Sorry for the late post.
This review is of the quarterfinals matchup between Sweden and Japan during the 2012 WUGC (World Ultimate Championships and Guts Championships). This match shows how having a strong and intelligent game plan can give a team the slight edge they need to beat their opponent.
A bit of interesting BACKGROUND
Japan came into this game undefeated in the tournament so far and as the number one seed. They had just come off of a big win against Canada in a power pool match the day before, which was an extremely physical, controversial, and infamous game due to Canada’s spirit (or lack of spirit I should say). Sweden, on the other hand, had a reasonable run up to this stage; however, more notably had deliberately lost a power pool game in order to play Japan in this quarterfinal. Now, I have never been a fan of deliberately throwing a match for any reason because I feel it doesn’t follow the spirit of the game which ultimate is all about. However, in this instance it leaves a lot to the imagination. Why would Sweden want to face an undefeated Japanese side that have been more than impressive all tournament long?
The first thing I noticed when watching this game was the droning sound of the wind. The notion that it was a very windy day was further cemented as we see a lot of hucks (mostly by Sweden drift out of bounds). However, Sweden backed their height advantage and decided to play a classic Bears 2 huck and D style game. This might sound like suicide against a very solid handling side in Japan, however this is where their tactics are key in them not getting blown out.
Sweden went down the field, point after point and set up an arrowhead zone, which many of us are familiar with (especially those who played at regionals). However, this is not an ordinary arrowhead. Due to the high levels of wind and Sweden’s knowledge of how Japan likes to play their offence, Sweden tweaked their zone slightly with significant success. Because Japan like to have a lot of handler resets and slowly work the disc up the pitch through their handlers, Sweden brought their wings in closer to the disc and used their barbs dynamically to pressurise the dumps. This caused Japan to make a few difficult throws in the unforgiving wind, When Japan were able to make these throws and get past the arrow, they easily worked it upfield, and once they were near Sweden’s endzone, they easily dismantled Sweden’s goal-line man D. But on most possessions they would turn over at least once or twice due to a drop or a throwaway in the wind. This either gave Sweden plenty of 50/50 huck opportunities where their more physical and taller receivers could beat Japan’s D players in the air, or a very short field where one easy throw meant a score (due to Japan turning over near their own endzone).
To counter Sweden’s huck and D tactic, Japan tried a zone with a tight cup and two deeps where the aim for the force and cup players was to just stop the long huck throw. This proved futile though, as Sweden’s main handler was still able to get off some successful though difficult hucks.
To summarise the game, most of it was trading in the beginning amongst trading breaks, until a portion in the middle where Sweden got a few breaks in a row. They hold out their three point lead all the way to the end from this point. In watching this game, we see glimpses of how good Japan’s handlers are, however Sweden’s tactics prove to be too much for Japan as Sweden were able to capitalise on the few mistakes Japan did make during the game. Final score: 17-14 Sweden
A few questions for DISCUSSION
Could Japan possibly have used a different tactic on offence to break through Sweden’s zone?
If Japan hucked the disc more often when they were in trouble rather than trying to throw a short difficult throw, would they have been more successful?
What is your view on deliberately throwing a game to play a certain team?
If someone could also provide more background to Sweden intentionally losing their power pool game that would be much appreciated.