8 & 9,
Place: Groningen, Holland
This time the annual
KOA party would take place at the country where the association
at the beautiful
city of Groningen. 31 people from 7 countries gathered
for what everyone expected to be the most difficult Kick
Off 2 tournament ever. No less than 8 players had the potential
to win the world champion's title.
In the end, it was Gianluca Troiano who showed to the arrogant
English & Greek that the game was played just as efficiently
in other countries as well. The English champion Martin
Jeffrey got the silver medal and the two times finalist
Alkis Polyrakis settled for the bronze one and the best
defense trophy. Klaus Loite from Norway was the top scorer,
while the Playouts trophy and the Shirt of Shame went to
Germany (Christian Dietz and Wolfram Heyer respectively).
Not a very difficult first day for Alkis and Nikos who dominated Group A. The first place was decided on one goal, as Alkis won their first match 5-2 and Nikos the second one 6-4. The weird thing about this group was that Riemer had to leave the tournament for a few hours and play 12 consecutive matches when he got back! That didn't stop him from finishing third though. Christian Dietz was taken by surprise in his first KOA matches as the level was higher than he had expected, he eventually managed to get his form but not soon enough to qualify for the next round. Giacomo got through thanks to his two victories against the German. Knut's best result of the day was a home draw against Riemer, while Mark Elliott defeated Niels twice. Niels would compete in the Game of Shame for the second time after Dartford.
Klaus Loite had no mercy for his opponents and hammered them badly! He finished the group with 14 victories in 14 matches, an amazing performance. Mark Poelstra and Robert Swift fought for that second place that guarranteed an easier second round; the Dutch beat Robert 5-2 and got it. Evert did his best to get to the next round but his suicidal home draw against Matthias gave Glenn the fourth place instead. Gunther Wening was seriously out of shape and his defeat to Nick was the 13 year old's first KOA victory ever!
Group C was the most difficult one on Round 1! So difficult in fact that the person who was going to win the world cup the next day finished third! Panayotis Pantazis finished first with only one defeat to the Italian and he looked like one of the favorites for the title. Martin Beard had an amazing performance and did not give away any points to theoretically inferior players like Gianluca did. Rodolfo Martin was determined to show to everyone that he's a better player than he had exhibited the year before. He looked like he was going to get that 4th place but James Beard managed an away win against Gianluca and got through instead. Luitzen Boonstra was the man who determined the group's fate by defeating the Spanish. Alex Brante in his first KOA tournament played good defense occasionally but his scoring problems did not allow him to hope for something better than last place.
Group D was a triumph for the English players as Martin Jeffrey, Steve Camber and Mark Williams got the best places they could and qualified. Spyros Paraschis, one of the favorites for the title, was unlucky to see his joystick break down, something that caused a severe psychological blow to him and made his performance drop. Jorg and Kees fought for the 4th place but couldn't get it, Jorg because of his worse goal difference against Mark and Kees because he lost to the German twice. Pascal managed two victories against Wolf and showed some skills in his home games but he lacked the experience and the scoring efficiency to do better. Wolf got no points although he did try his best against his compatriot, and he would compete in the Game of Shame. This group featured the most spectacular game of the world cup: Jorg-Spyros 6-10!!!
Rodolfo and Christian Dietz were the best players of this stage and their battle in the semi-finals was very tough. The German got through thanks to a goal on overtime and then had no problem against Evert Van den Berg in the final.
16 excellent players were divided in four groups and they would compete for 8
places. The favorites knew that they would have to do their best and no big
surprises occured in this round. Klaus, Panayotis and Martin finished on top
of their groups just like they did the first day, and only Alkis was second
as he lost the last crucial match against Gianluca at home. Before the world
cup, 8 players were expected to reach the quarter finals and 7 of them did;
only Spyros was out as Martin Beard took his place, but that was no surprise
to anyone who watched the first round.
Knockouts stage began and no safe predictions could be made! Martin Jeffrey had no problems against Mark, but all the other matchups were very tough. Alkis managed to hold the KOA's ultimate scoring machine, Klaus, to one goal in the first leg. Klaus made a good start in the second leg, he was ahead by 5-2 but in the end Alkis equalized and qualified against him once more after the Athens semi-final. The classic Greek matchup between Nikos and Panayotis was a very interesting one. Till that first leg Nikos only had 4 victories in 16 matches against him, but thanks to his excellent defense he gained a two goal advantage which Panos couldn't match in the rematch. Martin Beard surprised Gianluca with his 4-3-3 and beat him 6-3. He looked ready for his first appereance in a semi-final, but thanks to a tip his brother gave him the Italian used 4-3-3 as well in the rematch and managed an epic 5-1 to qualify.
Everyone anticipated an exciting semi-final between Martin and Alkis. They watched a one man show instead, as the English dominated the first leg with an amazing performance and gave the Greek his biggest defeat ever in a world cup. The second leg was not important and all Alkis could manage was a one goal victory. The other semi-final was a much more interesting battle between two great defenders. In the end it was Gianluca who got through as Nikos' ferocious attacks in the dying seconds of the second leg were not fruitful.
Alkis won the bronze medal in the consolation final. The final between Gianluca and Martin was the closest ever, despite the fact that it was the first time that the runner up never took the lead. We witnessed a battle between two different players who could both play good defense; while Gianluca's goals were all scored from inside the box, Martin was more effecient in long shots. 20 seconds to the end he tried to equalize by shooting at an empty goal but as the English were ready to celebrate the ball hit the post!
Gianluca Troiano was the 2003 Kick Off 2 World Champion.
Goals in the finals (Click to enlarge):