Breaking Tourney Ground
The Bunnies did it, as they won their final two matches to end the preliminaries with seven wins and a single defeat, which in turn qualified them for the knockout stages of the Heroes of 2014 Trophy. They finished 36th out of 4318 participants, and will face Albania's Manchester Galaxy Team, former Shqipëria Kupa e Ngushëllimit winners, in the first round.
The first of the wins came against Latvian III.12 side Keiptaunas senators, who were known for their condensed 3-4-3 approach that left only Turkish winger Kamber Petek wide. Edgars Krūmiņš was identified as their main threat, but he nevertheless came within a whisker of giving the Senators the lead, barely three minutes in.
would return the scare on the counter from that, and this led into a tetchy contest that only came to life with Morgan Hu
's cannon from outside the penalty area in the 31st minute, that Guillaume Bouche had no way of reaching. Ibrahim Zahran Al-Maashany
's brutally efficient double early in the next half doomed Keiptaunas, and although Petr Krasnokutskiy outpaced Lau Chang Wan
to get on the scoresheet, Morgan Hu
would do much the same against Adrian Oprea, for Kwek Yun Jie
to make it 4-1.
This meant that the Buns could well qualify by not losing to their last opponents, Irish second divisioners C.F. Villanovense. Villanovense's calling card was their particularly active left wing combo of Martin Mitchell and Carl Clancy, but it would instead again be Morgan Hu
who would grab the limelight, cutting in from the other flank to score in the eleventh minute. Buster Manus had Villanovense's closest effort in the first half with his sharply-dipping free-kick, but Bunnies would enter the break 2-0 up, thanks to another blazing-quick Kwek counter.
It wasn't all smooth sailing, and Manus would shake it up with a faultless corner kick in the 68th minute, one of the few times he was left with time on the ball by Brendan Leung
. Tyrone Buckley nodded it in right before Vivian Grubenmann
got to it, which led to some very worried faces on the Bunnies bench - the coaching assistants had been anxiously following the live table, and it appeared that a 6-1-1 record wouldn't quite be enough.
Villanovense knew it too, and sent on Danny Mac Cumhaill with a brief to push play upfield come what may, over Buckley's evident unhappiness at having to come off. The Buns responded with Mushtag Al-Nameeri
as all but a third central midfielder, and they would have to survive a magical bicycle kick from Manus coming off the woodwork, with five minutes left. However, survive they did.
, who has thus claimed his first big achievement in his first week in charge, first credited the team as a whole. "There were no slackers today. Grubenmann's been criminally underrated - he made some vital saves - and Morgan Hu
was really the lynchpin. He brought it all together."
The Birds would then have to play second fiddle despite winning their own games by a considerable margin, leading to a 5-1-2 record that placed them 1250th of 9708 teams in the Trophy of Legends. A 5-3 win over Swiss Division Five club Honduras - Suiza was improved by a 7-3 versus German Division Six opponents Turbine Pomona; seven different Grilled players scored in that one, after Islom Davlatov
extended the invitation.
"I'm a little down." joked Belgian winger Florus Romijn
, who along with Bilal Mohammad Harun
were the only outfielders not to find the net on this day. "Maybe I need to find some other place to get lucky!"
Grilled International likewise got to five wins, as they outlasted Italian Division Six side Vimant F.C., 3-2. It should have been settled in the first half, but bad decision-making from Wang Chu Chi
allowed Omid Haji Ghazi and Alan Bucchi to complicate matters. It all went wrong against Poland's FC Ołtaszyn after that, as G.I. crashed 0-3 to the fifth division team, in a feeble conclusion to their tournament. This had them slotted at 2344th of 10822 in the Heroes of 2017 Trophy.