2015 GROUP STAGE PREVIEW: GROUP A
By Aaron Cheris
Group A in this year's Cosmos Copa contains four teams who are veterans of the tournament, but haven't been able to find the success they had hoped for. But the struggles are in the past and all are looking forward to a good tournament this time around.
Out of all the teams in Cosmos Copa, NYC Senegal has probably come the closest to winning a title without taking home the trophy. They hope their history of late tournament disappointment ends in 2015.
In 2011, NYC Senegal made it to the finals, only to fall 3-1 to NYC Poland. In 2012, they met NYC Poland again, this time in the semi-finals. Again, the Polish team emerged victorious, 6-5 in a penalty kick shootout.
In 2013, NYC Senegal made it back to the finals against NYC France, only to again fall in a penalty kick shootout. Last year, NYC Gambia ended the Senegalese title hopes 1-0 in the semi-finals.
Team president Sadibou Sylla told CosmosCopa.com that his focus is on the youth, which could be a blessing or a curse for his team. However, he is confident his team will be able to bring home the title.
Some of the players on NYC Senegal have played professionally around the world, and that experience could prove vital for Sylla’s team.
NYC Greece failed to qualify for Cosmos Copa in 2014. This year, the Greek team has their sights set on bigger and better things. Their strong team chemistry is one of the reasons for optimism.
“What makes us unique is that we actually play together all year round,” team president Billy Anantiou said. “Therefore we have chemistry and we all understand each other and it gives us an advantage.”
The Greeks reached the quarterfinals each year from 2010-2012, and they hope this year is the year they move further.
“Like any other Greek team, we take pride in our defense. Our defense as a team is one of our strengths,” Anantiou said. “We like to play the ball out of the back. We have very technical midfielders. We like to build up and keep everybody involved.”
While many of the Greek players have had conflicts with club teams scheduling in past years, Anantiou said his team will be at full strength and ready to go when Cosmos Copa begins.
The English team from NYC have faltered in recent tournaments, but that isn’t stopping them from looking for glory this time around.
After strong showings in each of the first three Cosmos Copa tournaments from 2009-2011, NYC England has not qualified for the group stage of a tournament since then.
NYC England is representing a country rich with soccer glory and tradition, and they hope they will be able to live up to the tradition of English soccer excellence in this year’s tournament.
After struggling to get out of the group stage the last four years, NYC Kosova considers this year as the time to reach the quarterfinals.
“We’ve had four years together, and we have a couple young players added to the group. Little by little we’re growing,” team president Zef Kabashi said. “It’s a good combination of experience and youth.”
With a focus on offense this time around, NYC Kosova is hoping their back line will hold up when tested. Center back Nik Kolaj is the player to watch out for for NYC Kosova, and he is one of the most experienced players on the team.
“He’s a college graduate from Baruch, a team leader, a good center back, and a good all-around player. I think he’ll stand out in this tournament,” Kabashi said.
In a strong group, NYC Kosova opens at the bottom looking to emerge on top