2015 GROUP STAGE PREVIEW: GROUP H
By Aaron Cheris
In Group H is the first ever Cosmos Copa champion, a team playing on its country's Independence Day, and teams looking to continue the long line of soccer success from their countries.
The hometown Americans of NYC will begin tournament play on the day that celebrates American independence.
In the last three tournaments, NYC USA has made it to the quarterfinals. However, the Americans lost all three of those matches and have never made it to the Cosmos Copa semifinals.
Last year, NYC USA advanced out of Group C by defeating NYC Poland and tying NYC Haiti and NYC Serbia. In their quarterfinal matchup, the Americans fell to eventual champion NYC Gambia 2-1.
Starting the tournament atop their group, the Americans will look to make their longest run in Cosmos Copa history, and they are in prime position to do it.
In 2009, NYC Albania became the first team ever to win Cosmos Copa. Since then, the Albanians have struggled to recapture their former form and return to the top.
“We have a pretty good team that has a chance of making it back to our winning ways,” team president Olivier Papraniku said. “We are very offensive and very direct, there will be a lot of goals.”
NYC Albania is hoping Bljerdi Bardic will be as good as he was last year. In 2014, he was the leading scorer on the team and named to the Cosmos Copa Best XI.
“We’ve been so split up historically and now we have the ability to come together,” Papraniku said of his team. “That’s what makes us stronger.”
NYC Albania opens as the two-seed in the group.
The Argentinian squad of NYC will look to bring their country’s history of soccer success to Cosmos Copa.
“We want to represent Argentina to their best standards. Argentina is known to be a cultural soccer country and we want to respect that,” team president Dean Burgoa said. “We have a good group. Our team is a very united group.”
In order to make it to the Round of 16 and beyond, NYC Argentina is going to need contributions from all players involved.
“We have a lot of new young players coming in,” Buroga said. “We hope to play a physical game and advance to the semifinals.”
NYC Argentina starts in the three spot in Group H, and they will have three battles ahead of them to decide their fate in Cosmos Copa.
After missing out on Cosmos Copa in 2014, NYC Croatia is going to enjoy this year’s tournament.
“We’re going to take it one touch at a time, one pass at a time. We don’t have any big expectations,” coach Tony Mirkov said. “We’re going to try to have some fun, be positive, and represent the Croatian community as best as we can.”
With 13 new players on the team, the task of advancing to the Round of 16 is as tough as ever for the Croatians.
“We try to play like one unit. Everyone on offense, everyone on defense, try to keep the ball as much as we can and use a lot of energy,” Mirkov said. “We play with a lot of spirit, we play with a lot of fun and be positive.”
The Croatians hope their positive attitude can help them through the group stages.