Cosmos Copa Qualifying Weekend Recap: One Shot Saturday June 18th, 2011

USA 5-0 Holland
Croatia 6-4 Sweden
Kosovo 2-0 Ghana
Ivory Coast 4-2 Paraguay
El Salvador 2-2 (5-4 pens) Albania
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2-2 (5-4 pens) Uruguay
Senegal 3-0 Russia
Portugal 5-2 Peru
France 5-1 Liberia
Colombia 1-1 (7-6 pens) Japan

 USA 5-0 HollandThe USA easily advanced to the second round in a match they dominated. The American attack was relentless and their midfield controlled the run of play. The Dutch had a handful of chances, but the USA came out prepared and it showed. The Americans were in excellent shape and kept their formation throughout the entire match and were deserved winners.  

Croatia 6-4 SwedenCroatia knocked out Sweden in a ten-goal thriller that saw the lead change hand three times. Croatia notched the first goal early in the match before Sweden pulled two back to take the lead. Croatia then grabbed two goals of their own to make it 3-2 at halftime in favor of the Croatians. The teams traded goals in the second half and the match finished 6-4. Both teams played very well together, exhibiting great passing play and chemistry, but in the end Croatia executed their game better.  

Kosovo 2-0 GhanaKosovo’s unity, organization, and chemistry were the key the their upset against the heavily favored NYC Ghana. Kosovo scored early on in the first half and never looked back. While the match was very open, Ghana failed to create enough quality chances. Kosovo eventually notched another goal in the second half. They could have scored three or four more had it not been for the fabulous play of the Ghanaian keeper.  

Ivory Coast 4-2 ParaguayIvory Coast defeated Paraguay in a match loaded with great goals. Ivory Coast came out strong and jumped to an early 2-0 lead before Paraguay pulled one back just before halftime. After a largely uneventful second half, the last five minutes erupted with three quality goals. Paraguay equalized from a free kick rocketed into the upper corner to make it 2-2. Ivory Coast then took the ensuing kick off down the field and quickly pulled ahead again. The Ivory Coast put the game on ice moments later with a well-worked counter attack. The Ivory Coast captain, Kevin Lue, was extremely influential throughout this match. He used his skill and leadership to control the game and dictate the pace of the Ivory Coast’s play.  

El Salvador 2-2 Albania (El Salvador advance 5-4 on penalties)In one of the most entertaining matches of the first day of Cosmos Copa, El Salvador upset the 2009 champions, Albania, in a closely contested match. Albania earned a penalty early on in the match and jumped out to an early lead. El Salvador equalized moments later thanks to a mistake from the Albanian goalkeeper. Just before halftime, Albania scored a cracking goal as their midfielder, Semso Nikosevic, dribbled inside from his wide position and ripped a shot across his body into the lower corner. While the second half was very intense, scoring chances were hard to come by. El Salvador put away a late penalty to tie the score at 2-2. With the score tied at the end on 90 minutes, penalty kicks were needed to decide the match. The first four players from each side converted their spot kicks. The first player to miss was Albania’s Marius Kapxhiu. El Salvador, under tremendous pressure, slotted home the final kick to win the match.  

St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2-2 Uruguay (St. Vincent and the Grenadines advance 5-4 Penalties)In this fascinating back and forth match, the two team’s style of play could not have differed more. St. Vincent and the Grenadines played with power and pace, while Uruguay relied on their superior technique. Uruguay started the match on fire, and their quick passing won a penalty early on. Uruguay went on to break the deadlock in the first half with a cool header from striker, Oscar Silveira. Minutes before the end of the first half, St. Vincent and the Grenadines tied the score with a beautiful volley. Shortly after the start of the second half, the “Vinci Wave” took the lead, causing some nerves to arise in Uruguay’s team. In the dying minutes of regulation, Uruguay found an equalizer and in the end, neither team deserved to lose. So it went to penalties. The St. Vincent and the Grenadines kept their composure putting away all five of their spot kicks and moved on to the second day of qualifying. This is the second year in a row in which Uruguay has been knocked out of qualifying on penalties.  

Senegal 3-0 RussiaIn a match that was over before it ever began, the Senegalese team jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Russia never really settled down in the first half, and Senegal took full advantage by scoring two more goals before halftime. Russia started the second half much better and came close to hitting the back of the net on several occasions. However, Senegal’s goalkeeper held his group and kept the clean sheet for his team. The young Senegalese team showed no signs of tiring and played convincingly all the way until the final whistle.  

Portugal 5-2 PeruIn this one-sided match, Portugal took the initiative from the opening whistle. Portugal scored two quick goals. Then Peru realized the strength of their competition and started playing to their full potential. Starting the second half three goals down, Peru made it interesting by fighting back and grabbing two goals. The Portuguese were shell-shocked for a moment, but soon regained their composure and sent Peru packing with two more goals.  

France 5-1 LiberiaFrance was able to eventually get past a spirited Liberia side through some impressive attacking play. The first half was very even, with both teams grabbing goals in the first 20 minutes before France was able to take the lead at the stroke of halftime to make it 2-1. In the second half, the match was fairly even. However France was simply able to put away their chances.  

Colombia 1-1 Japan (Colombia advances 7-6 on penalties)In the final match of the first day of Cosmos Copa, Japan and Colombia lived up to the billing and played one of the most emotional matches in the history of the tournament. It was an entertaining and enthralling match from beginning to end. Japan jumped out in the lead halfway through the first half. The Japanese goal scorer, Adam Himento, collected the ball and in one fluid motion turned inside and ripped a shot that found the back of the net. Japan was extremely well organized and disciplined for the remainder of the match and Colombia found it very difficult to break them down in the final third. By halftime, Japan looked the likelier team to emerge victorious.

In the second half, Japan looked to slow the game down and sit on their 1-0 lead. However, the match intensified as Colombia began to show more urgency. Colombia eventually earned its game-tying goal with only minutes remaining, scoring a header from a well placed cross. Even in the dying minutes, both teams continued to press on, and both keepers were called upon to make some spectacular saves. Regulation ended with both teams tied at one apiece. Even the lottery of penalty kicks failed to separate either team as each side converted its first six spot kicks. In the seventh round, Japan, who went first in the shootout, had their shot saved by the Colombian keeper. The next Colombian converted his spot kick and Colombia emerged as victors. However, both teams should feel like winners after this classic battle. Both countries were classy in victory and in defeat, and the spectators from both sides set an impressive standard for support that will be hard to top. Simply put, this was a match for the ages and one that’ll be talked about for years to come.