Gothia Cup 2023

Posted on: September 6th 2023School News

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As the 2023/24 academic year begins, we reflect on the success of the U14 team who competed in the World Cup during the summer.  

The Football World Youth Cup takes place each year in Gothenburg, bringing together over 1800 teams to compete in different age categories. MGS took four teams, including the Under-14 squad, to take part in this week-long tournament.

History teacher Mr Strother accompanied the boys on the tour with other members of the PE staff, and spoke about their experiences: "The pace is gruelling, but highly rewarding. In coming third in their age category, this group has achieved something outstanding, testament to their innate talent, but also to their attitude and togetherness.

"The beginning of the tour was somewhat stressful, in that our connecting flight to Frankfurt was cancelled late the previous night. Staff and parents scrabbled around to find a solution and eventually it proved possible to fly as a group to Oslo and get a coach four hours east to Gothenburg. (It had seemed for some time that the squad of 16 might need to split into two in order to make the journey: half to Oslo and half to Stockholm.) Yet the good nature and sense of humour of the players made the trip a pleasant one and our arrival at the hotel was reasonably timed and even allowed us to make dinner.

"The lovely thing about the Gothia Cup is that teams from all over the world and of multiple ages come together and get to know each other in the various hotels around the city. Our boys are not shy and managed to get to know several US players, Brazilians and other nationalities. As we progressed and those other teams began to be knocked out, we became everyone’s favourite team to support. Each time we returned from matches and met other teams, there’d always be a debrief on how things had gone for both sides, and an exchange of social media engagement.

"Our group games were all at a venue called Kviberg, encompassing over 20 pitches and therefore the largest of the venues for the tournament. We started our campaign very positively with an 11-0 win over Norwegians Melhus. Mr Wilson and I had encouraged the boys to be ruthless in front of goal because we were aware that goal difference might come into play. Kai began the scoring and added a second, and there were further goals from Kit (2), Elijah, Freddie, Milan, Fabian (from the spot), Tunde, Charlie and Fletch. Our second game against Swedes Kista SC was harder, looking as if it would be a 1-1 draw until Kai scored a last minute super-strike, curling the ball home with his left from the inside right. It took the pressure off us in our final game against Mongolians FC Deren, as we knew a draw would leave us top and not needing to get through a play-off game for the ‘A’ competition.

"The knockout phase began, and we had time to watch our potential opponents as Vilnius FC met FC New England. Mr Wilson and I spent much of the first half watching the tactical side of the US team, given they were dominant. Their 3-5-2 was interesting to see and they had several very decent players. The fact they lost 2-1 with a late second half goal meant we knew we might have an easier time against the Lithuanians in the last 64, and so it transpired. In a match selected to be televised, Kai once again opened the scoring early, with Tunde and Kit both getting a brace and Freddie Murdock scoring a left-footed screamer, a contender for goal of the tournament, certainly in our collection of goals. We then met US competition in the last 32 and Lebanese Athletico SC in the last 16, another game that was televised and on an almost full-size pitch. It was a closer game than the final 3-0 scoreline suggested. That brought us to the quarter finals, where the venue was the central McDonald’s stadium in Heden, the heart of the tournament. Around 3,000 watched us live against Icelanders KR1, where Kai and Milan secured a 2-0 win.

"Contextually, no MGS side has reached further than the quarter finals, and that was in the B competition (as we had finished third in our group and won a play-off game). Louis’s brother, Theo, had captained that team, so it was fitting that Theo watched on as his brother tore down the left of the pitch in the modern style of a full back. Our tournament ended in the semis, sadly, with a deserved loss to Swedish academy side FC Norrby. Our consolation was that we watched them win the final the day after, beating a side from San Fransisco 2-1. Third place was better than any school had achieved across the age groups, and equal to the performance of any English side – a representative group drawn from the south of England in one of the younger categories. The training through the summer term had done us good in preparation.

"There was not much downtime for the boys, given how successful they were being. We did manage to go bowling – with Mr Wilson and I being surprised at the dearth of talent on display! – and we were able to play some footgolf at a venue on the outskirts of the city. Yet we enjoyed watching some of the other teams play as our focus was always on football and bettering our performances with each progression. It was a theme of the trip that the meals were of a very good standard and large portions, which was just as well given how many calories the boys were burning in playing sometimes twice or three times a day. There were inevitable forfeits for lateness to team meetings, which resulted in Cosmin, Elijah and Tunde singing in restaurants in the evenings, delighting diners and owners.

"I have had the pleasure of many football tours over my time at MGS, and I have loved them all for a variety of reasons. This is certainly one of my absolute favourites, partly in truth because of the competitive nature of the trip, but mostly because of the group of boys involved: they were superb company, immaculately behaved and always smiling and joking. They will become the Under-15 ISFA squad for next season and I’m really looking forward to seeing how we can progress."

Well done to all the pupils involved in this tour and we wish everyone the best of luck in their forthcoming football tournaments!