Five of six zones now under way in the race for FIFAe Club World Cup spots
Favourites beginning to emerge
Overview of the second round of FIFAe Club World Cup qualifying
The first week of qualifying of the new year saw more zones begin their path to the FIFAe Club World Cup 2021, to be held from 24 to 28 February 2021. With the exception of Zone 1, which will be kicking off next Thursday, all of the other zones are now battling it out for the limited number of spots at what will be the biggest EA SPORTS FIFA club event of the year. The complete set of results is available on FIFA.gg.
These six zones are divided up into various conferences, which are then split into divisions 1–3. The top two teams in each conference after the final week will qualify for the FIFAe Club World Cup 2021, along with the two best teams in the Consistency Rankings at that time. Zone 4 also has a significant number of teams taking part and will therefore be organising additional play-offs.
Review of the second week of qualifying
Only five clubs have been able to garner the maximum 600 points in the Consistency Ranking thus far. These include NEO, who took part in last year’s FIFAe Club World Cup, big guns Inter eSports and Team Gullit, and then a pair of outsiders in Burnley FC and Hexon esports, who duly delivered in the first two weeks of action.
Highlights from around the zones
In the first week of qualifying, two-time FIFAe Club World Cup qualifiers Blue United eFC once again proved that they are among the top clubs in the world, losing just one game and securing first place.
Despite losing in the final of week two qualifying to 25eSports, Tuwaiq eSports Club continued their good run of form and took first place in the Consistency Ranking.
Last year’s second-placed team Ellevens and two-time qualifiers Bochum are neck and neck in the Consistency Ranking in Conference 1. In Conference 2, red-hot favourites Fnatic (with ‘Tekkz’ in their squad) lead the way, while Borussia Dortmund have secured promotion to the first division for the first time.
Former FIFAe Club World Cup qualifiers Team Vitality put in a strong showing and now sit atop the Consistency Ranking in Conference 4, while surprise package North have won promotion to Division 2 in that conference.
Meanwhile, their club rivals and record tournament-winners Brondby IF are doing even better and are still very much on track for the play-offs in Conference 5.
Three more clubs with FIFAe Club World Cup experience are currently looking good for another appearance, namely Futbolist (Conference 7) and Hashtag United and Olympique Lyonnais (Conference 8).
In Conference 12, Schalke 04 laid down a marker with a win in the all-German final over Fokus Clan (including former FIFA eWorld Cup champion ‘MoAuba’).
Cesar Azpilicueta’s Falcons enjoyed a strong second week and took over first place in the Consistency Ranking in Conference 13.
DUX Gaming bounced back from a defeat in their first match and enjoyed better fortunes in the loser bracket in Conference 14, meaning they now have a good chance of qualifying for the second year in a row.
Two-time qualifiers Basel had an up-and-down week but are still in first place in the Consistency Ranking in Conference 1. Ronaldinho’s R10 team were back on form after a poor first week and won Conference 2, while Inter eSports were unstoppable once again in Conference 3.
Reigning Club World Cup champions Complexity Gaming won the conference to take over top spot in the Consistency Rankings, increasing their chances of a success title defence.
What happens next?
The race for FIFAe Club World Cup tickets is getting tighter, with the margin for error shrinking as each week goes by. Two more weeks of qualifying remain – one this week, one the next, plus the additional play-offs in Zone 4 – before the teams are locked in for the FIFAe Club World Cup 2021 and can fight it out for the title in the various zones.
Adam Zampa picked up 5 for 17 in a match totally dominated by Melbourne Stars
Melbourne Stars 2 for 179 (Fletcher 89*, Valente 1-36) beat Adelaide Strikers 68 (Zampa 5-17) by 111 runs
Andre Fletcher has repaid Melbourne Stars’ faith in him with a stunning 89 not out before Adam Zampa claimed 5 for 17 to set up a huge 111-run victory over Adelaide Strikers at the MCG.
The Strikers were bowled out for just 68 chasing 180, their lowest total in BBL history, the third-lowest overall, and it was also the fourth-largest defeat by any team.
Fletcher had not passed 18 in the first nine matches in the tournament but he overcame a lack of strike in the first 10 overs to reach his first half-century in T20 cricket in more than 12 months before destroying the Strikers’ quicks in the Power Surge to set up a match-winning total of 2 for 179.
Fletcher revealed he received a phone call of encouragement from West Indies great Brian Lara a few days earlier, which inspired his innings.
He got good support from Glenn Maxwell (37 off 28) and Hilton Cartwright (30 not out off 17), though Cartwright’s innings possibly cost him a century. The Strikers attack lacked penetration without Rashid Khan and Peter Siddle, although Liam O’Connor and Daniel Worrall bowled tidily.
The Strikers then succumbed to the Stars’ spin trio as they raced through the overs with rain looming on the radar. Maxwell and Zahir Khan set it up in the Powerplay and finished with 4 for 31 from eight overs combined. Zampa then finished the job as the rain began to fall claiming his second T20 five-wicket haul.
It was a bizarre innings from Marcus Stoinis. He admitted to the media on Thursday that he had been struggling with how to build an innings under the new rules, having at times gone too hard in the four-over Powerplay and he even revealed he forgot about the Power Surge in the last game. Fletcher’s lean tournament has no doubt also played a part in his indecision. Stoinis faced 14 dots in total including 10 in Worrall’s first two overs. He has the confidence he can catch up but he never did, holing out to long-off to a borderline waist-high full toss from Danny Briggs for 13 off 26.
Fletcher faced just 15 balls and reached his highest total of the tournament of 22 while Stoinis was at the crease. Maxwell walked out at No.3 and avoided his third consecutive golden duck, but the Stars crawled to 1 for 57 after 10 overs with O’Connor stepping into Rashid’s enormous shoes and bowling and excellent four-over spell. However, he wasn’t able to take any wickets to expose the Stars’ middle order. Maxwell and Fletcher opted not to take the Power Surge despite both men being set at the start of the 15th over and Maxwell holed out to long-on at an inopportune time.
Spiceman runs hot
Fletcher hadn’t reached fifty in his last 30 T20 innings dating back to his century in the Bangladesh Premier League in 2019. Here, he got to his 50 off 36 balls at the end of the 16th and the relief on his face was palpable. The Stars took the Power Surge and Fletcher filled his boots. He torched Wes Agar and Worrall for four fours and two sixes as both quicks got their lengths horribly wrong delivering a mix of full tosses and length balls. Fletcher delivered a contemptuous no-look strike off Worrall over the long-on off the last ball of the Surge.
He was 82 not out with 12 balls left in the innings but only faced two more. Cartwright made 30 not out off 17 balls with two sixes, two fours, and three twos leaving Fletcher to watch at the other end. Fletcher finally got on strike last ball of the innings and deposited Briggs over the sightscreen. He was emotional as he walked off the ground and received a lengthy embrace from his skipper Maxwell. He later revealed that the emotion was for his late uncle.
Rain rush wrecks Strikers
With rain looming on the radar, Maxwell decided to race through three overs of spin in the Powerplay to get through five overs as quickly as possible. The gamble paid huge dividends as the Strikers slumped to 2 for 10. Alex Carey promoted himself to open with Phil Salt and both men fell cheaply. Salt gloved an attempted reverse sweep off Zahir to the keeper while Carey was clean bowled trying to launch Maxwell over long-on. Maxwell kept the spin attack rolling bowling just two overs of pace in the first 10 as the Stars defended just 57 to claim the Bash Boost point. Matt Renshaw and Jon Wells did not score a boundary off the spinners with Renshaw holing out to Zampa in the 10th over.
Zampa shrugs off shoulder concern
Zampa hurt his shoulder diving in the field and had to spend some time sitting on the dug-out when he wasn’t bowling. But it didn’t affect his legspin as he put on another masterclass. The damage had been done by Maxwell and Zahir but Zampa was still needed to close out the 10th over and secure the Bash Boost point. He was far too good for the Strikers tail claiming four of the last five wickets.
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne
Kaprizov’s OT winner lifts Wild past Kings in season opener
LOS ANGELES — Kirill Kaprizov scored his first NHL goal with 1:13 remaining in overtime and finished with three points as the Minnesota Wild rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in the season opener for both teams Thursday night.
The 23-year-old Russian scored on a breakaway, putting the puck past Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick. Kaprizov, who is the third Russian-born player to make his NHL debut with the Wild, also had a pair of assists. He was a fifth-round selection by Minnesota in 2015 before signing a two-year, entry-level contract last summer.
Minnesota trailed 3-1 after two periods before rallying. Jonas Brodin, Victor Rask and Marcus Foligno also scored for the Wild. Cam Talbot made 32 saves in his Minnesota debut.
Dustin Brown scored his 300th goal, Jeff Carter had a goal and an assist and Andreas Athanasiou also scored for Los Angeles. Quick stopped 23 shots.
Brown got his milestone goal with 2:55 remaining in the second on the power play with a wrap-around that put the Kings in front by two goals.
The Kings, who were one of seven teams that missed the playoffs, were playing their first game since March 11. They were the league’s hottest team with seven straight wins before last season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Minnesota was playing its first game since Aug. 7, after it lost to Vancouver in four games in the best-of-five qualifying round in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Talbot had a rough game in his Wild debut. Talbot, who signed a three-year contract last July, fell to 7-10 in 17 career starts against Los Angeles.
Minnesota G Alex Stalock, along with Los Angeles D Kurtis MacDermid, G Cal Petersen and Sean Walker
The Wild remarked before the game how strange it felt walking through their largely empty hotel across the street from Staples Center, with no activity at the adjacent LA Live complex, either. There was no team meal, just grab-and-go food for coaches and players to take to their rooms and eat on their own.
“I packed a lot more recovery stuff this year,” Talbot said. “More sweatpants. Less jeans. You can’t really go anywhere, so it’s just comfy clothes and stuff to keep you entertained in the room.”
The teams will meet again on Saturday night. Eight of Los Angeles’ first 21 games are against Minnesota and the season series will be wrapped up by the end of February. The Wild are one of four Central Division teams who are part of the reconfigured West Division this season.
“Adjustments will come into play on both sides but saying that these early games are more about us,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan about playing teams in back-to-back games for most of the season. “It is about doing things in our world before picking things apart about other teams.”
Evander Holyfield wants to fight Mike Tyson for a third time: ‘No more excuses’
Evander Holyfield heard about the hype behind a 54-year-old Mike Tyson returning to the ring to fight a 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr. and decided that he wanted in on the action. The former undisputed heavyweight champion has called out Iron Mike for one last bout between the two middle-aged men.
“No more excuses,” said Holyfield in a statement, per Reuters. “This is the fight that must happen for both our legacies. Saturday night you said you were ready to fight me, so sign the contract and get in the ring, Tyson. The world is waiting and it’s on you now. I’m ready.”
If there’s anyone who understands the magnitude of the draw these two fighters can still bring, it’s Holyfield. Not only does the boxer keep his ear to the ground on such things, but Tyson once helped it get there in one of their two famous bouts. The first Tyson-Holyfield fight ended in an 11th round TKO for Holyfield, while the second infamously ended when Tyson was disqualified for biting a chunk of Holyfield’s ear off.
Holyfield offered up his services to fight Tyson in his return to the ring, but promoters went with Jones Jr. instead. The 58-year-old appears to be using his being spurned as motivation to get this second comeback fight for Tyson to happen.
“My side tried to make the fight happen and we got nothing but excuses,” Holyfield’s statement continued. “Now I can see why he wanted a tune-up fight before thinking about fighting me. Roy Jones was a good local opponent for Mike but a fight with me would be a global event and the only fight that anyone wants to see is a fight between us.
“There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t make it happen.”