Gothia Cup Diary: Day Five
One of the delights of sport, especially football, is watching the underdog surpass expectation – there’s a beautiful romanticism to it, almost artistic, which manages to evoke emotion, imagination and liberation in the most ardent of fans to first-time surveyors. These stories, of individuals and teams prevailing despite the odds being against them, often occur in the unlikeliest of places. Leicester, Istanbul and Verona are cities that are forever associated with the characteristics of an underdog having been the stage for some of football’s biggest upsets, and for the PLAYR Academy, the confines of a well-trimmed pitch in the Gothenburg suburb of Heden is worthy of an addition to such a list.
It’s here, having met for the first time six weeks ago back in England, that the PLAYR Academy reached the final two of 186 teams at the world’s largest international youth tournament, the Gothia Cup. With the aim of seeing how far performance technology used by professionals could take a team of budding footballers at a major competition, which featured squads from 80 countries and included clubs such as Bayer Leverkusen and Leeds United, our success only further proves what PLAYR can do for your game.
Kicking off the day five with a 2-1 victory against Spanish side S.Lanzarote courtesy of a late winner from Arkell Jude Boyd, the PLAYR Academy then defeated Sweden’s BK Sport by the same scoreline to book a place in the semi-finals against Jockey Club de Rosario from Argentina later that evening. A club based in Lionel Messi’s city of birth, the South Americans proved difficult to breakdown and it wasn’t until the second half Luke Plange managed to break the deadlock. The remaining twenty minutes were full of tension as Jockey Club de Rosario desperately searched for an equaliser, but the PLAYR Academy held onto a slender advantage to set up a final at the Gamla Ullevi stadium.
The opponents for our fourth game in 48 hours was American side Ryerson SC West, who like us, were yet to be defeated in Gothenburg and had scored an impressive 39 goals on their route to the final. With national anthems out the way and the last of a few thousand supporters taking their seats, the opening exchanges got off to a frenetic pace as Ryerson looked to take the game to us. Despite withstanding a number of dangerous attacks, the PLAYR Academy were soon punished for some loose marking in the box, while things went from bad to worse moments later as Ryerson found the back of the net for a second time courtesy of a rolled finish into the bottom corner.
Down but far from out, it wasn’t long before the PLAYR Academy had the opportunity to get back into the game after Frankie Church had been fouled inside the box. Top goalscorer Plange stepped up to take the penalty, and having yet to miss from the spot, fired home to pull one back for us. While the goal seemed to restore confidence in Sean Conlon’s side, Ryerson reinstated their two-goal lead against the run of play thanks to a powerful header moments from the break. Jude Boyd raced in behind to set up a tense final 20 minutes after the restart, and despite a number of chances following, it wasn’t to be for the PLAYR Academy.
While obviously disappointed about the 3-2 defeat, it’s been quite the journey. Five days, nine games and 32 goals later, we headed home with our heads held high from an unforgettable week in Sweden. Check out what we got up to at the Gothia Cup both on and off the pitch right here: