Seven Form 4 boys, who are now in Form 5, were selected to represent the Prep School Lions at the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden.
After a training weekend away, where they met their coaches, squad and sports therapists, the boys took on the adventure of a lifetime, whilst playing some football. On the 14th/15th July, six nervous boys were dropped off at the Heathrow airport, bravely waving their anxious parents goodbye. We didn’t see them again until the Monday group stage matches in Gothenburg.
On Sunday, the players attended a training session in torrential rain, discussed strategy with the squads, revisited concepts like rotation, and practised relaxation methods to assist some very excited and nervous boys get to sleep. Monday was a sunny but very windy day and all the boys were enthusiastic and eager to play some football.
Freddie P was first on, representing the Prep School Lions B12(4) team, against FC Connecticut Red from the USA. Although the USA team fought hard after the Lions scored three goals in a strong first half, they ran out of time, and the final score was 4-3 to the Lions.
The second match of the day was a 4-0 win for the Prep School Lions B11(2) vs Blau-Weiß 96 Schenefeld from Germany. This team included Marcus M, Tom W and Liam R. A particular mention to Tom W who played excellently in defence, preventing the German attackers from any real shots at goal.
James D and Toby D were in the final match of the day, representing the Lions B12(6) v Makati FC from the Philippines. Although the Lions were the dominant side on the field, the final score was a draw: 2-2.
The Opening Ceremony of the Gothia Cup at the Ullevi Stadium on Monday evening involved an amazing performance to a crowd of 52 000 people. There was a festive atmosphere with balloons, music and fireworks, this being one of Toby and Marcus’s highlights of the games.
Toby and James had an early start on Tuesday, with a game against FC Beirut (Lebanon). Toby made some excellent passes setting up the ball for the strikers and James made a spectacular save to keep the opponents out of his net, and again they were victorious with a score of 2-1.
However, the U11 Lions team were not so lucky. Their second game was always going to be a difficult match against an academy side of IFK Goteburg (Sweden), but it was an impressive game to watch. Despite the final score of 7-0 to the opposition, the boys played incredibly well, with Liam being told by his coach that he was the best defender on the field.
The last match of the day was a 5-1 win for the Lions against JSG Baden/Etelsen (Germany). The Lions never looked in any doubt about winning this match, however their coach was keen to keep the boys mentally focused for the full 40 minutes. Seven minutes into the second half, Freddie scored a spectacular scissor kick goal which will be talked about for years to come.
Wednesday saw the final day of group matches and the start of the knock out stages of the competition.
Once again, James and Toby’s squad were the first to play. They faced Varmdo IF (Sweden) and won 3-0. Both Cranleigh boys had a strong game with Toby assisting in several winning passes and almost scoring a goal (however being denied by the opposition’s goal keeper’s face) and James still maintaining a clean sheet with some awesome saves (and being renamed “The Thinking Man’s Goalkeeper”).
The second match of the day was Freddie’s squad against Solangens BK. Unlike the previous two matches, the Lions came out a little complacent and not quite with the same steam they had produced earlier. The match was even both ways. However, the Lions could not find the net despite many attempts. The Swedes managed to score a goal and the final score was 1-0.
The U11 Lions team played the final match of the group stages in an exciting game v Valois es (France). Marcus scored the first goal of the match in the 3rd minute of the game. Liam played very well in defence in the first half and then was swapped into a wing position in the second half, very nearly scoring a goal of his own. Tom played a superb game, managing to read the French players well and placing himself in their path whenever they tried to approach the left-hand side of the pitch. The whole team played a really smooth game and won 5-0.
All three of our Lions teams managed to go through to the A plates – a wonderful achievement considering these teams had only really played together for one weekend beforehand.
Toby and James’s team started the knock out games v IF Brommapojkarna from Sweden. Although the Lions were the dominant side, the opposition were dangerous on the break and more deliberate in their passing which resulted in the final score being 1-1, which took them into penalties. The boys were anxious but pumped up – the parents were in pieces. Ultimately the Swedes missed nothing and the Lions put two shots wide of the posts, resulting in a 5-4 loss.
Next up was the U11(2) Lions team against Specifique FA (Tunisia). It was not a good game – three penalty shots were awarded (two of which were saved), three red cards were handed out (plus countless yellow cards) and sadly some very unfortunate behavior from both the players and the coaches of the opposition. The Lions suffered a devastating loss of 4-1, the only highlight being the goal Marcus scored in the 27th minute of the game. The boys were gutted to be knocked out of the competition with such a disappointing match but they played very well and kept their composure in some very trying circumstances.
Freddie played in the last game of the evening v the National Mexican side at the Heden Centre, in front of a huge crowd of spectators. Although it was an excellent game with some competitive moments, the Lions defense collapsed in the final minutes, with the Mexicans scoring five goals in quick succession, resulting in a final score of 1-7.
Although all the Cranleigh Prep boys were no longer in the competition, it certainly wasn’t the end of the football! Freddie and James both stated that a highlight of the week was storming the pitch when one of the other Lions team made it through to the semi-finals, showing the camaraderie and sportsmanship that epitomised our Lions squads.
The final days in Gothenburg were spent relaxing and bonding with team mates. There were further mini-football tournaments (organised by the coaches), a trip to the Theme Park and Awards Ceremonies for the boys. Congratulations to James who was given the “Team Player On and Off the Pitch” award for the U12(6) team and to Liam who was nominated “Most Valued Player” of his squad.
“To sum up the week in Gothenburg from the parents’ point of view”, says Erica Reilly, “we dropped off our little boys at the airport, and a week later we collected young men. We watched proudly as our boys grew in confidence, developed interpersonal skills and worked as a team with lads that they hardly knew and, in the process, developed friendships. Sadly, due to injury, Sam Mason could not join the boys on the trip to Gothenburg this year. He was missed by us all, especially the boys”.