The Third EuroCopa Walking Football Tournament was held in Ferreiras, Albufeira, on April 25th and 26th, 2022.
Thirty teams from the UK and Iberian Peninsula gathered to play in one of the largest European tournaments held so far.
East Algarve Walking Football (EAWF) originally entered two teams in both the over 50s and over 60s competitions, but injuries and absentees meant that the over 50s squad was depleted just before the tournament, resulting in EAWF Tavira withdrawing from the event and leaving just nine players representing EAWF Olhão over 50s. The over 60s had both EAWF Olhão and EAWF Tavira represented.
Both days were very long, with numerous matches played.
Day one saw EAWF Olhão over 60s play seven games, resulting in one loss, two wins and four draws. A win in the final league match at the start of day 2 put them into the Cup Trophy league.
The Cup Trophy league comprised the best 6 sides from the first round. The five matches resulted in one loss, one draw, and two victories, meaning Olhão finished in 2nd place and qualified for the knockout stage. However, by this time they had two long-term injuries and one walking wounded, and thus just one sub left for the last three league games. This told in the knockout stages, where they lost their quarter-final tie 2-0 and so exited the tournament.
They played seven games on day one with 60- and 70-year-old men and a further seven on day two; if they had played in the final that would have meant 16 games in total, so it was quite a relief for the players to avoid the final four!
A hastily put together team, with an average age of 70, found the first day of the competition very hard going.
A lack of team preparation, plus trying to incorporate two “new” players from Browns meant the first three matches were very much a learning experience — trying different formations and just getting used to playing together.
Reasonably large pitches, with large goals, and younger more physical opposition teams (in the main) did mean the players were up against it from the start.
However, the longer the competition went on the more the players gelled and the matches did become closer. Unfortunately the day 1 record read played seven, lost seven.
On day 2 in the Plate competition the team did play distinctly better and were unlucky not to win any of their matches. The day 2 record being played 4, lost 2, drew 2, thus not allowing any further progress in the competition.
The pros were that the players kept going, played with a smile on their face and were continually complimented by opposing coaches and referees for the standard of sportsmanship and trying to play the game the right way, with all the squad being a credit to the club.
The cons were that a team of this average age will always struggle on this size pitch against younger opposition who seem to get fitter and stronger with each competition.
After being drawn in the group of death, which ended up having all the Cup and Plate finalists in it, day one proved to be difficult for EAWF Olhão over 50s. An injury ravaged team saw the tournament start badly with a poor performance against Malaga on one of the grass pitches. Down 2-0 at half-time, they responded better in the second half but failed to score. They also went behind in the second group game on an astro turf pitch against Kingsmaid, but rallied to grab an equaliser and a draw. The same happened in their next game against Esquina Park Rangers (1-1), and a third draw followed in a 0-0 stalemate against eventual finalist SC Farense (a game Olhão really should have won), both on the astro pitches.
Unfortunately, the final two games were back on the grass which didn’t seem to suit our style. Athletic Club Bilbao (who won the tournament eventually) proved too strong and a 2-1 loss was the result. The final game on day 1 saw a 2-0 defeat to Norwich City, but with a very spirited team performance.
Thus a record of 3 draws and 3 losses in the group stage, which led to last place in the group. Despite finishing bottom of the group, resulting in us playing in the plate competition on day 2, the improving performances during the day left us feeling confident of playing well on day 2.
In the Plate competition for day 2 (all played on the astro pitches) Olhão were joined by Kingsmaid and Esquina Park from the very strong Group B. They were also joined by Silver Coast Strollers and 1874 Northwich from Group A, both these teams being easily beaten in the opening games on day 2 (Silver Coast by 4-0 and 1874 Northwich by 1-0). Yet another draw with Esquina Park Rangers (0-0) and a narrow defeat to Kingsmaid (0-1) put Olhão into the Plate semi-finals, where they met 1874 Northwich. A tense match which Olhão dominated resulted in a 0-0 draw, with Olhão winning the resultant penalty shoot-out with two excellently taken penalties and a fine save from Tony Wyld.
This meant a Plate final match against Esquina. The third meeting produced the third draw (0-0) between the two teams, with Olhão unfortunately losing out in the penalty shoot-out 3-2.
A special mention must go to Flavio and Julio, who made their tournament debuts and both scored, and also Tony Wyld who turned goalkeeper for the two days and performed flawlessly. Thanks also to Jon Berrill for managing the team and Jonathan Syed for organising everything and ensuring we got a team out despite all the problems.
Being in the “group of death” did not help, nor did the injuries and absentees, but upward and onward to Vilamoura next week!
All results, tables, videos and photos are available on the organiser’s EuroCopa Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/eurocopaalgarve
Many thanks to Jon B, Stuart and John K for providing much of the report above