After a four year hiatus, 84 teams from 20 countries arrived in Cape Town for the ten day 2022 Masters World Cup. This tournament was for the Men’s 45+ to 55+ age groups and Women’s 45+ to 65+. After multiple selection camps, extensive fitness testing and 6 months of training, Canada sent a 50+ Men’s team as its only entry. 8 players returned from Barcelona (2018) and 10 were new additions.
Canada arrived 4 days early to shake off the long flight and had 3 practices prior to the opening parade and ceremony on the Cape Town waterfront. It was an incredible feeling to be back to sports normalcy after two successive years of postponements.
Very noticeable was that most countries in the hockey community have now cranked up their Master’s programs and are taking this tournament very seriously. Argentina is a good example. It had a huge contingent of players across many age groups and an entirely new 50+ Men’s team from the one Canada beat 9-0 in Barcelona. The Dutch 50+ Men had 160 players try out for one team! Canada was the oldest team (average age) in the 50+ age group because of the need to have a competitive selection process by including more eligible players.
Canada competed in the more difficult pool A – along with Argentina, South Africa, Spain, Netherlands, Namibia and an Alliance team. The latter two teams were entered as Spirit of the Masters teams and their results were not included in the pool rankings.
Canada’s first match at Hartleyvale Stadium against Argentina was a pretty evenly fought match that ended with a 2-0 loss after the Argies scored two short corner goals late in the fourth quarter. Although a disappointing result, it was something for Canada to build on. With half the team never having played on the world stage, it was good to get the nervousness of the first game out of the way. This was the game that the team later agreed was a missed opportunity…
Game 2 against home country South Africa was at the incredibly picturesque Western Province Cricket Club with the jaw dropping Table Mountain providing the backdrop. Canada scored three minutes into the game but went on to lose 6-1. Most of the game was a one goal contest, but the need to go for the win saw offensive oriented tactical changes that exposed Canada’s defence later in the game. South Africa scored 4 goals after the 54th minute.
Game 3 versus Spain and the resulting 1-1 tie proved to be Canada’s best game of the tournament. It was a huge blow to Spain who were undefeated to this point. In this format of tournament, giving up 2 points likely means your hopes of winning the World Cup are over. The Netherlands Men’s team cheered on Canada hoping to solidify their top spot in the pool. They were not disappointed! A well executed Canada third quarter short corner goal drew us even. Canada’s video team really shined in preparation for this game allowing Canada to better analyze and match Spain’s tactics.
Games 4 and 5 versus Alliance and Namibia were fairly easy 5-0 and 3-0 wins for Canada. These confidence booster games allowed us to tweak our positional play and prepare for the Dutch.
One of the favourite memories for many of the players was scoring first on the Netherlands at minute 9 in this 6-2 loss. Netherlands finished second in Barcelona and went on to win the World Cup in Cape Town, so they are a formidable opponent. After Canada’s second goal in the 49th minute we were down by only one goal (2-3) but two minutes later the Dutch scored again and then went on to add 2 more goals in the fourth quarter.
After a less than 24 hour turn-around, the final match was the pool crossover for 9th place against the USA. Payback was discussed for our previous 3-2 loss in Barcelona. The gauntlet was thus thrown down to finish the tournament in winning fashion. Canada scored 11 minutes into the game and pretty much dominated play but a lack of urgency kept the game closer than it should have been. Canada was actually behind 1-2 in the third quarter until we scored on a short corner to tie the game. An exciting finale saw Canada win the game in the 67th minute on a gorgeous 3 way passing play to tuck the ball behind the keeper. 9th place was secured along with a record of 3 wins, 3 losses and a tie.
A special mention goes out to John Sacre and Kent McKinon for a world class job preparing, coaching and managing the Canadian team. 7 games in 10 days takes an enormous toll on 50+ bodies and without the stellar services of our South African Physio / Chiropractor – Dr. Eleanor De Kock, we would have not performed the way we did. Our South African crew of videographers kept the coded video clips coming which also really helped the team perform to its potential. Canada now moves up 5 positions in world Master’s rankings. Thank You Cape Town for being such an amazing host!
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