Friday, July 22, 2016

World Cup 2016 Quidditch Post Roundtable

This special World Cup Roundtable brings together Quidditch Post staffers from multiple departments and across the globe. Their opinions are their own and may not be representative of their respective teams or NGBs. Their position within the Quidditch Post and their respective nationalities have been added to aid transparency. 

Andy Marmer (CEO) (USA): Welcome, everyone. The biggest international tournament the sport has ever seen is days away and I’m excited. What are you all most looking forward to?

Ajantha Abey (Visuals) (Australia): Australia vs. Belgium for sure, and any other matches between the top six. Then seeing what smaller or unknown regions, such as Slovakia or Slovenia, can bring to the table, as well as which dark horses from tier two (the likes of Italy, Germany, or Turkey) go unexpectedly far.

Fraser Posford (Analyst/Writer/Spanish & French Translator) (UK): This World Cup will be really exciting. Bar first place, the podium is wide open. The guaranteed Day One matchup of Australia vs. Belgium is without a doubt the most exciting; it will be a real clash of styles between the physicality of the Australians and the technical passing game of the Belgians.

Norway vs. Germany is also worth the watch. At this point last year, Norway was clearly stronger than Germany with deeper talent and more experience. However, the gap between the nations has really decreased, as shown by Darmstadt Athenas’ victory over NTNUI Rumpeldunk and OSI Vikings’ narrow win over Rheinos Bonn at European Quidditch Cup (EQC) 2016. With a home advantage on their side, Germany should be looking toward bracket play.
It came down to the snitch catch in the OSI Vikings vs. Rheinos Bonn match at EQC 2016, with OSI seeker Anders Kulsrud Storruste eventually giving his team the win. | Photo Credit: Van Klaveren Quidditch Photography
The matchup I want to see is USA vs. France. Team France (and the Paris Titans at club level) have dominated European quidditch for the past two seasons, playing with unrivaled intensity, athleticism, and accuracy. Team USA is assumed to be the best nation; it’s a clash of the titans (pun not intended).

On a patriotic note, I am of course looking forward to seeing how Team UK progresses in the tournament. I am curious to see if the hard work and dedication of a standing squad and training camps through the regular season will pay off. 

Andy Marmer: Any more big-picture thoughts?

Ashara Peiris (UK Editor) (UK): It will be fascinating to see how the non-European nations have developed over the past few years. I’m looking forward to the expo games almost as much as the main event, as we’ll immediately get to see heavyweights UK and Canada face off as well as Mexico and Turkey. Those games could really set the mood for the rest of the tournament.

Ajantha Abey: Aside from seeing Team UK and Australia for personal reasons [Editor’s Note: Abey studied in the UK for the 2015-16 season], I’m really interested to see how France and Australia face up because the French Paris Titans and the Melbourne Manticores, with Albert and Callum Mayling as driver-distributors, are capable of playing incredibly similarly, and I’d love to see how that clashes given that France/Australia are both Titans/Manticores heavy. It could be a very entertaining game. I also think Mexico, who has been somewhat unknown since 2014 but will be bringing 19 players this year, could be very interesting. 

Austin Wallace (COO) (Canada): I’m really interested in seeing if there are any surprises between continents. People have sort of an idea of what the tiers of teams are in terms of quality, but even within those, seeing if Europe or any other region has developed well enough to consistently overperform expectations will be fascinating.

Bex McLaughlin (Deputy Europe Director) (UK/Catalonia): Honestly, I think Australia is overhyped. It’s hard to judge because not many people have seen them in action since 2014, but I think the UK, for instance, has developed so much more in two years than Australia physically can due to distance between teams and geographical isolation.

I also think the same about Canada. They’ve not been getting that same United States-level play on a regular basis, and I think they’ll be hurting. Call it national pride if you will, but the UK will beat Canada this time if the bracket falls that way. Norway’s going down. Spain is moving up.

Ajantha Abey: I’m also particularly keen to see different tactics and styles of play from different parts of the world clashing and being used differently, getting ideas and inspiration for plays, and so on.

Matt O’Connor (Deputy UK Editor): I’m looking forward to seeing how Ireland deal with their very unbalanced roster. Teams might be expecting to play against beater Ben Middlemiss and get chaser Middlemiss instead.

Andy Marmer: Moving onto the pools, Pool 1 is the obvious place to start.

Bex McLaughlin: At the risk of being controversial, Italy and France will be – to state it delicately – a tough match to ref.

Lena Mandahus (DACH Editor: Germany, Austria, Switzerland): Slovenia improved a lot, actually. My team played against them two weeks ago and, compared to two or three weeks before EQC when we first played against them, they are so much better now. I don’t know how many Argonauts they’re taking, but they certainly learned a lot from EQC.

Claudio Svaluto: Slovenia will be basically Aemona Argonauts - Quidditch Ljubljana plus a couple other players. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the new teams. I’m particularly curious to see how they will gel with the rest of the community, and the Europeans with the others.

Fraser Posford: Slovenia are learning the game at a very fast rate and may be capable of beating the Netherlands if comparing the results of the Aemona Argonauts and Wageningen Werewolves who both had a 0-4 record at EQC 2016. Their problem, as at EQC, will be numbers with only 13 players on their roster. 

Dutch quidditch has been underwhelming so far, but maybe this is the tournament where they can get some wins against the lower-tier teams, especially with a full 21.

Italy are very comfortably second in this group. They have quite a good roster assembled for this tournament with a mixture of strength, speed, experience, and raw athletic ability spread across their players.

France will stroll through this group. Italy may well get a few goals past them, but I can’t see them being anywhere close to snitch range. Coach Albert Bregeault may well set them the aim of 20 goals per game like he did with the Paris Titans at EQC!

Andy Marmer: Does anyone doubt that this group will be France, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia?

Fraser Posford: Well, as I said before, the battle for third between Netherlands and Slovenia is difficult to call at the moment. It’s not as clear cut as the rest of the group.

Ajantha Abey: I was pretty impressed with Slovenia at EQC, and if they’ve learned a lot from it, they have a chance against the Netherlands perhaps, but that’s definitely the most likely ranking.

I think a lack of discipline and rigour in their game will allow Slovenia to be crushed by any of the middle-tier teams, but they display an ability to make thoughtful and quality plays. Their experience will put them in good stead facing teams lower than around 16. The Argonauts’ particularly aggressive beater game against NTNUI Rumpeldunk at EQC was fun to watch.

Bex McLaughlin: I call Slovenia beating the Netherlands. The Netherlands, at the European Games last year, went SWIM against Ireland. I think the squad lacks serious power players, whereas the Argonauts had athletic people who just needed some direction.

Andy Marmer: But surely given the relative histories and size of the quidditch communities, Slovenia has no business beating the Netherlands at this point. Is that more an indictment to the Netherlands, or credit to Slovenia?

Ashara Peiris: Bit of both. From what I’ve heard, Netherlands has had slower growth than expected skill-wise for whatever reason.

Andy Marmer: We all have France top. We’ll come back to bracket later, but will anyone come close to them in pool play?

Matt O’Connor: In their pool? Not a chance. Italy just doesn’t have the quality to challenge them – I don’t think.

Andy Marmer: So then we turn to Pool 2. Any initial thoughts?

Ajantha Abey: Ok, so on the one hand, Australia and Belgium look pretty clear cut to be the top two teams in this pool; there’s almost no chance of the essential merc team that is Team Ireland beating the world-class, heavily drilled Team Belgium. That said, Team Ireland has a lot of quality players who should easily put Slovakia in fourth place. Australia and Belgium though are obviously much less clear cut. Australia are definitely favourites in my mind, even with doubters about Australia being overrated, but the Belgian team has a fast, agile passing game that might be able to get around the Australian physicality. The biggest danger for Belgium will be the Australian beaters, who will let big players like Mayling, Andrew Culf, and Dameon Osborn run in goal after goal because the Belgians simply aren’t physical enough to be able to deal with that. Even if they focus on bringing down the big players, you’ll always have players like Cassia Menkhorst and James Williams free somewhere for an easy pass off and goal. I don’t think Australia should be underestimated because of being so isolated and therefore not developing as much as the other teams since Global Games. Maybe the country in general hasn’t grown as fast as European countries, but with competitive league cycle in both New South Wales and Victoria, where almost all of the players are from, plus competitions like State of Origin and the international experience from players like Luke Derrick who played in THE Fantasy Tournament in 2015 and Hannah Monty, who refereed at European Games, the top level of play in Australia has remained extremely competitive and, in my opinion, at the same level as that with the top teams of the UK. Australia also remains to have a physicality at least on par with France if not greater, which Belgium just cannot match. Belgium will really need to push a clever passing offence and a conservative beater defence, which they are totally capable of. Odds definitely aren’t in their favour though.

Andy Marmer: AJ trying to show his Aussie mates that he remained loyal to them. I know many of our European friends are high on Belgium. Anyone want to defend the Belgian Gryffins?

Matt O’Connor: I think Belgium are the dark horse for a medal and are certainly capable of taking anyone who takes them for granted. A lot of the team plays together ​and that’s not something to be ignored, with cohesion being a massive factor in how well a team performs. Their beaters are also pretty canny, so I don’t think it’ll be as easy for the Aussies as simply beating them out and sending the big boys down the middle. With the way that Dodo A kept the Paris Titans to 30 QPD in the EQC final I also don’t think the Belgians will be as vulnerable to physicality as AJ thinks. Don’t get me wrong – I think the Aussies will be slightly too much for Belgium if they’ve got the right mindset, but if they don’t take the Belgians seriously they could easily lose.
Dodo A chaser Seppe de Wit advancing the quaffle down the pitch against Titans chaser Valentin Fre. | Photo Credit: Van Klaveren Quidditch Photography
Ajantha Abey: I agree that any of Australia, UK, France, and Canada can definitely lose to Belgium without a near flawless game on the top five team’s part; Belgium are definitely a significant threat for medal position. I think the other countries do know that though and will know not to get complacent against the Gryffins. Having played the Dodos, you can feel the pick up in physicality between playing them and, say, French or Australian teams. On the other hand, Belgium will possibly be the best gelled team/be the team with the best synergy at World Cup, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a close game against the Australian Dropbears.

Possibly one of Belgium’s weaknesses is that one of their star quaffle players is also their star seeker, so catching the snitch means taking off a significant goal scoring threat. I can’t say I know much about the rest of the Belgian seekers, though; indeed, we don’t actually know who they might be.

Fraser Posford: I pretty much agree; Australia and Belgium will be the top two teams in this pool, with Ireland in third and Slovakia taking up the last spot. Slovakia may be bringing quite a large roster to the tournament, but I think their relative inexperience will let them down. It’s very much going to be a baptism of fire for them, but hopefully they can take something away from the tournament and develop further. Ireland to me look like one of the teams that are destined to make the last 16 of the tournament and no further. They have pockets of talent here or there (Matthew Drummond, Ollie Bridgen, Fran Morris, and Jodie Mee, to name a few), but not enough to make the last eight, especially as they don’t seem to have an obvious seeking option. Still, they should pick up a win or two, which is already an improvement on their European Games 2015 showing.

Australia vs. Belgium, as I said earlier, should be one of the best-quality games of Day One. Australia go in as favourites and could well take the game with their more physical approach. I’d also like to mention that Australia have historically been one of those nations who have excelled at pretty much every sport, and I believe this collective sporting intelligence might just give them the edge. On the other hand, the Belgians play some very smart quidditch themselves and let’s not forgot that they held the UK within snitch range in the 2015 European Games semifinal. This is quite an important result to bear in mind as the UK are arguably one of, if not the most, physical European nations. Yet Belgium were largely successful in the way they shut down the likes of Andrew Hull, Luke Twist, and Tom Heynes. For this reason, I expect a fairly similar game in that Australia should be slightly up on quaffle points but perhaps not out of range and it will come down to the snitch game. A Belgium win from behind isn’t out of the question, but I think Australia may just take it. Either way, it’s sure going to be a great match up!

Andy Marmer: Well, it seems like we have a consensus on Pool 2. For Pool 3, anyone willing to take Turkey over the UK ? What is going to happen in the rest of the pool?

Fraser Posford: This is a game that the UK should win on paper, but if they don’t get into the game quickly then Turkey may well have an outside chance. Turkish teams are known for their abrasive and physical play, which can really unsettle a team and throw them off their game. They also tend to play their best quidditch on Day One of a tournament weekend, so they should be a real test for the UK. However, I feel like the UK should have enough to beat them thanks to the variety in the squad and their greater disciplinary record. This game on Day One should give us a real indication of how far the UK can go in the tournament.

By virtue of having so few players, South Korea are very likely to be at the bottom of this group. I’m looking forward to seeing Kyle Jeon play for them, particularly against some of the other weaker nations, and to see whether he can carry the team to a win. It will be a tough task, though.

Fraser Posford: Austria and Spain could be an interesting clash, and it’s one I’m looking forward to seeing as a supporter of both teams. I think Spain should win it as they have a few players who play in the US who could give them the edge in terms of quality. However, Austria will have much greater chemistry considering most of the squad play for the same team (Vienna Vanguards) and the national team has been training regularly in the lead-up to the tournament. Spain certainly doesn’t have this luxury.

Lena Mandahus: I think Austria and Spain are roughly on the same level of development, so this is certainly going to be a very interesting game. Our biweekly national team trainings and the fact that all of us (apart from one player who lives in Dublin) are based in Vienna have really helped the cohesion of our team. If we don’t get too nervous, I do believe we should be able to beat Spain, but it will be a close game. With a good mix of physical and experienced chasers like Josephine Röser (who played for OSI last year) and quick runners such as Simon Heher and Lukas Linser, as well as beaters who have played together for a long time, it could be difficult to break through Austria’s defence (or at least I hope it will be, not that I’m biased or anything). Four of the beaters are Vanguards players who have played together since the start of quidditch in Austria; together with the aggressive beater Markus Tünte (who played for OSI last semester and then played in Ghent for three months and only recently properly joined the Vanguards) who blends into the team seamlessly, the beater game should also be very interesting to watch. So yes, I think this will be a very interesting and close game, and I think Austria has the skill and mindset to win it.
The outside experience that Austria players like beater Josephine Röser have may give them the upper hand in their match against Spain. | Photo Credit: OSI Quidditch
Ashara Peiris: Spain has a huge chance to shine this year. With a team drawing somewhat from the Madrid Wolves (this year’s Spanish champions) as well as the Bizkaia Boggarts and Malaka Vikings, there will undoubtedly be serious chemistry for the team. Considering that in the previous year they essentially took whoever was available to come to the European Games and they performed well, which included a valiant defeat to Catalonia, they should have a strong shot.

With last year’s Spain keeper of the tournament, Pedro González-Tarrío, returning to the national side, they have a strong distributor and an excellent defender around the hoops.

Andy Marmer: So I guess the next question really is, how important is one elite beater? What impact will Kyle Jeon have on this tournament for South Korea?

Ashara Peiris: Kyle Jeon is obviously an incredible talent. As probably the second best beater in the Northeast of the US and almost certainly a top 10 beater in the entire world, having him on the South Korean team will be a huge boon. However, the simple fact is that without able quaffle players, there’s only so much that Jeon can do.

With a tiny squad of only a handful of players, Jeon will almost certainly be playing every minute of most games, particularly the closer ones, but unless he decides to chase or seek for part of their games, I would be surprised if they can actually get a win.

Realistically, I think that each team will comfortably beat South Korea. The only match that may be competitive for them is likely to be the game against Brazil on Thursday. 

Andy Marmer: So I guess the last point with Pool 3 then is at the top. Can Turkey beat the UK? What will it take?

Matt O’Connor: I think it’s a situation similar to that of Australia and Belgium. Turkey have the capability to take the UK if the UK are complacent, but if they play to their abilities, the UK should come away as comfortable winners.

Ajantha Abey: Really? I would pitch the Belgians as more likely to upset Australia than Turkey is to upset the UK. I don’t think I’m overhyping Belgium given how they played at the European Games and EQC. Am I underestimating Turkey or overestimating the UK here? I feel like Turkey shouldn’t be underestimated but are not really the same kind of threat to the top five as Belgium are. I guess we’ll have to see how their exhibition match against Mexico goes; that should be a great and interesting matchup.

Matt O’Connor: I agree that a Belgian upset is more likely, but I also think the UK are more likely to be complacent.

Fraser Posford: Personally, I doubt that, considering the amount of time Team UK have spent preparing for this tournament. But it is their first game of the day, though, and most teams are usually a bit rusty then.

Andy Marmer: Ok, so it sounds like we’re on to Pool 4. I think a logical place to start here is Canada. What do we make of them? Has the two year separation from the US slowed them? Are they a contender to medal?

Bex McLaughlin: Meddle in my plans for Catalan domination, that’s what! I think Canada is going in overrated. I don’t think they’ll medal, considering they were in SWIM with the UK in the third place playoff at the 2014 Global Games, and the UK is arguably leagues stronger than they were then. The UK has had European Games and monthly training camps. I don’t think Canada will have kept up that level. They battle geography too. I think a lot more of the European teams will have developed a lot faster in comparison (i.e. UK, Belgium, Turkey).

Austin Wallace: I am on the Canadian team, so I don’t know if I should be excused, but I don’t think we are overrated at all. It isn’t like we are considered locks for a medal; more people are putting us sixth rather than third. Where we fall between Nos. 2 and 7 is up for debate, but I don’t see a good reason that we aren’t medal contenders. Quidditch Canada has done a great job of building a strong team with good chemistry, given who applied. Seventeen of the 21 played in Ontario/Quebec this year. Canada is the only country to play and compete with American teams since Global Games, and they have done well. UBC is probably not quite as good as top Eastern Canadian teams, and they/we are a borderline bracket team at US Quidditch Cup 9. With a Major League Quidditch team in Ottawa, and a ton of interaction with the US Quidditch Cup 9 finalists, Rochester United and Quidditch Club Boston, I don’t buy that they haven’t developed as fast as Europe. Maybe other regions of this massive country haven’t, but UBC Quidditch (playing USQ), the Alberta Clippers (thanks to the coach of Team Canada), and teams in Ontario/Quebec certainly have developed.
Austin Wallace (UBC Quidditch) taking on Lone Star Quidditch Club | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
The tournament is also set up well. Regardless of potential or talent, Team UK has practiced together substantially more than Canada has, so the exhibition match will be amazing in terms of bringing the team together, testing us, revealing what we need to work on, and giving us something to strive toward.

And then our pool is well set up to give us a chance to have a high seed if we can play at the top of our game. We certainly will not disregard or underestimate Mexico or Catalonia in particular, and I think they will be great tests for us as well. Overall, I think that if we can get our chemistry up, use the UK game to our advantage, and secure the No. 1 or 2 seed, there is no reason we can’t medal.

Andy Marmer: Well, we have a Canadian defending Canada and a Catalan defending Catalonia. Anyone else have thoughts on this pool?

Ajantha Abey: Canada are obviously favourites as one of the big five, and I think they’re a pretty safe bet for top of the pool. The real question of interest here is how much Mexico and Catalonia can drag down their point differential against the rest of the pool winners. Canada is kind of the dark horse of the top five in that Australia’s been notorious since winning silver at Global Games 2014, U.K. and France are known as the top teams in Europe, and the US is the US; it’s unclear if Canada has kept up the same level of play that took them to third at Global Games 2014, or if they’ve fallen behind the rest of the top five. I’m personally really excited to see what Mexico can do with a 19-player team, and there’s a good chance they could play a really competitive game against Canada and against Catalonia, another talented and likely strong team. The downside of having three strongly competitive teams is for Poland, who are probably going to find it hard to break through. Regardless, it should be an interesting pool, and there will be a lot of eyes on Mexico’s expo game to get an idea of what kind of a force they’ll be this tournament.

Andy Marmer: This pool is a mystery wrapped in an enigma to me. I have no clue what to expect from Mexico, as they’ve been largely absent from international quidditch since Global Games 2014. Catalonia is a team that I keep expecting to show better than they have, and Canada is the biggest wild card amongst the top teams. I think Mexico and Canada might have two of the biggest ranges of possible outcomes for the whole tournament, and Catalonia isn’t far behind
Team Mexico’s performance is relatively up in the air. | Photo Credit: Bruno Cortés Ramírez
Andy Marmer: On to Pool 5 then. Can anyone stay within 100 of the US? Who finishes second?

Fraser Posford: Barring a freak result, I can’t see any team in this pool managing that. Second place will be a straight shootout between hosts Germany and Norway in the tournament’s opening game. I think this could be one of the most exciting and hotly contested matches of Day One, and I reckon it will end in snitch range.

The interesting thing about this game is that both teams seem to rely on certain players in order to get their game going, particularly Norway. An injury to star keeper Kai Shaw could be really debilitating for them (he has been struggling with a recurring shoulder problem this year, I believe). Amund Storruste will be especially important to them too. He has been in great beating form this year and should be on a whole other level to his German opponents, which could make all the difference. I reckon this game will boil down to how much depth each roster has and the seeker game. For me, neither team has a truly renowned option in this department, although Germany’s Alexander Heinrich is steadily making a name for himself.

Andy Marmer: Just in terms of past results, Germany over Norway would seemingly be the biggest upset in pool play.

Fraser Posford: On the international stage, yes, I’d say it would constitute an upset. The results between the respective countries’ club sides at EQC (a snitch range win for OSI vs. Bonn and Darmstadt beating NTNUI) suggest that it will be close, but I think Norway are narrow favourites going into this game. It has to be said, though, that German quidditch has progressed very well over this past season, and they will be a much more threatening team than they were at European Games.

Andy Marmer: Has anyone grown as much as Germany in the last 12 months? It seems highly unlikely.

Fraser Posford: Belgium have made massive strides, but I’m certainly very impressed with how Germany have developed over this past season. Since the likes of Rheinos Bonn and Ruhr Phoenix Bochum have risen to the fore, it’s made for a much more competitive domestic environment than previously.

Bex McLaughlin: Even if Kai Shaw is out as keeper, he’ll step up as a beater. He excelled as a beater for OSI at the Norwegian national championship; he made some rookie errors being new to the position, but he easily has the agility to cover them. Beater puts less strain on his shoulder.

Andy Marmer: Ok, final thoughts. Let’s get your three picks for the platform, surprise team of the tournament, disappointment of the tournament, and player who boosts their reputation the most.

Bex McLaughlin: Disappointment is obviously Uganda. What a major blow to the event after all the hype, and it must have been devastating for the players and John Ssentamu.

I’m biased, but Team UK are in great shape. I badly want that squad to get medals.

Matt O’Connor: Disappointment is definitely Uganda for me too. After all the hype it’s just a little sad. 

I kind of want to say Ireland for surprise team. There are some quality players on that side. Not enough to beat the big boys, but maybe enough to give them more trouble than they bargain for.

Lena Mandahus: Disappointment would also be Uganda for me. As for surprise team, I’d also say Ireland. I also want Team UK to do well, but it won’t exactly be a surprise that they’re good. A player who will hopefully boost their reputation is Josephine Röser from Austria. Of course I’m biased, but she’s such a good player and deserves much more recognition than she gets at the moment.

Fraser Posford: Thinking with my head rather than my heart: USA to win, France for second place, UK for third. For surprise team, I’m going with hosts Germany and an honourable mention to Turkey. Disappointment of the tournament from an emotional perspective has to be Uganda. Performance-wise, it’s difficult to say as there are so many new teams, but I think Norway may not perform as well as they did at European Games. Teams like Italy, Mexico, and Germany will be challenging them for a quarterfinal spot, but I’m willing to be proven wrong. Player-wise, I think there’s going to be lots of players who really make a name for themselves on the international stage. To name a few, German captain Nadine Cyrannek, UK chaser James Thanangadan, France beater Etienne Pogu, Belgium beater Elisabeth Reyniers, Italy keeper Walid Benfadel, and Norway beater Amund Kulsrud Storruste. Some of them are already well-renowned players in Europe, but I think this is the tournament they can truly get the attention of those outside the continent.

Matt O’Connor: For the podium, it’s very difficult to see past the US for first. As much as I’d like to see them toppled simply for variety and to show the sport has evolved, I don’t think it’s going to be this year that the Americans burn their hoops and start competing for the quidditch ashes. I also think France will come second. They were very strong at European Games last year, and with such a massive Titans contingent it’s hard to see them going backward. Third place I think will be Australia though; they’re still going to have that athleticism we saw at the last World Cup, and although they’ve been isolated, it’s unlikely they’ve been ignoring the rest of the world. That, coupled with the Aussie sporting culture, will see them just pip the UK, Belgium, and Canada, although all four are likely to be quite close.

Andy Marmer: To make an analogy to football (soccer), international teams really do have less chemistry; whereas in football, as we just saw, that means you can win a tournament by sitting back, defending, and having the best player. I think in quidditch this will be a tournament of ugly regressive tactics, by which I mean heroball. I’m going to be really partial to dominant ball-handling keepers in that sense. As for the podium, I think there are a lot of optimistic Canadians, Brits, and Belgians who think they have a shot despite mountains of evidence that show that the US, France, and Australia are the top three teams. Maybe this is because I interact with a lot of people in the UK, more so than other places, but there is absolutely no basis on which to conclude they are a top three team in the world. Given the number of dedicated players and the density, they really should be by now, but I just have no reason to think they’re better than Australia and France. At least Canada has an excuse of such terrible geography and weather, and Belgium is of course very small and honestly punching above its weight on the back of great players and good team chemistry. If anyone can tell me why the UK isn’t the second best quidditch nation in the world at this point, I’d love to hear it, but much like their football it seems that the whole is less than the sum of the parts. I’m sure someone will try to make me eat these words later, but at this point I just don’t understand how that team isn’t better.

Fraser Posford: I think the UK have all the credentials to be a top three team; it’s just taken a while to develop the talent and the tactical understanding required. This year’s Team UK is the best in terms of quality and preparation. I’ve seen firsthand how much work every single player has been putting into the training camps (an incredibly competitive environment to say the least) as well as their own individual work, especially captain Ben Morton’s incredible fitness transformation. Most of the team played together at European Games as well as with their respective clubs and various fantasy tournaments this season, so the on-pitch chemistry should be there. Plus, they’ve bonded really well off the pitch, something that anyone surrounding the UK quidditch scene can clearly see. Lessons have been learnt from Global Games 2014 in Burnaby, Canada and European Games 2015 in Sarteano, Italy, and now I think we will see what the UK is truly capable of. In comparison with what I’ve seen of Australian quidditch, the Australians play with greater strength and physicality in their game, but I think the UK’s all-around game is better. There is an enormous amount of variety in that team, and I believe they will have more than just ‘heroball’ tactics in mind for taking down their opponents. This scrap for the podium places behind the USA is certainly going to be incredibly interesting, and I really can’t wait to watch the tournament quarterfinal and semifinal, perhaps more so than the final itself!

Bex McLaughlin: Player to break through: Leandro Salemi of Norway. It’s his international debut, as he wasn’t at EQC with NTNUI, and for a rookie he’s incredible. He’s a Belgian on Erasmus in Trondheim, so when he goes back to Belgium he’ll definitely improve even more. What impresses me about Norway is that several players have made their own national teams after just a year in Norway. Whatever Norway does coaching wise up there works.

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