Ahead of the two sides’ clash on Wednesday, there’s been some talk that India’s quarterfinal match against Belgium in the 2021 Junior Hockey World Cup will be a reprise of an earlier match – the final of the 2016 edition. Although India won that contest, just that result can’t be extrapolated to this latest encounter.
Being an age group tournament, it is obvious that neither team would still feature the same players from five years ago. Indeed, the only common figure from both those games will be Belgium’s coach Jeroen Baart. Individuals from both teams in that contest would graduate to the senior squad and ended up meeting in the semifinals of the Olympics, where the Belgians emerged victorious.
But even though this latest batch of players haven’t ever had a chance to play each other, they will know what they are up against. Wednesday’s match is a clash not just between two teams but of two philosophies of hockey – a classic stylistic matchup. “You see the DNA (playing style) comes down from the senior team, and the senior team is world no 1,” India’s coach Graham Reid said about Belgium. Reid doesn’t mean to say that Belgium’s style has been thrust down from what the seniors. Over the last decade, beginning from the juniors, Belgium has created a playing style that’s worked miracles for them – winning them the Olympic title this year. What this is is a solid defensive structure where Belgium controls the pace of the match. “We focus on control to create opportunities. For us that means maintaining structure and intensity,” says Jeroen Baart.
India have a philosophy too – one that’s also been a decade in the making and which resulted in a drought-ending Olympic bronze. Baart knows of this as well. “India play is about counterattacking with speed and vertical play. “Our style of play is very complimentary to India. India like to counter-attack using their speed and vertical play. They do it really well. We are focused on our defensive end and on controlling the ball to create opportunities,” says Baart.
Signs of vulnerabilities
Both teams will go into Wednesday’s clash knowing not just each others’ playing styles but also based on their performances so far at the World Cup what they aren’t happy facing with. In their first match of the tournament India fell to a shock 5-4 loss to France – a side that’s looking to cast itself in the Belgian model. The French controlled possession for much of the game and the Indians, except for a brief flurry in the final few minutes of the match, were unable to get into the shooting circle. That last bit of relentless pressure will trouble Belgium though. “We will have to survive those waves from India,” Baart says.
Belgium too have shown vulnerabilities in Bhubaneswar. In their second game against Malaysia – they were held to a surprise draw against a side that tightly defended, giving no opening of its own. India chief coach Graham Reid alluded to that as well. “”We also saw some vulnerability the Malaysians were able to capitalise on and hopefully we can do that,” said Reid. That though will be easier said than done since it would require going against the free flowing hockey the Indian team prizes.
Can they play their A-game?
While both sides have displayed vulnerabilities, they equally have the potential to nullify each other’s strengths as well. Both sides will find that their release tactics might not have the same kind of success as they might have had against other teams.
The Belgians for one might find the high ball — a tactic very successfully employed by their Olympic champion senior side as well –has no guarantee. Although the French side did manage to use the high ball successfully, that match was marked by unusually poor trapping and interception from the low-on-match-practice Indians, who would back themselves not to have two bad days in a week’s time.
India, on the other hand, will find that the kind of defenses that allowed their counterattacking play to end up scoring 25 goals in the league phase might not have the same kind of opportunities against a side that prides itself on its defensive structure. The fact that India have lost striker Maninder Singh due to injury might place addition pressure on the remaining first choice forward line. Coach Reid admits that impatience might be a factor should the young Indian side not get the kind of gifts they would have been used to over the last few days. “That’s (impatience) one of the tough parts when coaching someone younger since it doesn’t come naturally in younger boys. Kids at that age want things to happen right now. You have to try to teach them patience and move the ball around. When you see Belgium play, you will see that patience because it’s been ingrained in them growing up,” he admits.
In a high-stakes encounter against two sides who started as pre-tournament favourites, what both coaches admit will be critical is just who handles the pressure better. Should the hosts go 2-0 down as they did in their opening game against France, then it’s likely that scoreboard pressure could cause them to play poorer than they might otherwise have.”There might have been some nerves ahead of the first match of the tournament. Hopefully that would have been washed away by now. What I’m focused on is that we are tight in defence all through the game. But our priority would be to get off to a good start,” says Reid.
Baart will be hoping to deny India of just that. “It’s going to be a fantastic match-up. We expect a lot of attacking and aggression from the Indian team. We need to have the right structure and the right intensity at the right moment to deal with it.”
University students hold the keys to ‘level up’ the esports industry
Written by Tao Martinez, Head of University Esports Development at GGTech
For many students, getting in from a class or lecture means jumping onto CS:GO or League of Legends with their friends to pass the time and have a laugh for a few hours.
Climbing the ranks may spark conversation about “going professional” one day but forging a career in esports has never been more accessible for students, with the industry growing by the day.
The total revenue of the esports industry in 2021 was estimated by Newzoo to be $833.6 million, and this is enhanced by a rising number of jobs, university courses and opportunities, making it one of the fastest growing and desirable sectors to lead a career in.
The most obvious route into esports is through being the best at a given game, with teams willing to sign players up on a contract to represent them at tournaments and online leagues. And whilst this is desirable, there are actually a whole host of other careers within the industry.
With Covid fears beginning to fade, in-person gaming events are returning with competitions such as the Amazon UNIVERSITY Esports Masters, hosted by GGTech in collaboration with NUEL, bringing together the best university talent across Europe to face off.
Beyond the players, these events require event organisers, planners and managers, advertising, sponsorship, social media promotion, casting, filming, tech support, and that’s before even getting to the participants which involves players, coaches, and team organisations.
There are so many aspects to a successful esports competition which in turn creates a wealth of jobs and opportunities – which are growing all the time. And these opportunities are also available through online esports leagues as well.
We are in an era where traditional television is being taken over by Netflix, YouTube and Twitch, creating new mediums for viewers to engage with esports, which is reflected by a growing viewer base.
Research from VentureBeat estimated that in 2021 there were 234 million esports enthusiasts, up from 197 and 200.8 million respectively in 2019, highlighting a stark growth. What’s more is that by 2024 there are expected to be 285.8 million enthusiasts and 291.6 million occasional viewers. Esports is a rapidly growing industry that people want to be involved with, and it’ll only get bigger in the coming years.
This is supported by an increase in job awareness through sites like Hitmarker, a dedicated jobs site for advertising esports opportunities.
The esports ecosystem supports universities through the development of teaching, facilities and opportunities in the industry which helps to focus on student’s interests whilst developing their core skills in preparation for a career in the industry.
For example, Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies, as part of Nottingham Trent University, offer a BSc in Esports Production which teaches students about the global esports industry, the principles of esports, production and technology, as well as broadcasting and management. This will be delivered in Confetti X, a £5 million dedicated esports complex due to open ahead of the upcoming academic year.
Universities such as Sheffield Hallam offer courses in esports management, whilst Chichester has its own esports degree. This is supplemented by universities such as Warwick who have large student esports communities who come together for competitions and tournaments.
The importance of good training in developing the esports industry is being increasingly recognised by universities who are creating new courses each year as a result. Courses involving business, management, events, marketing, journalism and design all offer unique skills which match up with a plethora of new jobs emerging in the esports scene, and with the industry growing at the rate it is, the number of these jobs will only rise.
Moving forwards, the onus is not only on the esports industry supplying opportunities for university students, but also on the university ecosystem to provide the highest-quality education and training in order to fuel the integration of new talent into the dynamic esports workforce.
In order to assist students who are pursuing a career in esports, GGTech works with university students to run and produce the Amazon UNIVERSITY Esports Masters competitions, giving them vital first-hand experience at casting, broadcasting and event management.
Part of the fabric for the future development and growth of the esports industry is putting faith in the talent of university students, being willing to innovate courses, equipment and opportunities, and supporting students every step of the way to help turn their hobby into their future employment.
That’s why university campuses are the best testing space for evolving equipment, products and services whilst allowing students to gain valuable experience, especially through internships and competition management.
Opening people’s eyes to the vast array of opportunities and careers that the esports sector has to offer will fuel the next generation to become the core of the industry during its rapid growth.
Now is the time for a career in esports
In the esports industry revenues are growing, viewership is growing, the number of participants is growing, and this is creating more and more opportunities all the time.
There is no better time to pursue a career in esports, and education is at the forefront of attracting prospective students into the industry. As the sector grows, we will see an increasing number of universities offering esports related courses and follow in the footsteps of Confetti in building dedicated facilities for students to gain the best first-hand experience for running tournaments.
Students should be encouraged to take the plunge, and universities and esports professionals must provide the best assistance possible to welcome in the new generation to help the entire esports industry grow.
Utah State Stands Out in Group of Five
Utah State was projected to win three games this season. The Aggies had other ideas. They are 9-3 and playing for the Mountain West Conference championship on Saturday. San Diego State is the opponent. The Aztecs also proved the experts wrong in the college football odds.
Utah State Aggies
Utah State is +5000 to win the MWC title and the Mountain Division champion is a 5½-point underdog to San Diego State in the college football spreads. The Aggies opened the season with three straight wins to reach their projected total. After losing two in a row, they rewarded over bettors in their sixth game, but that came at a -145 price.
Northern Illinois Huskies
Northern Illinois wasn’t thought of too highly at 3½ wins in the Las Vegas odds. The Huskies started 1-2 but rattled off five straight triumphs, giving over players the victory along the way. Northern Illinois has won eight games and is +5000 to win the Mid-American Conference title on Saturday as a three-point dog against Kent State
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Western Kentucky is +700 to claim the Conference USA title as a 1½-point favorite versus UTSA on Friday. The Hilltoppers figured to be in the middle of the pack with an over-under of 5½ wins. Under players were getting what they wanted when Western Kentucky began 1-4. But seven straight victories later, over players have long since counted their money.
San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State, the MWC West Division champion, won 11 games after its over-under was set at 6½ for betting online. The Aztecs needed only seven contests to sail over the number. San Diego State is also a big price to wear the conference crown at +1400.
Texas-San Antonio won a school-record 11 games to start the season, smashing its projected win total of eight. The Roadrunners were the third choice to win the C-USA title at +330, but find themselves a slight underdog against Western Kentucky.
BYU’s 12-game independent schedule featured six against Power Five conference programs. The Cougars were 5-1 in those contests. BYU also went 5-1 against the rest to easily surpass the 6½ win total to which it was assigned.
East Carolina Pirates
East Carolina was given a 4½ win total. The Pirates dropped their first two games, won three straight and lost the next two. East Carolina continued its see-saw ride by sailing over the number with four victories in a row before losing to College Football Playoff hopeful Cincinnati.
Boise State Broncos
Boise State was -125 to win the MWC title. The Broncos were in contention until the final weekend of the regular season before losing to San Diego State. Boise State has seven victories and cannot reach the nine it was projected to win.
Buffalo was +330 and a co-favorite to win the MAC championship with an over-under of 7½ wins. The Bulls even got a bit of national love at +50000, but they never gained traction in 2021. Buffalo was 4-4 before losing its remaining four games.
Florida International Panthers
Florida International’s modest win over-under was 4½. After winning their first game, the Panthers lost their final 11, cashing at -125 along the way for under players.
Heisman Moment Elusive for Top Two
The final week of the regular season was the perfect time for Heisman Trophy front-runners Bryce Young of the Alabama Crimson Tide and C.J. Stroud of the Ohio State Buckeyes to have that “Heisman moment.”
We’re still waiting. Stroud did throw for nearly 400 yards but the Buckeyes were knocked out of contention for the Big Ten Championship Game with a loss to rival Michigan. Young struggled as much as he has all season as Alabama escaped the Iron Bowl with an overtime win.
Young has either the advantage or disadvantage of facing the ferocious Georgia Bulldogs’ defense in the SEC Championship to give Heisman voters one more chance to see the talented quarterback in action.
Here is the latest breakdown with the college football odds of how the Heisman Trophy race is shaking out.
Still Looks Like Two-Man Race
Bryce Young, Alabama Quarterback
Heisman Odds: -225
For more than 59 minutes, Young was on the verge of being held without a touchdown pass for the first time all season. With Alabama needing a touchdown to force overtime against host Auburn, Young missed on six of his 10 passes but had completions of 22, 21, 14 and 28 yards. The final throw to Ja’Corey Brooks with 24 seconds left kept Alabama from losing its second SEC game of the season.
Young had another TD pass in overtime as Alabama escaped with a 24-22 win in four overtimes.
Young failed to complete at least 50 percent of his passes for the first time all season. He was sacked seven times and under constant duress. He certainly has had better performances.
Now he will play against a Georgia team that leads the country in scoring defense and total defense, so he will have a chance to show what he can do against the top defense in the country.
No team has allowed fewer passing plays of at least 10 yards than the 60 the Bulldogs have given up so if he gets it going against Georgia, he could help Alabama join Yale. Army, USC and Oklahoma as the only schools to have different players win the Heisman Trophy in back-to-back years after receiver DeVonta Smith was last year’s winner.
C.J. Stroud, Ohio State Quarterback
Heisman Odds: +400
The numbers looked pretty good when the Ohio State Buckeyes squared off with rival Michigan. Stroud fell six yards shy of his fifth 400-yard passing game of the season. He didn’t throw an interception for the seventh time in the last eight games but Ohio State was held under 30 points for the third time. Two of the Buckeyes’ losses came when they were held under 30 points.
Stroud averaged more than 10 yards per attempt coming into the regular-season finale but he managed only eight yards per attempt in the 42-27 loss to Michigan.
Unlike fellow front-runner Young of Alabama, Stroud won’t have a conference championship game to add to his already list of accomplishments this season.
Stroud didn’t play poorly against Michigan but also didn’t have that “Heisman moment.”
Looking for Trip to New York
It seems unlikely that anybody other than Young or Stroud will win the Heisman Trophy but here are some of the other offensive players who could earn an invitation to New York as a Heisman finalist.
Kenneth Walker, Michigan State Running Back
Heisman Odds: +1800
A running back hasn’t finished in the top three in the Heisman Trophy voting since Stanford’s Bryce Love was the runner-up to Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2017. That streak could come to an end as Walker has been listed by the scores and odds among the top Heisman candidates for much of the season.
After running for only 25 yards on six carries in Michigan State’s loss to Ohio State, Walker had a solid bounce-back game with 138 rushing yards in a 30-27 win over Penn State.
Walker is second among FBS players with 1,636 rushing yards and is tied for fifth with 18 touchdown runs. Walker’s performance against Michigan, when he ran for 197 yards and five touchdowns in a 37-33 Michigan State win, could be enough for Walker to crack the top three.
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Quarterback
Heisman Odds: +1400
Pickett joins Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe as the only FBS quarterbacks with at least 4,000 passing yards and 40 touchdown passes. He is tied for second nationally with 40 passing touchdowns, fifth with 4,066 passing yards and eighth in passer rating (166.7). Many of the people ahead of him in those categories won’t be playing this weekend.
Pickett’s greatest accomplishment is leading Pittsburgh to the ACC Championship Game. He is facing a Wake Forest team that has allowed more than 400 passing yards twice this season so there will be a chance for him to put up some numbers in the ACC title game.
Dee-fense, Dee-fense, Dee-fense
If running backs have been after-thoughts in recent Heisman Trophy balloting, what about defensive players? Since 2013, the only defensive players to finish in the top five in the Heisman voting are Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, who finished fourth in the voting in 2019, and Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers, who was fifth in 2016. There haven’t been three defensive players in the top 10 since 2012 and that could certainly change when the votes are tabulated next month.
Will Anderson, Alabama Linebacker
Heisman Odds: +5500
Anderson is currently leading all FBS players with 29½ tackles for loss and 14½ sacks. He would be the first player since Sutton Smith of Northern Illinois to lead the nation in both categories during the same season.
During Alabama’s current six-game winning streak, Anderson has 18½ tackles for loss and 11½ sacks. He is on the verge of joining Derrick Thomas as the only Alabama player with at least 30 tackles for loss in a season. Thomas is the only Crimson Tide player with more sacks in a season than Anderson.
Jordan Davis, Georgia Defensive Lineman
Heisman Odds: +3300
The stat-crazy voters might be reluctant to include Davis on their ballots since he is 13th on the Bulldogs with 24 tackles, 10th with 3½tackles for loss and tied for eighth with two sacks, but anybody who has watched this dominant Georgia defense knows how important the 6-foot-6, 340-pound Davis is to the Bulldogs.
Since 2000, no FBS defense has allowed fewer points per game than the 6½ being given up by Georgia and the 229.7 yards per game allowed is the seventh-fewest surrendered during that span. Davis is a major reason for the stifling success of the Georgia defense.
Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan Defensive End
Heisman Odds: N/A
Speaking of passing the eye test, Hutchinson seemed to be in the backfield almost as much as the Ohio State running backs on Saturday.
Hutchinson had three sacks to give him a Michigan single-season record of 13, breaking the program record shared by David Bowens and LaMarr Woodley.
After an impressive 2019, Hutchinson was limited to three games a season ago. As a result, he wasn’t exactly getting much in the way Heisman hype when the 2021 season began. That has certainly changed thanks to his impressive campaign. He’ll get to add to what has already been a season to remember when Michigan, listed by the college football spreads as an 11-point favorite, plays Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Matchup of the Week
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs
What game were you expecting?
Alabama’s Young could make a major statement if he puts up some nice numbers against the best defense in the country. There will be plenty of eyes watching defensive stalwarts Jordan Davis of No. 1 Georgia and Will Anderson of Alabama when the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide meet up in the SEC Championship Game.
Georgia comes into the game as a 6½-point favorite according to the sportsbook.