THE FIRST international team to make the trip to the McDonald’s Joeys Mini World Cup will be hard to beat when the tournament gets underway at Inverell today.
The side from New Zealand that is playing in the women’s draw arrived on Thursday and will test the skills of the local team from Inverell, Armidale and Tamworth.
“They look awesome,” organiser and Joeys boss Heinrich Haussler said.
“Their star, Helen Collins, who played in the World Cup, arrives soon.
“It will be a learning curve (for the local teams) and it doesn’t matter what the result will be.
“It might show that they need to take their game more seriously,” he said.
Northern Inland champions North Armidale (Germany), a combined East Armidale/Tamworth side (USA), a team from Tenterfield (Sweden) and two representing host club, Joeys FC, will also take part in the women’s draw.
“We have our under 16s in the boys and two women’s sides,” Haussler said.
“We have a team we call the All Stars as well as our normal Saturday premier league team.
“The All Stars are made up of girls who I took to Germany previously and who have gone off to uni.”
They will return from Armidale and the coast to play.
The opening game of today’s first day will see the visiting New Zealand side, which will naturally play as New Zealand in the tournament, take on the combined East Armidale/Tamworth side, which is playing as USA.
The under 13s and under 16s boys’ tournaments also swing into action this morning with teams from all over the region, northern NSW and southern Queensland entered.
They include teams from Inverell, Armidale, Tamworth, Gunnedah and Muswellbrook.
While the New Zealanders will be favourites in the women’s competition, the teams from Toowoomba Grammar are defending their titles in the two boys’ events and should be strong again.
Tournament patron and Socceroos 1974 World Cup coach Rale Rasic is back in town for the five-day event again.
Inverell is also starting to really get behind the event.
Local businesses are decorating their shopfronts and staff are wearing world cup shirts.
“They need to realise that this is not a regional tournament any more,” Haussler said.
“Rale is sure he will have teams from Sydney next year.
“Hopefully we can get Melbourne and Brisbane as well.”
New Zealand is also likely to return and may bring another side, while there has been interest from other overseas teams.
The tournament Facebook page has been a big success, Haussler said, with a number of players and teams becoming interested via the social networking platform.
Group matches will be played until Monday before the knockout stages take over.
The finals are on Wednesday.
For the first time in the three-year history of the event there will be consolation finals played and every team will get a game on the last day.