Monday, April 13, 2015

EQC 2015 Group Predictions - Part 1 (A - C)

After the excitement of USQ World Cup 8, we will be spending the next few days going through the eight groups that will decide who goes into Division 1 and Division 2 at this weekend's European Quidditch Cup 2015 in Oxford, UK. Stay tuned as we delve into what groups A, B, and C hold in store for us with the help of our talented analysts!
Group A
By Alex Harrison

1. Radcliffe Chimeras (UK)
2. London Unspeakables (UK)
3. Green-Tauros Quidditch Torino (Italy)
4. North Sea Nargles (Netherlands)

Group A's winner is probably the easiest to call of all the groups; despite being unseated as British champions by Southampton Quidditch Club 1 in March, the Radcliffe Chimeras are not going to fade away. Defeat will galvanise them, and they'll be looking to make a statement with their first important matches since a disappointing British Quidditch Cup 2014-15. Can the defending European champions win the entire tournament? I am not convinced that there is any team in Europe capable of beating them soundly enough on the pitch to get out of snitch range, and an excellent, deep seeker lineup spearheaded by Evan Edmond and David Goswell can theoretically win them any game. BQC demonstrated that any team capable of staying in snitch range can upset the Chimeras, but against that kind of quality I would not rely on it.

At the other end of the table,  the North Sea Nargles will likely struggle in a group full of experience and quality, having only been established properly in December and having placed last at the Benelux Cup in February (qualifying for EQC by default as one of only two Dutch teams). They will likely lose badly to the Chimeras, but they should have an easier time against the London Unspeakables and Green-Tauros Quidditch Torino – though probably not easy enough to get a result. Their squad will be small, only 12 or 13 strong, so exhaustion may be a problem by their third game of the day – though their stated aim is to play as a tight-knit unit, in which case they may actually improve over the day. In either case, though, I expect them to place last in this group.

Those middle places are, as usual, the hardest to call. The London Unspeakables are bringing a full 21-person squad to EQC, which should mean that their usual problems with inconsistent rosters and absent key players will not come into play. Green-Tauros Quidditch Torino, on the other hand, are bringing only 12 players, again risking problems of exhaustion. Neither of these teams are particularly physical, which has hurt London badly against tougher teams like the Chimeras and Southampton in the past, but this should produce an interesting, tactically tricky match between them. Talismanic London chaser/keeper Jacob Vogts could make all the difference here in his swansong in European quidditch before returning to America; Torino will be hoping to get out of snitch range, seeing as London frequently snatch narrow victories on the seeking strength of Fiona Howat. However, if they lack strength and physicality in their chaser lineup, I suspect they might play into the hands of London and be undone by their clever passing game.

This will be an interesting group for observers. I would expect the Chimeras to ride roughshod over the rest, but the lack of physicality in the other three teams should produce some intriguingly technical matchups.

Chimeras – Unspeakables: large Chimeras win.
Chimeras – Torino: large Chimeras win.
Chimeras – Nargles: large Chimeras win.
Unspeakables – Torino: narrow Unspeakables win.
Unspeakables – Nargles: solid Unspeakables win.
Torino – Nargles: solid Torino win.

Group B
By Johnney Rhodes

1. Nottingham Nightmares (UK)
2. Lunatica Quidditch Club (Italy)
3. UiO (Norway)
4.  Wageningen Werewolves
There are certain truths a writer must not conceal from the public and one of these is the fact that this is a hard group to sort; deciding which of these fine groups of quidditch athletes to place at the top of their group was a prediction that the quidditch oracles at Delphi would have lost a good few nights’ sleep over. It is not easy as all the teams here are from such different backgrounds - literally from hundreds of miles away - and there is no real way to predict the scores until we see the frosts of the UiO descend on Lunatica or the Nightmares face head to bludger against the Werewolves. But this much is obvious; instead of reciting certainties, let’s discuss the predictions for EQC Group B.

The team that will most like come out on top is the Nottingham Nightmares. After some stunning play at BQC, despite an early upset against Durham, they went on to finish fifth in the tournament. Overall this makes it clear that they are a force of on-pitch perfection to be reckoned with. Great on-pitch captaining and direction mean they function cohesively as a team, passing well and using their beaters cleverly. Their proximity to Oxford means the number of subs that will allow them to field will be a massive advantage. They will be like the Persian immortals of old, being able to constantly replace tired players whilst other teams like the Lunatica and the Werewolves fight on through with exhausted line ups, sweat staining the grass and breaths racking rib cages whilst Nottingham ready another attack, which may lead to the slips in defence and recovery play we have seen on-pitch before many a time.  Their beaters are solid, their chaser line up has diversified, and their seeking game outranks the other teams’. Probably only the Werewolves seeker will realistically be able to match up in a one-on-one brawl; I really recommend you watch the seeker game between these two as it will be a clash of titans. The Nightmares will most likely top this group, and it will be well earned.

The Lunaticas are one of the teams everyone seems to want to play; I have found in my research that Lunatica are a popular team challenge-wise. It could be their name; it could be their success at Barcelona Moustaches; whatever it is, there seems to be something that makes other teams want to test their studs against them. It was hard to decide between Lunatica or UiO for second in the group but it had to go to Lunatica for several reasons. Whilst the Lunaticas will be taking a small squad and have lost their star seeker, they have shown incredible amounts of talent in Italian quidditch in the past.  Experience is on their side and whilst it is likely that they will struggle against the Nightmares, Lunatica have an edge in that their team’s chaser line up is more passing-orientated than some other teams in the tournament. They have focused on improving their passing game and this could give them an edge unless they face a very physical team or the opposing beaters have the ability to make intelligent beats rather than just chasing the quaffle carrier. Good passing has given teams the edge they need over even the most physical teams in the past, so the passing game of Lunatica will be something to see. Their beater game has shown it can keep a good defence at Barcelona, though it will be interesting to see if it is more adventurous this time around.  Lunatica for second place but possibly not a comfortable second, and one that will be lost if their style of play is broken by the opposing team. If they get into a rhythm it will be too easy for the other team to outplay them, and if they let the good beater defence slip it could be an expensive lesson for Lunatica.

UiO was only formed last autumn and does not have as much experience as teams like Lunatica and the Nightmares, but they do have several key experienced players and strong new players who have helped the team expand quite rapidly. They have a completely new squad who will be testing their mettle a week before at the Norwegian Quidditch Cup. If you want to see what hard work and good recruitment can do, follow the NQC and see what tricks this team pulls out of their snitch socks. Seeing as a lot of their team have played not a single competitive game before NQC, trying to predict their placement is mostly guesswork. Although a little mystery might help them, a safe bet would be to put the UiO in the bottom two of their group. {{a lot of the predictions related to the UiO is guess work but then in this age of a hundred social media apps isn’t it alright to have a little mystery? No that’s why after much thought}} By their own admission they struggle in the seeker game, and despite receiving one or two key players they still need to test most of their team in battle. They say they can work well as a team on pitch and that they can play a good game, but without the test of competition we cannot know how this great new team will play. After NQC perhaps we will be singing a different tune, but for now it seems that the newness of the team and the seeker struggle means they will have to fight with a fury to get past teams like Nottingham.

Forgive us, Werewolves; no one wanted to put you fourth. After an excellent set of games at Benelux cup, this team has faced the struggle to overthrow older ingrained ideas of what people expect from them. Their seeker play is solid, and they have come on so much almost as if they have suddenly and rapidly changed from one form to another. Their defence, which has aided them well and helped keep the opposition in snitch range, has advanced, and I think the chance of a real upset is there. However, the fact remains that one has to say that the Werewolves are unlikely to top the group even though they have changed dramatically. in Their beaters have managed to get into the habit of the short safe beat over the wasted long throw, so if the mood is with them and the feeling is right we might see a few surprises coming from Group B served hot and fresh by the Werewolves.

This group is going to be a series of great European team match ups; if you want to see some great beater defense then watch Lunatica, whereas if you want some solid tackling UiO will have you covered. The Werewolves should bring some good seeking, but if you want to see the most rounded team then the Nottingham Nightmares are the ones to watch. It is such a great group; let’s hope they have some great games.

Group C
By Claire Evans

1. Durham University Quidditch Club - Durhamstrang (UK)
2. NTNUI Rumpeldunk (Norway)
3. Ghent Gargoyles (Belgium)
4. Milano Meneghins (Italy)

Group C looks likely to be a competitive group with all four teams eager to prove themselves on the European stage. This group should provide some highly exciting and entertaining games, with all four teams looking forward to the experience of playing quidditch at an international level. 

The Milano Meneghins will be attending EQC for the third time this year, and are hoping that this experience will help them on pitch. They aim to finish higher than last year, when they were bottom of their group, but with a squad of just nine players, this could prove rather difficult against teams who are able to make many more substitutions. However, the Ghent Gargoyles struggled to get going at the recent Benelux Cup and if this happens again at EQC in their opening match against the Meneghins, the latter could manage to get at least one win under their belt. The Gargoyles demonstrated great potential at Benelux Cup but lacked cohesion on pitch, with some panicked passing particularly as they became tired. Although they boast a number of talented individual players, they will probably struggle to out-play Durhamstrang and NTNUI, both of whom have had more time to settle down as a team and learn to work together effectively on pitch.

Durhamstrang’s disappointment at narrowly missing a place in the quarterfinals of the British Quidditch Cup this year, after confidently winning their group is sure to motivate them to play their best at EQC, and they will be keen to make an impression in their first match against NTNUI, their toughest opponents in this group. Durham are known for their synergy on pitch and a strong chasing lineup, with self-assured and tenacious players such as Becca Lowe and Jackie Woodburn. NTNUI are also likely to display quick passes and fast runs in the quaffle game, particularly from Elisabeth Jørstad and Jørgen Stenløkk, who is also a talented seeker capable of winning the game for NTNUI with a quick catch if they keep Durhamstrang within snitch range. With excellent quaffle players on both sides, both these teams will be relying on good tactics, particularly in the beater game, to gain the advantage and top the group. NTNUI should manage comfortable wins against both the Meneghins and the Gargoyles, although either of these teams could cause an upset if they manage to keep NTNUI within snitch range.

All in all, this should be an interesting group to watch, as a number of the matches could easily go either way, particularly if teams are kept within SWIM range. As the first matches of this group seem likely to be the closest ones it will be important for all the teams to conserve their energy for later matches as well in order to progress to the upper bracket. These are four teams who really want to make the most of this opportunity to test their skills at a European level, and as such this group should provide competitive and tactically played matches. 

NTNUI - Durhamstrang: narrow Durhamstrang win
Ghent Gargoyles - Milano Meneghins: comfortable Gargoyles win
NTNUI - Milano Meneghins: comfortable NTNUI win
Durhamstrang - Ghent Gargoyles: large Durhamstrang win
NTNUI - Ghent Gargoyles: comfortable NTNUI win

Durhamstrang - Milano Meneghins: large Durhamstrang win

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