Futsal Cuppers last eight: What are their chances?
The men’s Futsal Cuppers competition has reached the final day; 80 teams entered and eight remain, we look at their chances and their journeys so far.
St Anne’s 1
The Hassan’s Cup winners have enjoyed a strong tournament so far, emerging out of a strong group to narrowly edge out a talented St Hugh’s team, and coming out on top in a penalty shootout against a very strong Pembroke/Queen’s MCR side. The Mint Green Army™ have brought a uniquely physical approach to the competition, with a large squad and frequent substitutions, they are a relentless, pressing side. Built around the muscular Ashley-Calway axis, the continental flair of Guillaume Paugam and the attacking pedigree of Brandon Clifford mean that this team is far from one-dimensional, however, and have a decent chance of causing an upset against much fancied Pembroke.
The men in pink have, quite simply, eviscerated every opponent they have faced thus far, and must be considered the favourites to win the tournament. Scoring 29 goals and conceding one so far in their six games to date, including a 4-0 victory with only four men, they are the team to watch for the neutrals. Former Blues captain Laurence Wroe anchors a team which play in a genuinely fluid style, aided no doubt by the experience of futsal specialist Loic Bramley, along with an ensemble of tricky, technical players. Pembroke will no doubt be dreaming of the final already, but they must first navigate a St Anne’s team far superior to their opponents to date.
St Catz 1
Last year’s winners and early favourites Catz have stumbled through the competition so far, but have repeatedly shown that they know how to grind out a win when it matters. Finishing second in their group after a scare against Corpus 2nds and a 1-0 defeat to Somerville, Catz have eliminated two hotly tipped teams in the knockout rounds to reach the last eight. A penalty shootout win against Wadham and a battling 1-0 win against strong contenders Teddy Hall have propelled them to this stage, and only a fool would bet against them going further. Josh Tray’s vocal micro-management of his outfield teammates from goal has steadied the team defensively, but they will know that there are tougher tests to come.
Keble have played some genuinely entertaining futsal to get to this stage, and their elimination of a quality St Peter’s side in the last round will give them belief that they could go all the way. Adam Bradbury is a commanding and vocal presence in goal, while Ben Wiggins’ tricks and back-heeled flicks have been both entertaining and effective, but the real driving force of this team is Maxwell Jones. When he isn’t high-fiving his own team to death, his energy and clinical finishing in front of goal have contributed significantly to Keble’s nine goals scored across the past two knockout games alone. While not the favourites, Keble are certainly a dark horse, and again, very much a team for the neutrals.
New have appeared unstoppable in the competition up to this point, and with Worcester knocked out at the group stage, they may even be able to win it this time. The pre-tournament favourites have, so far, lived up to the hype. Having emphatically topped their group, New have since dispatched Merton/Mansfield and Somerville in clinical fashion, and the remaining teams in the competition should worry that they haven’t really moved out of second gear yet. With the industry of Alex Craig, James Foord’s knack for scoring important goals and real quality throughout the rest of the team, New certainly have the tools to win Cuppers. We have, however, heard that one before.
Hertford “2” are another team who exploit a large squad and high fitness levels to overwhelm their opponents with raw energy. The winners of Division 3 have conceded only one goal in the tournament so far, and have impressed with their sheer physicality and work ethic. There is certainly more to the team than hard running, however, with Joel Rabinowitz adding a touch of flair in attack, and Blues Varsity winner Jack Witt linking up with the squad in the latter stages of the competition. Witt’s game-winning, last-second goal against Lincoln in the round of 16 bore shades of his screamer into the top corner in Brookes Varsity (in front of 5,000 fans) earlier this year, and with a match-winner of his calibre in their midst, Hertford will be looking to upset the odds against New and go all the way.
St Hilda’s 1
St Hilda’s have been an exciting team to watch, and their deceptive underdog status belies the talent they possess across the pitch. From the tournament’s standout goalkeeper, Kamran Sharifi, through Colts centre-back Guy Warburton and the explosive talent of Rowan Dunn-Capper, Hilda’s are stacked with quality and it is not surprising to see them in the last eight. To get to this stage, they topped a strong group courtesy of a battling win against Pembroke/Queen’s MCR. Their 6-0 demolition of Queen’s in the first knockout round, and consequent elimination of Brasenose, should send a warning to the rest of the contenders, and they will rightly harbour aspirations of going even deeper into the tournament.
Jesus had rather sleepwalked through the tournament up until the round of 16, winning all of their group games by the narrowest of margins, and needing penalties to scrape past Hertford’s (actual) second team. Having gone 2-0 down against hot favourites St John’s, therefore, it would have been easy to write this off as yet another unsuccessful cup campaign for the men in green. An inspired late comeback, and a penalty shootout win courtesy of a brilliant Asa Kerr-Davis save has pushed them through to the last eight and maybe, just maybe, this team can live up to its undoubted potential. Boasting new Centaurs captain Jonny Betteridge, along with a host of OUAFC players and secret weapon James “Jimmy” Wilson, Jesus should worry the rest of the field as a team that appears to be peaking at the business end of the competition.