By Cosmos Copa Staff

This morning at Flushing Meadows Park, four teams fought for the chance to represent their nation at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium in the Cosmos Copa final. The final, which will be played next Saturday before the New York Cosmos take on the Carolina RailHawks, will feature NYC France and NYC Gambia.
In match one, NYC France defeated NYC Ireland 3-2 to secure a spot in the championship. NYC France played a strong game on both ends of the field. Their defense was resilient against the Irish, whose attempts at building an attack were stopped time and time again.
The key for NYC France was their up-tempo play at the beginning of the second half. The team had been up 1-0, but conceded a poor goal to NYC Ireland, who took control of all momentum at the cusp of halftime.
The French, however, came out flying in the second half and scored immediately. After a counter attack found Gabriel Bagot all alone at midfield, the NYC France striker broke away from the defense and tucked in his second goal of the game.
There were some last minute fireworks in this one, as NYC Ireland scored off a tremendous overhead kick to make the score line 3-2. But the strike only served as a consolation goal for the Irish as the final whistle was blown just a minute later.
This will be a second straight trip to the finals for NYC France, who won the tournament last year in penalty kicks against NYC Senegal. During this long run to the finals, NYC France president Frederick Lesort explained that the biggest challenge was a mental one.

“We knew we would be the tagged team for this tournament, so we knew everyone was going to be after us,” said Lesort. “But most importantly, the question was, how do we motivate our players again? How can they come back and be as hungry as they were last year?”

The answer was simply to not be complacent, according to Lesort. New players and new tactics saw Les Bleus on to the final, and a date with NYC Gambia.

France will face another West African nation at the final this year, and they will hope to win their second straight Cosmos Copa, a feat that has only been met by NYC Poland a few years ago.

Match two may not have earned the same amount of excitement as the NYC France-NYC Ireland thriller, but the game showcased the great talent that is brought to New York City’s most prominent tournament each year. NYC Gambia celebrated their first ever semifinals victory after defeating NYC Senegal 1-0.
The win was extra sweet for NYC Gambia, who had lost to NYC Senegal last year in the same stage of the tournament. The rematch of the 2013 semifinals gave Gambia an extra spring in their step as they hoped to write a new ending in 2014. NYC Gambia’s play matched the intensity and physical nature of NYC Senegal as both teams went into halftime even at 0-0.
The breakthrough for NYC Gambia came after an attack down the flank led to a cross and shot past the Senegalese keeper. Speed proved to be the difference for NYC Gambia, whose defense looked outstanding. The back four’s ability to anticipate passes and intercept attacks made them a nuisance for NYC Senegal. NYC Gambia president Ansumana Gaye was elated with his teams performance. Although Senegal had reached the finals the previous year, Gaye’s team viewed themselves as anything but underdogs.
“We’ve played together left and right, all over the place,” said Gaye. “And I told them [Senegal] at the beginning of the year, we’re working harder than you do, so we’ll deserve to go through.”
NYC Gambia will now face their largest challenge to date come Saturday. The team will look to capture their first ever Cosmos Copa championship and become the first African nation to be crowned champions of NYC.