Ellan Vannin – Cascadia
Ellan Vannin 4-1 Cascadia
Ellan Vannin ran out comfortable winners at Gander Green Lane this afternoon, as the CONIFA World Football Cup kicked off in London.
The opening exchanges were frantic, and chances fell at either end. Cascadia pushed for an opener but the Ellan Vannin goalkeeper matched his efforts.
Ellan Vannin took the lead early on with a fabulous finish by Stephen Whitley. Decisive wing play saw the ball drop to the Ellan Vannin man, who placed the ball into the top corner with the outside of his boot.
Cascadia, having never played an international game together before, looked organised in the opening stages and equalised almost immediately. Doughty was the man to level the game from inside the area.
Before the stroke of half time, Ellan Vannin restored their lead. Frank Jones reacted quickest in the area to put his side firmly on the front foot.
Midway into the second half, Sam Cane stole the headlines with a brilliant solo goal. The fullback picked the ball up from deep in midfield and tricked his way through the Cascadia defence. With only the goalkeeper to beat, the fullback prodded home, prompting euphoric celebrations from the subs bench.
As the goals kept coming, so too did the quality. Ellan Vannin won a free kick 30 yards out, and Jack McEvey scored a goal worthy of any World Cup to put the game beyond Cascadia.
Cascadia tried to salvage something from the game, with James Riley going close, but it was too little too late as Ellan Vannin ran out worthy winners.
Tuvalu - Székely Land
Tuvalu 0-4 Székely Land
Székely Land got their CONIFA World Football Cup campaign off to the best possible start with a 4-0 victory over Tuvalu in their Group C encounter at Coles Park, Haringey, on the opening day of action.
The Hungarians came straight out of the blocks, with winger Arthur Gyorgyi causing problems on the right-hand side early on, while striker Robert Ilyes saw two headers fly just over in the opening 15 minutes.
The deadlock was broken in the 23rd minute when Székely Land counter-attacked after a Tuvalu corner, allowing Barna Bajko to round Tuvalu keeper Katepu Iosua.
Iosua had no shortage of saves to make, foiling Székely Land on several occasions to keep the score at 1-0 at half-time.
The Pacific islanders grew into the game, with star player Alopua Petoa unlucky not to score when through one-on-one with the keeper.
The pressure eventually told, however, with Bajko heading in after a short corner after the hour mark, and then completing his hat-trick minutes later to put the Hungarians out of sight.
The game became increasingly open as both sides tired. Bajko turned provider in the 75th minute, as he slid a through ball to Szilard Magyari, who made it 4-0.
The convincing victory gives Székely Land every chance of progressing to the quarter-finals of the World Football Cup. Tuvalu will look to their next game against Padania on Saturday now as crucial to any hope they have of progressing as one of the top two in the group.
Haringey seemed to enjoy its first taste of the CONIFA experience, with spectators perhaps surprised to see CONIFA President Per-Anders Blind on the turnstiles selling tickets and programmes.
Plenty of Székely Land fans had travelled to cheer on their team, while the locals seemed to be cheering on the underdog, creating a good atmosphere at the north London ground.
Abkhazia - Tibet
Abkhazia 3-0 Tibet
World Football Cup holders Abkhazia kicked off their 2018 campaign with a comfortable win against a spirited and highly skilled Tibet side at the Queen Elizabeth II stadium in Enfield.
Against the backdrop of a lively soundtrack of drums and harmonious singing from both sets of supporters, Abkhazia took their time to gain control against wild-card entrants Tibet.
The deadlock was broken in the 12th minute, when the imposing Akhulediani powerfully headed home from a Kogonia corner. Akhulediani was a constant menace for the Tibet defense early on in the game, and almost added another goal shortly after scoring.
Tibet were not overawed by facing the reigning champions, however, and a backheader by the stretching Pema Lundhup only just cleared the Abkhazia goal.
Abkhazia felt they should have had a penalty when Malanya fell in the area, but the referee ignored any pleas. Tibet responded just before the interval, Lundhup robbed Georgii Zhanaa and sent over a low, dangerous cross, but the ball just eluded the onrushing Tenzin Loedup.
At the other end, Tibet goalkeeper Tenzing Samdup saved well from a cross-come-shot from Akhulediani.
The second period started slowly, but Abkhazia scored their second goal on 61 minutes, a determined run by Dmitrii Maskaev ending with a good finish.
Still, however, Tibet kept going and BK Narayan brought the ball down in front of goal and saw his low shot saved by Aleksei Bondarenko. Then Tenzingh Dhonden, a tireless runner for 90 minutes, was brushed aside when he tried to force his way through a crowded area.
With 13 minutes to go, Abkhazia grabbed a third goal, a skillful turn and low drive into the net by Ruslan Shoniya. Seconds later, Abkhazia found the net again, but the effort was ruled out for offside.
A good start for Abkhazia as they begin their defense of the trophy they won two years ago, but Tibet and their delightful fans will be pleased with the way they confronted the champions.
United Koreans in Japan - Western Armenia
United Koreans in Japan 0-0 Western Armenia
Colston Avenue Stadium in Carshalton played host to the first draw of the 2018 Paddy Power World Football Cup, as the United Koreans in Japan and Western Armenia battled to a scoreless stalemate.
The assembled crowd of Koreans, Armenians and curious locals were treated to a cautious and physical first half, with both teams keen to avoid conceding an opening goal. The few chances that were created were squandered by poor finishing, and neither keeper was tested.
In the second half, the Western Armenians imposed themselves, dominating the United Koreans on the ball and creating several chances. UKJ’s goalkeeper, Woodae Shim, was forced into a point-blank save early in the second half. Later, Western Armenia thought they had broken the deadlock through Vahagu Militosyan, but an offside flag cut short their celebrations. It was the closest either team got to scoring. A late yellow card to a UKJ defender for a hard tackle was followed shortly by the final whistle, leaving UKJ and Western Armenia to split the points.
What the game lacked in decisive quality, it made up for in competitive spirit and physicality. While the goals have flowed elsewhere in the WFC on the first day, often one-sidedly, the stalemate at Colston Avenue was marked by an impressive defensive solidity. Yet if either the United Koreans in Japan or Western Armenia wants to improve on their quarter-final exits in the 2016 World Football Cup in Abkhazia, where they finished 7th and 6th respectively, they will sooner or later have to find the back of the net.
Panjab - Kabylia
Panjab 8-0 Kabylia
World Football Cup 2016 runners-up Panjab started this year’s tournament as they mean to go on with an 8 – 0 thrashing of debutants Kabylia – although the result doesn’t tell the whole story.
Before a backdrop of colourful and loud Kabylia support and a no-less enthusiastic bunch of Panjab supporters, both teams showed attacking intent early on, with Panjab’s Gurjit Singh standing out, though both teams were shot-shy during the first 20 minutes.
After missing a couple of half chances, Panjab went ahead after 25 minutes through Amarvir Sandhu, who blasted the ball home from 10 yards out following a goal-mouth scramble. Kabylia’s continued attempts to put moves together often foundered, though both Yanis Kemache and Ilyas Hadid almost succeeded in restoring parity.
But, just on half-time, Panjab doubled their lead, thanks in no small part to Sandhu’s lung-bursting run from midfield; he powered into the box and squared to Amar Purewal, who stroked the ball home.
Two became three in the 55th minute after Gurjit Singh converted a penalty, and Amarvir Sandhu’s header two minutes later made it 4-0. Two missed half-chances later, Punjab added a fifth on the hour through Purewal. It was the Singh-show thereafter; Kamaljit Singh chested down a cross and volleyed the ball past keeper Rahim Belaid – 6-0.
Gurjit Singh missed another cross into the box, but Kamaljit didn’t; he ran on to it and smashed the ball low and hard into the net. After Punjab had a goal ruled out for offside, Gurjit grabbed Panjab’s eighth after 82 minutes after a mazy run from Kamaljit.
It was, after a slow start, a pretty powerful statement of intent from Panjab; Kabylia played well enough and were courageous, though their lack of experience at major competitions ultimately told. They will hope for better on Saturday against United Koreans in Japan. Panjab’s lions, meanwhile, are on the prowl. Western Armenia, beware.
Northern Cyprus - Karpatalya
Northern Cyprus 1-1 Karpatalya
A hard-fought game between two well-matched teams ended all square, suggesting that Group B will be a tough series of matches.
Northern Cyprus, urged on by a very strong following, started in furious fashion, but by half time, it was clear that Karpatalya had gained the upper hand.
As early as the second minute, Northern Cyprus provided some indication of their attacking prowess, with Ugur Gok firing in a powerful shot that goalkeeper Fejer Bell did well to stop.
Northern Cyprus went ahead after 13 minutes with an untidy goal from a goalmouth scramble, with Kenan Oshan applying the finishing touch to send the ball over the line. They could have extended their lead when a far-post header from Salih Say went just wide of the target.
Just before the interval, Karpatalya almost levelled when a free kick from Sándor István was well saved by Hasan Piro. Shortly after the break, they carved out an equaliser, Gajdos Zsul’s shot was blocked but the ball ran to István who sent his shot past Piro. It was no more than Karpatalya deserved.
Karpatalya started to pressure the Northern Cyprus defence and Svedjuk Alex went close with a far post header that was deflected for a corner. Alex was involved again in another attempt on goal that tested the Northern Cyprus back line and then Toma Gyorgy was also close to scoring.
As the game drew to a close, Karpatalya went in search of a winner and a first-time effort from Molnar Tibor was tipped over the bar by Piro. Tibor also weaved his way into the area but was denied by Piro.
Northern Cyprus, who started so well, were clearly frustrated and tempers boiled over in added time, resulting in a red card for Ahmet Sivr. Despite this, it could not spoil what was a keenly contested game between two teams that will be looking to top their group.
Barawa - Tamil Eelam
Barawa 4-0 Tamil Eelam
A terrific first-half performance from Barawa earned the host nation a win in the official CONIFA World Football Cup opening match.
First-half strikes from Solomon Sambou and Shaun Lucien were rounded off with a terrific goal by Gianni Crichlow to set the tempo.
Tamil Eelam struck the bar in the first half but could not find a goal in what was an open affair.
The first half was end-to-end, with Barawa dazzling supporters with direct attacking play.
The opener came in the first 20 minutes, with Sambou rolling the ball into an empty net.
Shortly after, Barawa were awarded a penalty by referee Mark Clattenburg. Lucien stepped up and cooly slotted home, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
The third came soon after. This time it was a moment of brilliance from Crichlow whose lofted effort found its way in off the post.
The second half was a tamer affair, but Barawa were awarded another penalty late on. Sambou stepped up this time and mirrored the first-half penalty, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way to put the result beyond any doubt.
An entertaining game at Bromley FC, Barawa showed their class over the 90 minutes. The host nation will be ones to watch this tournament.
Padania 6-1 Matabeleland
Padania 6-1 Matabeleland
Padania opened their World Football Cup in style with a convincing win against Matabeleland.
Despite the 70-hour journey from Zimbabwe this week, Matabeleland embodied the true spirit of CONIFA, with every single player playing with a smile on their face. And their travelling fans matched that spirit.
Bruce Grobbelaar was amongst the coaching staff for Matabeleland, but it was a goalkeeping error which almost gave Padania the lead. Giacomo Innocenti rounded the Matabeleland stopper but rattled the outside of the post.
Unphased, Innocenti opened the scoring minutes later with a neat finish. This saw the floodgates open in the first half and a second followed soon after the opener. This time, the Matabeleland goalkeeper made a fantastic save to deny Innocenti before a Padania forward fired in the rebound.
Padania made it three before the half-hour mark with a neat finish off the bar, before Innocenti grabbed his second of the game before the stroke of half time.
Matabeleland grew into the game in the second half. Justin Walley’s side continued to play with a never-say-die attitude and despite the scoreline, everyone seemed ecstatic to be out there.
Giulio Valente made it five to Padania, but it was this goal that sparked Walley’s team into life. The first corner from the Zimbabwe side was granted – much to the joy of the Matabeleland supporters.
Matabeleland’s tenacity paid off ten minutes from time. A brilliant delivery from a corner wasn’t dealt with by the Padania defence and turned in by a Matabeleland forward to send the travelling fans crazy.
Padania saw the game out comfortably, however but it was another terrific match at Gander Green Lane.