Day 5: A Dream Finish
As we write this post from Lille, there is one thing we could, but will not, complain about — staying up late to do team prep for tomorrow’s knockout phase. Canada has advanced to the round of 16! On this, the final day of round robin play, our guys stood their ground, refusing to squander their opportunity to capture a playoff berth.
We started out with a (somewhat expected but pretty easy) blitz of Kenya, a group whose enthusiasm couldn’t compensate for lack of experience and, arguably, skill. Italy and Russia battled to a 15-15 tie while Argentina and Sweden came close to the same (16-14 for Sweden). Romania’s 17-13 win over Thailand put them in a tie for fifth with Canada, while South Africa’s 23-7 victory over Singapore was too little too late.
With two matches to go, the standings looking like this:
South Africa 217
Seriously, could the race to qualify get any tighter?
For the middle match, we headed off to play Romania, with whom we were tied for 5th place. We knew this might be the make-or-break point. If we were unable to come away with a victory, Canada’s hopes of advancing would be slim. On this day, we had the best of them and notched a 20-10 victory. Sweden’s blitz against Morocco gave them some breathing room as they moved into third. And Scotland did us a big favour, holding Argentina to essentially a tie (16-14 for the South American squad). Suddenly, that left Canada not just alive, but in reasonably decent position! We had finally crawled back into a qualifying spot for the first time since the second round. With one to go, here is how it stood:
South Africa 220
Amazingly, as though the organizers had used a crystal ball, the match-ups would provide some drama, at least for the teams still in the hunt:
Romania versus Italy
Sweden versus South Africa
Canada versus Argentina
With South Africa still smarting from their Day 4 disaster, they couldn’t muster much of a fight against Sweden, who won easily by 21-9. That locked down third place for the Swedes. Romania jumped out to a 25-5 IMP lead against Italy but could not hang on, falling 20-10. Fourth place came down to the head-to-head match between Canada and Argentina, the latter having started 3 VPs behind in the overall standings. Canada ground out an excellent victory, winning 17-13 to claim a spot in the round of 16.
Amazingly this is the first time since 1972 that a Canadian Open team has qualified for the knockout phase of a World Team Olympiad (now called the World Bridge Games as part of the World Mind Games).
Now off to finish our preparations for tomorrow’s match against Monaco, the pre-tournament favourite to capture the gold medal, and fresh off their recent win in the European Team Championship.