they ended up topping Group A. Unfortunately, the 'ineligible' player complaint by Ellan Vannin then kicked off and although exonerated by CONIFA , the side have never been the same again and have since been heavily beaten by Northern Cyprus and Panjab. It's been a similar tale for Western Armenia who won Group D, beating Panjab in the process. The two games since the group stage have both ended in 4-0 defeats as ill discipline, among other things, has taken its toll. When you get to this part of the placement competition, it's quite hard to predict what will happen as all the teams are in bad form and losing games - hopefully this will lead to an open game

9th-10th Placement Game

Abkhazia v Kabylia @3pm - Beslan Adzhinzhal's side began the competition as reigning World Football Cup champions having won the event two years ago when they hosted it. After a solid 3-0 win over Tibet on the opening day, it looked like they could mount a challenge again. However it turned out that they'd ended up in what will probably be seen with hindsight as the group of death alongside the two eventual finalists Karpatalya and Northern Cyprus both of whom they failed to beat. Going out in the group stage was not what they'd planned and the deflation among the players was obvious at full-time after the 2-2 draw with Northern Cyprus. Thankfully they haven't let their heads drop and have comfortably won both their placement matches. Kabylia, on the other hand, had a poor group stage but have come alive in the placement competition. Accruing just one point from their first three games, they've since beaten Matabeleland (on penalties) and thrashed Tibet 8-1. For me Abkhazia's extra bit of class should win out

11th-12th Placement Game

United Koreans in Japan v Tibet @12pm - UKIJ haven't done a lot wrong in this tournament, playing some technically good football and defending well so they'll probably feel a little hard done by that 11th is the best they can hope for. Having lost only one of their five matches they have proven to be tough to beat but their weakness has been scoring goals. They drew all three group matches but only scored one - this was enough to knock them out. They thrashed Tuvalu heavily in the first placement game but then drew a blank again against Abkhazia on Thursday. They should get to end the competition on a high though as Tibet, like Tuvalu, have been pretty bad with their best result so far being a 3-1 loss to Northern Cyprus. For Tibet, though, taking part has been a huge success in itself. Pressure has been exerted by China and various sponsors to block them playing matches in recent years so to make it to London and not come last is a big achievement. They and their supporters have brought a lot of colour and pageantry to games and will no doubt put on a good show here at Fisher's ground in Rotherhithe where you could begin a three-game groundhop

13th-14th Placement Game

Matabeleland v Tamil Eelam @12pm - African side Matabeleland have been one of the cult sides of the tournament thanks in part to an engaging crowdfunding campaign before and during the tournament. With some great merchandise available, many locals were turning up in their replica shirts to cheer on their adopted team. Manager Justin Walley has got his team playing with a good spirit and although a bit raw at times, the players' heads never seemed to drop. With one win from four they certainly don't deserve to be finishing last. They even managed to beat Chagos Islands in a hastily arranged friendly on Thursday so it's kind of two from five. Tamil Eelam were having a wretched campaign, losing four and scoring none, until Thursday when they came form 3-1 down to beat Tuvalu 4-3 with a performance that will ensure they avoid the ignominy of finishing last

15th/16th Placement Game

Chagos Islands v Tuvalu @12pm - if Ellan Vannin hadn't quit the tournament over the 'ineligible' player row earlier in the week then this match would have quite a bit riding on it. Sadly, though, they did and left a big gap in the fixture list for the second half of the competition - something which could see them expelled from CONIFA at the organisation's next AGM. In their place have come a Turkish All-Stars XI on Tuesday and since then the Chagos Islands have filled in. Having lost every single game, Tuvalu are good value for a last-placed finish but it's a shame they won't get to test themselves against Tibet who have also lost every game but find themselves in the 11th/12th place game because they received a bye after the Manx side failed to turn up for their match against them. Technically this game is being classed as a friendly and Tuvalu will finish in 15th whether they win or lose

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