Our first game is now behind us, and we would have been hard pressed to find a tougher match for first up. Today saw us get into a familiar routine for this of us who have played these tournaments before: training and playing.
First up today was training, early, as we had the early game as well. Training was fairly light, with a focus on shooting, and making sure we enjoy ourselves, and celebrate our successes. Once again we had the entire gym, which looks to be the case for the entire tournament, which is a nice surprise to me. Unfortunately, due to the early game time, and the schedule of the tournament buses, we had to essentially go directly from training to the match, which is a less than ideal situation, but is just another of the challenges and quirks tournaments tend to throw up.
We arrived at the stadium in Ghent (about a 50 minute drive from our hotel) a couple of hours before our game, which is unusually early, but given the traffic we faced on the way home, it was probably better to be safe than sorry. When we arrived we were greeted by a wall of noise, with several busloads of screaming Belgian schoolkids appearing to have been bused in for the occasion. The kids did help create some atmosphere, which was a bit confronting at first, but that soon passed, and instead the atmosphere made the match all the more exciting. Once the game kicked off, the kids seemed to get louder, which at times made communication on the court difficult. Unfortunately, we were soundly beaten, although this was not exactly unexpected. Almost everyone got a run, and a chance to go up against one of the best teams in the world, which is always a great opportunity. I think its safe to say we all learnt something, be it something we need to work on, or something we know works, and we can now take that knowledge forward into the rest of the tournament.
As previously mentioned, the ride home took quite a lot longer than the ride to the stadium, thanks to some traffic jams, which are apparently a common occurrence on Belgian highways. The matches being so far away from the hotel (as well as spread around the country) is another new feature for me, and is just another thing to get used to.
Tomorrow seems likely to travel along similar lines as today, with another early training and match, this time against Brasil, a team which I don’t think any of us have played against before. This promises to be an interesting opportunity, and is the reason I play these tournaments. A reminder that all the match info is available on the National Teams page, which will include live streams when we have them. For everything else, remember to keep checking the Facebook page to keep up to date.