Birmingham were again representing England last month in an over 65’s World Cup competition against their old adversaries Scotland, and teams from Canada, Wales and Gibraltar.
The matches were played in France at the Standard Athletic Club in Meudon, a picturesque suburb half an hour outside the capital Paris, and about the same distance from the Palace of Versailles.
England were drawn against Scotland in their first match and started well taking the lead with a terrific goal by Dave Whatmore which nestled in the top corner of the rather oversize goals. At this stage England were playing well and the Scotland keeper had to make several timely saves to prevent them from falling further behind. But then two errors caught England out and Scotland came back to take the lead 1 – 2. However, goals from Barry Huntington and Keith Laishley put England back in the driving seat at 3 – 2 but then they had two men sent to the sin bin for 2 mins. A heroic rear-guard action by Dave Burgess and Barry prevented Scotland taking advantage of the situation but when the two sin bin players returned to the pitch everything inexplicably turned around in what seemed like an instant, and Scotland equalised and then went on to score another 3 goals to take the match by 6 goals to 3.
In the next match England were up against Wales in what seemed, on paper, to be one of the easier matches. England completely dominated their opposition from the start with numerous shots on goal being saved by the excellent Welsh goalkeeper who was in great form. However, a nicely taken goal by Dave Whatmore gave England their first win of the competition.
Next up for England were Gibraltar. Again, the England side were into their stride very early in the game. Their passing game was getting better and as a result of this, a fine move was constructed which enabled a chance to fall to Dave Burgess which he accepted and scored with aplomb with a fine drive across the opposition goalkeeper into the far corner of the net.
A further goal from Dave Whatmore and a penalty from John Limbourne secured a fine 3 – 0 victory.
In their final league match England then played Canada. Two superb quick fire goals from distance by full back Keith Laishley put England 2 goals in front and goals from Frank Hughes, Barry Huntington and John Limbourne sealed a comfortable 5 – 1 win to leave England top of the league and ready to play Gibraltar in the final match to decide the destination of the Trophy.
Having already beaten Gibraltar in the qualifying round, England were confident that they could do so again and started the match in good form but this time around Gibraltar were to prove a harder nut to crack. A couple of personnel and tactical changes made it difficult for England to make the breakthrough, although they did have chances that were either blocked by Gibraltarian defenders or saved by the capable goalkeeper behind them. Try as they may England could just not open up the Gibraltar defence and then with just 30 seconds left on the referees watch, Gibraltar’s most dangerous forward broke away from the close attention of the England defence and finished the only chance he had been allowed during the match to give them the win and the 2019 Super Veterans Title.
England were also runners up in the Penalty competition thanks to 3 super saves from Keith Phipps who also kept 2 clean sheets during the qualifying round robin stage of the competition.
The whole trip was a resounding success and thanks to the ladies who accompanied the players and gave their vocal support from the touchline.