A familiar name from the WoSo blogosphere is currently on the ground in Portugal. He has graciously offered to send us his impressions of the 2012 Algarve Cup. So who is he exactly, and what kind of cosmic forces converged enabling this marvelous adventure? We’ll let him do the explaining.
Dateline: Faro, Algarve, Portugal
Okay, I can’t quite write that legitimately yet, but just give me another few hours. Meanwhile, let me introduce myself.
Hi, my name is StarCityFan, and I watch women’s soccer
My real name is Kevin W. Parker, but my nom de Internet is “StarCityFan,” which you may have seen in the comments here and elsewhere, and especially over at BigSoccer. My interest in women’s soccer, like that of a lot of people’s, was sparked by the 1999 Women’s World Cup. I didn’t really get into it though until I received an offer for season tickets from the WUSA-era Washington Freedom. Figuring that this was the one time in my life I could buy top-level season tickets for a team without taking out a second mortgage, I sprung for the club-level tickets and found myself (and my wife) in the front row at RFK Stadium for the WUSA inaugural match. (You can actually see me on the WUSA’s official 2001 season video.) I enjoyed the first season, dismal as it was for the Freedom, and my interest increased as I found that Freedom defender Carrie Moore was from my hometown – and increased even more as she went from benchwarmer in 2001 to WUSA All-Star in 2002. Anyhow, to make a long story short, my enthusiasm has held up even through the lean years, when the Freedom were amateur at best and is still there even though they aren’t any more.
I’d always been intrigued by the Algarve Cup and thought, “Someday, I really have to get to one of those.” In case you don’t know, the Algarve Cup is considered the most prestigious women’s international soccer tournament after the World Cup and the Olympics. It was created in the early 1990’s by the Scandinavian women’s teams as a tournament to challenge them during the chillier months and is held every year around this time in southern Portugal’s Algarve region – hence the name. The US team has been a participant since the beginning and has won seven of the last nine.
Anyhow, I was recently offered a new job and decided I wanted to take a few weeks off between finishing my old job and starting that one in order to have a break and take some sort of vacation. Unfortunately, my wife’s circumstances weren’t going to allow her to do anything significant with me in that timeframe. So I needed to come up with something I wanted to do that she wouldn’t want to do as well, which took places like San Francisco and the Caribbean off the list. Then I realized that the timing of the Algarve Cup fit in perfectly with my little sabbatical. So last weekend I frantically made my flight arrangements, just barely getting my reservations in before I could no longer qualify for the cheapest fares. And if all goes well, I’ll be leaving for Lisbon Sunday evening and arriving in the Algarve Tuesday afternoon, well in time for the opening matches on Wednesday.
Twelve teams are participating in this year’s Algarve Cup, divided into three groups. Group A consists of China, Germany, Iceland, and Sweden. Group B is Denmark, Japan Norway, and the US; and Group C is Hungary, Ireland, host Portugal, and Wales. There’s a bit of a catch, though: the teams in Group C are not eligible for the championship. In fact, the playoffs are highly simplified: the Group A winner plays the Group B winner for first place, while the runners-up play for third, and the third place teams play for fifth. The best the winner of Group C can do is place seventh, and they’ll play the better fourth place team from Group A or B for that slot. The second-place team from Group C plays the one remaining team from A or B for ninth, and the last two teams in C play for eleventh place.
(Times listed as local time, five hours ahead of EST and eight hours ahead of PST. For example, the first US match starts at noon EST or 9 am PST.)
February 29 (Wednesday):
Hungary-Republic of Ireland (3pm)
March 2 (Friday):
Wales-Republic of Ireland (5pm)
March 5 (Monday):
Republic of Ireland-Portugal (5:15pm)
March 7 (Wednesday):
Playoff matches, times and places to be determined
(Schedule courtesy of Women’s Soccer United)
I arrive in Lisbon Monday morning, plan to stay over a day to recover from jet lag, then will take a train down to southern Portugal Tuesday afternoon. I pick up a rental car the next morning and will be heading to Lagos, which is hosting the 2 pm Germany-Iceland match and the 5 pm US-Denmark match. If all goes well, and I survive my encounters with Portuguese drivers (who are supposedly the worst in Europe), I will have a report on those two matches ready for this space sometime that evening. Wish me luck!