Written by Pat McGuinness – Twitter: @patsfballblog
Cascadia were not reckoned to be among the front-runners for this year’s World Football Cup as they had not played a game prior to the tournament – but they put everyone on notice with two impressive wins in Group A to qualify for the quarter-finals, thrashing Tamil Eelam 6-0 to knock Ellan Vannin, one of the pre-tournament favourites, out of the competition.
Manager James Nicholls was a happy man when CONIFA caught up with him on ahead of the quarter finals, and had this to say about the game against Tamil Eelam: “We were really dominant, especially in the first half, we went 2-0 up at half-time. We were unsure what to tell the players during the break, but we decided that the best thing to do was to go for the six goals. We could have been five or six up at the start of the half, but our finishing was poor. We didn’t look like we were going to do it for long spells, but we eventually came up with the goods. I thought it was thoroughly deserved and the boys really, really worked hard. It gives us a chance in the quarter-finals and to go further than that.”
Even though Cascadia lost their opening fixture 4-1 against Ellan Vannin, Nicholls was forgiving of his team, who had only arrived in London the day before the game after a long flight from the United States. “We were disappointed with the result against Ellan Vannin. For large parts of the game, particularly in the first half, we were very, very dominant. The players struggled in the first half; the players were a little bit jet-lagged having been in the country for less than twenty-four hours.
“Some of the football we played was breathtaking at times and it set the foundation for what we thought we could do. We were disappointed with the final score because it wasn’t a 4-1 game.
“We built on that against Barawa. Again, at times our football was frightening with our pace and our movement. We were disappointed with the sending-off of Josh Doughty; a shame, but he’s served his suspension now and will come in. Some of the football we’ve played in the first three games would be as good as anybody’s played and if we can do that again… we could go far.”
To say that the North Americans were dismissed before the tournament would be putting it lightly, but Nicholls and his staff were undaunted. As he pointed out, the squad has its experienced players and more than a sprinkling of talent.
“Nobody gave us a chance; Paddy Power had us down as fourth favourites to qualify. Nobody really fancied us, we were a largely unknown quantity. As players and as staff, we believed in ourselves and we knew our own qualities. We have players such as James Riley who has played more than 300 games in the MLS, ex-Manchester United youngster Josh Doughty and other boys such as the Wilson brothers who have come in and done really, really well. We’ve got Max Oldham who will be one of the stand-out players. We knew we had a decent squad, but that it would depend on how long it took for us to click, and it clicked quicker than anybody thought.”
The players have not had much time to gel, but Nicholls, who played for Cumbrian side Kendal Town before joining the Cascadia set-up, said that they quickly made up for lost time after their first-ever training session as a team: “Most of the players arrived on Wednesday morning at ten, we trained at Barnet’s ground from 12:00 to 2:00, just so we got to know each other. Nobody knew anybody’s names. We trained on Friday afternoon, played on Saturday and Sunday and got two results. The boys have come from literally nothing and put in two unbelievable performances and they should be really proud of what they’ve achieved.”
Now Karpatalya await in the quarter-final, and although Nicholls in under no illusions about the task awaiting his side at Bracknell, he remains positive that his team can do well. “We’re under no doubts that it’ll be our toughest game of the tournament, but we’re at the business end of it and that’s where we all wanted to be. We’ve had a look at Karpatalya, they’re a footballing side, a physical side and we know we’re in for a battle but I’d back my boys against anybody and hopefully we can go out there and perform.”