(By Craig A)
Location – Phu Quoc
Players – Sasha, Henno, Nico, Borris, Andreas, Angelo, Albin, Craig.
General Manager – Jon
The wafer thin squad arrived at the pitch on Saturday morning and were in surprisingly fresh and positive spirits. Injuries had decimated the squad as Tarek, Jon and Floyd were all forced to miss out leaving us with only 8 players for what was sure to be a long and gruelling tournament. The day was already heating up when the Raiders took to the pitch to face their first opponents, Mango Bay (a local viet team). Matches were to be 20 minutes each and you would play both teams in your group twice.
Opting for a 2-3-1 formation the raiders started well and were soon ahead thanks to Andreas slotting home a poorly cleared corner. Nico then doubled the raiders lead using what would come to be our secret weapon against the small Vietnamese teams….the stoke FC long throw! Nico didn’t even need to jump in order to flick the ball from the near post over the keeper and into the far corner. The other teams struggled to deal with it all day long as Andreas Delap could launch the ball in from almost the half way line. Any thoughts of complacency were dismissed when the opposition were given a penalty after a brilliant swan lake impression from their striker. However the raiders responded immediately as Craig was released by a through ball from Nico to smash the ball into the top corner from a narrow angle (similar to the Dennis Bergkamp goal predicted). There was still time for Sasha to miss a penalty…yes you read that right!!! Result: 3-1 Raiders and a confidence boosting start.
Due to the lay out of the tournament the Raiders then had to play again immediately after which was especially difficult due to our small squad. The team was a group of local taxi drivers who must get the ball out every time they aren’t driving as they were surprisingly young and fit. Perhaps due the success of the throws in the first game the Raiders were a little one dimensional and resorted to too many long balls allowing the opposition space in their own half and also allowed them to have repeated long shots. The Raiders went behind early to one such effort. Nico then scored his second header from a throw in to equalise. Then in the second half Angelo produced one of the greatest goal keeping displays in Raiders history, at one point he made 5 goal line blocks in a row! The agility and bravery were greatly admired by the friendly crowd and the other team could not believe the silver fox continued to deny them. As the Raiders tired Angelo was repeatedly called into action and eventually conceded a second when a rebound was bundled in. 2-1 loss.
After a much needed break for fluids and sun cream the Raiders again played the Mango Bay team. Once again the Raiders dominated the game with Albin, Nico and Henno running the mid field. Henno scored the first with a long range effort. Then Albin completed a flowing moved with a calm finish past the keeper. Mango bay scored a goal from a long shot as Angelo worried about the location of his beloved yellow ball. But for the rest of the game Sasha and Andreas kept them out well in defence. Craig then sealed the result with a composed finish past the keeper. 3-1. This result guaranteed a semi final spot.
The Raiders again had to play the taxi drivers immediately after this game and it was decided given our lack of subs to take the game easy and allow the opposition to have the ball in their half. However this all changed when the Mango bay team offered us free beers all night if we could achieve the 2-0 result they needed in order for them to go through. Game on! Again it was a tight game with Angelo saving the raiders on a number of occasions with outstanding saves. However tired legs allowed the Taxi drivers to take a 2-0 lead at half time. Henno then pulled his groan early in the second half. Craigs knee then gave out meaning Henno had to go back on (which he later regretted!) Meanwhile Sasha scored his 800th long range rebound shot for the Raiders. Albin was then really unlucky as he proceeded to hit the cross bar with a header then the post as we fought for an equaliser. The game ended 2-1 however with the Raiders now finishing 2nd in the group.
Lunch time gave the team a chance to take stock of injuries and sun burn. Henno was definitely ‘fucking fucked man!’ and Craig felt he could play on. Reduced to no subs the Raiders considered asking Romain and Fred to join the team after their team had been eliminated in the group stages however it was decided we would compete with the team we had and win as the Raiders or nothing. The semi final was against another local team who had won their group so were confident of victory. A reshuffled formation of Andreas and Borris at the back and Nico in central midfield proved a tactical master stroke as the Raiders dominated the game from start to finish. Borris was excellent at the back blocking shots and using his hand ball skills to complement our long throw arsenal! Andreas was his usually niggly, fearless, monstrous self giving the opposition nothing and winning everything in the air. The raiders took the lead early as Nico slotted one in from the edge of the box. Craig then added the finish to a move where no one wanted to score as Borris, then Albin and then Nico all passed the ball across the oppositions box. Sasha and Albin charging down each wing was too much for them as chances where created throughout the half with Craig making it 3-0 with a turn and shot into the top corner. Half time and the raiders were confident. Second half the opposition scored early but the Raiders upped their energy levels and Nico scored again from a long throw header combo (3rd of the day). A consolation goal was scored for them before Angelo unexpectedly walked from his goal to vomit behind a bush discretely. As everyone looked on confused and the retching continued it became clear he wasn’t coming back on. A nervous Henno took his place in goal but was relatively untroubled as the Raiders remained disciplined and ran themselves into the ground to protect the result. Craig completed his hatrick when he completely abandoned his DM duties and got onto the end of a cheeky Nico backheel to rifle home and guaranteed a final spot.
All eyes turned to Angelo as we had an hour break before the final. He reappeared looking very white and it was debated whether he had been sitting under his herbal tree at half time for too long but it turned out to be a bad case of heat stoke and he was forced to retire. It was a harsh end for the tournaments best player so far. A local Keeper was recruited and the Raiders decided to stick to the same game plan that had served them so well in the Semi Final.
The Final was against the Taxi drivers who had already beaten us twice but this time both teams were fresh…..well I say fresh.
The game started well as the Taxi’s were reduced to long shots before the ball broke to Craig to hit first time past the keeper from an angle. Cue dance celebrations. The lead didn’t last till half time however as our sub keeper, Theo, managed to let a shot under his body. It was his only mistake of the game but a costly one. This gave the Taxi’s confidence and they soon took the lead from a low drilled corner that was poorly defended by the Raiders. Half time 2-1 down. Motivation from Jon ‘Keep playing our passing game and have long shots’ and Henno ‘You’ve just got to fucking, you know, keep fucking going against these fuckers.’ The lack of subs began to take its toll in the second half as first Craig then Albin required treatment for cramp. The ref didn’t appear to know what a foul throw was (hire him for next time we play Saints?) as he continually allowed foul throws. Albin’s bad luck continued as he again hit the post (Craig’s curse has definitely been passed on). The taxi’s scored again to make it 3-1 and with tired legs all around it looked over but the Raiders found the energy for one last push and encouraged by the crowd took the game to the opposition. When Craig was hauled down for a penalty Sasha took responsibility to atone for his earlier miss and with ice in his veins scored to make it 3-2. Late chances from a drilled Craig free kick that hit Nico then the post, long throws into a packed box and long shots couldn’t produce the equaliser and the Raiders had lost.
Throughout the day the tournament was run in a very friendly manner with all the teams laughing and joking together. It was a pleasure to play in and given the injuries we had a final place is something to be proud of. The team then returned to Mango for a well earned dip in the sea and a delicious evening buffet. The growing anger as the players learned happy hour had been cancelled was calmed when free whiskey and punch was provided. Angelo was later awarded the ‘Im too old for his award.’ by the organisers.
All 8 players did the club proud and the 6 who played all 60 minutes of the semi and final earned a special mention from the tournament organiser for their bravery. There were no weak links throughout the team and everyone gave everything on the pitch for the entire 140 minutes we played throughout the day.
I have a job! I need this face! I come here to play football not lose my job!!! – Angleo is typically calm after an opposition striker goes in two footed for a loose ball.
I need to get out all my anger before my girlfriend arrives after lunch. – Nico hides the inner demon.
Are you sure you don’t want me to take it – Nico in the final just before Sasha ignored him to smash home the penalty.
Star of the tournament
Jon’s daughter who has made Andreas broody.