Mario’s World Cup + WC recap

Please forgive any typos, grammar mistakes, etc., as I just got back into Toronto about 4 hours ago and am pretty jet-lagged. I’ve tried to separate by topic to make skimming easier. There are TONS of photos on our Facebook page, and we’ll be adding them here as well at a nearby date. More photos to come!

Travel

  • I left my condo in downtown Toronto at about 12 PM EST on Tuesday January 3rd. I grabbed a taxi cab and travelled to Union Station, where I climbed onto a GO bus. The bus took me up to Malton, where my mom lives, which is near the airport. I arrived there at about 1 PM. At about 3 PM, Nhu met me there, and we took a cab to the nearby airport. There was a giant line to check baggage, and then another for security. We got onto a very large, very crowded Jet Airways India plane, where we’d spend the next 7-8 hours.
  • The plane landed in Brussels at about 7 AM France time, where we were to catch a connecting train to the Paris Nord (XPG) station in a couple of hours. We spent the time exploring the Brussels airport and catching up on some work that had to be done; we do need to pay for our foosball addiction, after all.
  • The train ride was another couple of hours, and so we arrived at Paris Nord station at about 12 PM local time. From this station, we had to pay for another train to get down to Nantes station. The most immediate one left 2 hours later, so we grabbed some tickets and sat down to have some lunch. This next train trip took another couple of hours, and so we arrived in Nantes at about 4 PM. From the train station, we took a tram and a bus to finally arrive at our hotel at about 4:30 PM.
  • Just so we’re all keeping track, that means in order to get there, I took 2 taxis, 1 bus, 1 plane, 2 trains, and 2 trams. From the time I left my downtown condo, it was a total of about 22 hours later that I arrived in my hotel in Nantes.

Arrival

  • Upon arrival in Nantes, one of the biggest surprises was seeing advertisements for the World Cup everywhere! Lightposts, bus shelters, you name it. Just walking through the town at night in our Canada gear, random groups of townsfolk would come up to us and ask if we were there for the world cup, and to tell us they’d be coming on one of the days to watch. It was an amazing feeling.

Player party

  • Once I got my uniform from our fearless leader, I suited up and headed over to the players party with Nhu. It was set up in one of the city hall buildings. They had about 2 of each type of table set up for demo/exhibition/fool-around purposes. I’d say about 150 players showed up to this. Farid gave an opening speech after a couple of hours, and then drinks and snacks were served while some awesome music played. The entire Canadian team played some pickup games with everyone, and we had some talks about what the coming days would hold. It was a great way to start things off!

Arrival at sports complex

  • The sports complex was about a 5 minute walk from our hotel. Very convenient. I got up extra early in order to get there to get handles and to start getting used to the tables – Christian and I would be starting our singles qualification matches at about 9 AM. As soon as I walked in, I was amazed by the organization and the set up. Just blown away. Flags, tables, everyone in uniforms, bleachers everywhere, a giant pits area with huge video screens.
  • The Canadian team walked over to start renting handles and purchasing balls. They were using the TST system, which would allow you to take your particular handles from table to table. It’s a great concept. They had a variety of handles, but we ended up choosing “American” handles, which were a bit smaller in diameter than the regular Fireball handles. There was a HUGE line for this, of course, as everyone was trying to get ready for singles, and the complex hadn’t been open the night before.
  • I managed to get about a half hour of warm-up time on Fireball and about 5 minutes on Bonzini before the qualification had to start.

Singles qualification

  • My singles qualification pool felt incredibly stacked. I had stiff competition from France, the US, Germany, and England, amongst others. Some names included Yore, Migues Dos Santos (a top-notch French Bonzini player), and Reuben Heinrich (an awesome German player). The way qualification worked was that you would play one game to 7 on either yours or the opponent’s table, which would be randomly drawn.
  • My first match was against Dos Santos on Bonzini. I had had barely any warm-up time on that table, so it was a bit unfortunate, and he took me down hard. I wish we had new, sticky Bonzini balls back home – I stubbed my pull shot about 5 times!
  • The highlight of my qualification round was definitely beating Tom Yore. Neither of us felt at all comfortable on the Fireballs there. I managed to get some key blocks and a couple of scrappers that led me to a 7-6 win.
  • It’s definitely awesome having your country-mates there to cheer you on for every match – a great feeling. Something that you don’t really get to experience at a regular tournament – the patriotism really adds to it! 

Doubles qualification

  • Our doubles qualification did not go as smoothly as we would have liked. In other words – we didn’t qualify! I’m fairly sure that we lost more matches on Fireball here than we did on foreign tables, for reasons explained in a later section. I do know that we won at least one Bonzini and one Garlando here, and still didn’t manage to qualify, which shows just how badly we did on Fireball.

Singles elimination

  • When I learned that I qualified for the singles elimination, I rushed over to the monitor to find out who I’d drawn – naturally, none other than the great Belgian, Frederico Collignon. I’d never played him in singles before, and the world stage was a hell of a place to start. I walked over to the pits area, where they had set up a Leonhart and a Fireball for us. It was a great, fun match to play, even though he beat me in 3 games (out of 5). I blocked his 3 bar at a decent clip, but wasn’t scoring a high enough percentage to win the match. I took 4 goals on Leonhart, 3 on Fireball, and 4 in the last game. It was almost unsurprising at this point that I had performed better on the Leonhart than on the Fireball.

World cup qualification

  • As per the World Cup qualification round, I’ve already written a couple of update posts on this, so I’ll try to keep it brief. Our first round was Italy on Roberto Sport and Fireball. We just barely edged out Italy here, winning 6 games to their 4. They shot surprisingly well and deep on Roberto Sport, and took us all by surprise. They also played a very quick, high-speed game, which we were unprepared for. I was set as the final singles match on the roster, so I was fortunate enough to have watched all of the others play and see how the Italian players performed. When I got to play, we were all even at 4 games each. I won games on both tables to give us the edge here.

Italy-qual

  • A few hours later, we played Slovenia, once again on Roberto Sport/Fireball. Our roster lineup was exactly the same in this match. Canada played really well here, and by the time I started playing, we were up 8 games to their 0! Needless to say, our first match on RS had warmed us up a bit. Naturally, I had to bugger up our perfect record here by losing a game to a surprisingly fast push-kick from the opposition. The team didn’t really let me live this down for the rest of the weekend 😉 , even though we won 9-1!
  • Finland had a lot of new players on their team, as their country is particularly new to foosball. We played only Fireball in this one. This was the final match in the qualification, and when we won this, we got into the elimination round with a perfect record.

World cup elimination

  • In the interest of time, I’m gonna have to start shortening things up here. We played Finland once again in the first round of elimination, and felt incredibly confident when we played them. We beat them and moved on to South Africa. After our match with Finland, a few of us stayed back and attempted to give them some pointers and teach them some drills so they could come back and kick some butt next year!

  • Our second elimination round match was against South Africa. RI-DI-CU-LOUS. This was an incredibly long and exciting match the whole way through. We decided to play with our lineup a bit here, and put me in the first singles spot, Christian in the 2nd one, and Will in the clinch position, putting Barry + Nhu and Darcy + Ben in the doubles spots. This was a bad switch for me, as I discovered when I played. I handily lost 2 games straight to the South African player. His 2-bar absolutely destroyed my zone on both Garlando and Fireball, and I couldn’t pass on either table to save my life. I felt absolutely terrible!
  •  Nhu and Barry fought back and, as expected by this point, lost on Fireball and won on Garlando. They fought a hard 3rd game and came out on top. Christian pulled the reverse, but also won his match. Despite Darcy and Ben’s best efforts and a win on Fireball, they lost on Garlando and in the switching-table 3rd game to lose their match. With the stage set at 2 matches a piece, Will stepped up to the table, looking as confident and aggressive as ever. This had to be one of the fastest matches of the weekend – Will came out of the gate with strong, confident passes and shots, and completely caught the South African player resting on his laurels. Will won the match for us in 2 games straight!

  • Side note – all of the South African players had great 2 bars! Insanity.
  • The final against Slovenia was just an absolute nail-biter. Edge of our seats for every second of it. We would have loved to play it in the pits, but, unfortunately, they had us relegated to an area in the middle of the room, with stands / bleachers. We decided to go with our first original lineup, with the logic being that it had worked quite well when we had played Slovenia in the qualification round. We knew that there was a possibility that Slovenia might move their roster around, but we still thought it was a safe bet. Slovenia did, indeed, move their roster around – and it seemed to improve their team 100-fold.
  • Christian came out strong on Fireball, beating the opponent 5-1. But the Slovenian player fought back on Roberto Sport, and managed to oust Christian in the 3rd game. Barry and Nhu played the second match, losing 5-4 on Roberto Sport, but coming back super-strong on Fireball, winning 5-1. In the third game, there was an incredibly frightening series. Our team was up 4-1. Somehow (I think a distinct lack of timeouts was involved), the other team managed to catch up and make it 4-4! Nhu managed to sink a snake, and Barry closed it out from the back with a short sliding pull shot.
  • Darcy took his opponent to the 3rd game, but lost 5-3, putting us down 2-1 in matches! Ben and Will were determined to fight back. They went in with the same aggression that Will had had in his singles match against South Africa. They won the opening game on Roberto Sport, but lost the 2nd game on Fireball. In the third game, they wouldn’t take no for an answer, (I think they wanted me to redeem myself for my South Africa blunder), and closed out the game 5-2.
  • I was so pumped up to play at this point that I had to take a lot of deep breaths. Oddly enough, once the game started, I felt much calmer than I had the entire weekend, despite what was at stake. With my team cheering me on in the background, and the Slovenians cheering for their mate, we started out on Roberto Sport. I managed to score 4 goals, including a cut-back pull euro from the 2-bar, but lost the 1st game. I had made some observations about his pin-shot. As we went to Fireball, I was fully confident. I blocked his first 3 3-bar possessions. I won 5-1 or 5-2 on Fireball, scoring 4 or 5 pull-side snakes, being patient each time, wearing down his defense.
  • In the 3rd game, we really started to get on each other’s tendencies. It was a back and forth game that went into overtime at 4-4. We each had shots to win on both tables, but the other player always fought back. At this point, the match between us and Slovenia had been going on for about 3 hours. I desperately wished I still had timeouts. Players from both teams couldn’t take much more of this! I went down 9-8 as we went back to Roberto Sport, with my possession. I made a pass and railed a push-side snake, quickly stole the ball and made another pass and shot to make it 10-9 for me…and then we went back to Fireball. He had possession on his 5-bar, and he successfully made a pass. He had been scoring several long pull shots, so I braced myself to bait him. I made 1 block – it went back to his 3 bar. Another block – back to his 3 bar. The crowd was gasping with every shot and block. Finally, on the 3rd shot, I was able to hold on to the rebound.
  • The ball ended up on my 2-bar. For most of this game, when I had it on my 2-bar, he had been using one hand to control his goalie rods, and the other on his 3-rod, leaving his 5-rod unattended to, and off of the wall. I had been dumping up the wall from a pull setup and catching it on my 3 bar a few times. This time, he adjusted his zone so that his 5-bar was on the wall to stop me from doing that – exactly what I wanted! In addition to this, I knew from past experience that once he saw me move the ball, his goalied hand would absolutely bail to stop the long spray. I set up in pull position, waited for what felt like an eternity, made an exaggerated pull motion, and fired the shortest spray I could manage. His goalie hand definitely dove, leaving my shot completely open – WE WIN, 11-9! It was a great feeling, and we had a great celebration afterwards, including drinking champagne from our trophy, as Canadian tradition dictates.

 

Overall Tournament Experience

  • I was going to write some quick notes on the tables, but I’ll do that tomorrow – I’m exhausted. Regarding the organization of the tournament – it was amazing. They handled everything so impressively. The right tables were in the right spots at all times – ne’er a hiccup in sight. They had staff going around to check progress of the matches at all times. The production value of the entire thing was just like nothing I had ever seen before. Kudos to the ITSF (and Kozoom, and Jim Stevens) for doing a spectacular job. (There is the one caveat, of course, that they didn’t have enough medals for everyone – so we had to give ours back after the awards ceremony! Supposedly they’ll be mailing them to us…)
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4 thoughts on “Mario’s World Cup + WC recap

  1. Awaiting to hear what you have to say about the various tables and the playing experience… a good read man, and good job Canada! Tier 1 here we come!

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