The Nintendo World Cup – Pokémon Islands 2010

By Stephen Stephano

Summary - Word spreads through the gaming universe of a football tournament in the pokemon islands, promising a huge cash reward and international prestige for the champion. Teams from Mushroom Kingdom, Corneria, Hocotate, Popstar, Zebes, Hyrule, and other locales converge on the Pokemon Islands to take their shot at glory. But beyond the matchups and stadiums full of adoring fans is a story of the tricky and unholy alliance of sport and organized crime, as two organized crime syndicates, Team Rocket of Kanto and Team Galactic of Sinnoh, attempt to leverage the event for their own personal gain. A heated, impassioned account of the fight for courage and justice, both on and off the pitch.

May 30 - Pallet Town

Ash Ketchum and Gary Oak were kicking ball around on a field not far from Professor Oak's Pokémon lab. It was a hot summer day, and with the Pokémon feeling a bit tired from the oppressive conditions after a morning of training exercises, Pallet's finest Pokémon trainers got some time to catch up. Which incidentally, neither of them needed or wanted.

"Man, this is so lame." Gary said. "I wish my girls weren't out of town, I wouldn't have to spend so much time around you and your loser friends."

"Hey, I resent that you stupid bird brain!" Misty yelled.

"Whatever, you're just jealous because it's true; you always want what your sisters have because you're the ugly duckling of the family." Gary said.

"Now, now, now." Brock said, "There's no need to go into the ins and outs of the Cerulean Gym. Maybe if you hadn't lost to Misty's sister at the Pokémon League Competition you wouldn't be so jealous yourself!"

"Ha, nice one rock-face. I was the greatest trainer ever until those jerks changed the rules and people started using 2 Pokémon at once! I can't help it if a double type disadvantage and a few rare candies are my undoing!"

"Whatever. Gary, try to stop this one." Ash said, as he uncorked a right footed shot toward the net. Gary lunged to his right and just got a hand on it to knock it away from goal. A solid save for sure, and he started to gloat, but was cut short as he noticed the third trainer of Pallet's grand triumvirate, Katrina Corrales, racing onto the field. She was holding a piece of paper in her right hand.

"Big news guys, huge news! A group of shadowy business people aligned with Team Rocket and Team Galactic is putting on a worldwide football championship, with over q20,000,000 in prizes to the champion!"

"Holy cow!" Gary shouted as he ripped the paper from Katrina. "Hahaha! Come and enter your team in the Rocket-Galactic World Football Cup! Compete against teams from all across the universe right here in the Pokémon Islands for the chance of a lifetime, q20 million and free vacations for life to the champion team. The tournament begins with a super-secret meeting at Victory Road, 2 weeks from today, 12:00 in the afternoon. Be there, or be square."

"Wow, this is really cool." Misty said. "We have a chance to be adored by all and to get to travel anywhere we want for free and buy anything we want! C’mon, I want to do this, I want to play."

"For once, I can't disagree with you." Ash said. "Let's go, we've got a job to do!"

Indeed, when the mailer told of the tournament being a true international affair, it was not lying. But who had sent it? And what could they serve to gain by holding such an event and giving away so much to the champion? Maybe they would find out at Victory Road.


June 1 - Mushroom Way

On a spacious manor to the northwest of downtown Mushroom Kingdom, Mario and Luigi could hardly believe their good fortune.

"Hey-a Mario, you've-a gotta come and see this!" Luigi said as he nearly choked on his spaghetti. "It's a notice of a great football tournament in the Pokémon Islands! Besides your pasta is-a getting cold."

"Okey-dokey." Mario said as he came to the table. "Momma-mia! 20 million coins to the winner. I don't-a believe it. And free vacations forever? Just think of all the places we could take Peach and Daisy if we are the winner?"

"It blows my mind. Football is our sport too, along with golf and tennis."

"And-a kart racing too." Mario correctly pointed out.

"Yes. Well-a we should do well. Let's round up a team and see if Lakitu can get us to Plateau Indigo. Daisy, Peach, and Toad should play with us, and then-a we'll see about the Nokis and Piantas. Should-a we ask the Koopas?

"Momma mia Luigi! I-a want to win, but I will not stand for a-playing with the Koopas. Have you no shame!" Mario scolded

"It was-a just a thought." Luigi conceded.

June 2 - Hyrule Castle Town

Meanwhile, across the realm in the Kingdom of Hyrule, a similar scene was playing out.

"So Telma, the threat from the Bulblin has been neutralized, we shouldn't see their presence much around here now. We can concentrate on restoring our city and our kingdom to its former glory."

"And you're sure of this, yeah?" Ashei asked.

"The Princess has declared it as such, and we have seen to it through our unending work to secure the countryside and to help people get back on their feet."

Just then, the door swung open. It was the Postman. "Heyyyyy! Mr. Link! I have a letter for you, a very important one at that."

"Who is it from?"

"It's from...that's funny, there's no return address. I cannot verify its origins. Well, anyway my duty here is complete, onward to mail!"

"What does it say?" Shad asked.

"It's hard to read, whoever wrote this is a bit rudimentary in their knowledge of hylian language. Come...join in a fantastic universal championship of...medieval sport. Meeting in...2....weeks. The winner of the tournament gets...20...million...rupees?!"

"20 million rupees?!" Rusl shouted. "That's ridiculous!"

"Are you sure that's what it says? Let me see." Shad said. After looking over it a minute, he agreed, "Yes, this is what it says."

"Where is this tournament being held?" Ashei asked.

"Victory...Road. Victory road. It's in the Pokémon realm. We'll need to harness the power of the twilight tunnels to get there within the time limit. And then there's the matter of creating a guild of players."

"Well, we've already got 5 right here." Telma pointed out.

"It's a start."



June 12 - Victory Road

Inside a giant auditorium, hollowed out from beneath ground just to the south of Indigo Plateau, representatives from all over the world gathered to make their intentions to enter the tournament known. Little did they know that they were signing on to compete on a truly grand scale, thanks to a kingmaker who refused to even show his face or even acknowledge anybody. The man that had been the brainchild of the whole tournament, well, he let his underlings do the dirty work. The plan was going to work, he just knew it. The whole fate of Team Rocket, Team Galactic, and the Rocket-Galactic Alliance depended on it.

Adding to the ominous scene, it was a stormy afternoon on Victory Road, and the rocks in the auditorium roof had sprung leaks in spots. Coupled with the rumbles of thunder and the sounds of wild Pokémon running about, it had most all assembled feeling a bit anxious.

At last, a pair of rocket grunts, one male and one female, made their way out to the podium. The male grunt started to speak. "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for attending our meeting today, and to take part in the Rocket-Galactic Football Cup. This event promises to be an exhibition of true sporting class and talent, with grand opportunity and great rewards for those that go all the way to victory. First, some general information."

The female grunt took over. "The Rocket Galactic Football Cup will be played in two increments. The first part is the group stage. All 32 teams gathered here today will be divided into 8 teams of four. Within each group, each team will play one another, gaining 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, and 0 points for a defeat. The top two teams in each group reach the 2nd phase of the tournament, which is single-elimination. The matches in this tournament will be played in cities throughout the Pokémon Islands. Groups A & B will play their early matches in Kanto, groups C & D in Johto, groups E & F in Hoenn, and groups G & H in Sinnoh. Once the knock-out stage is reached, the sites will be intermixed."

At this time, we ask that each team's captain please come up to the stage, as we will be conducting the draw for the group stage of the tournament.


One by one, they emerged on the stage. A virtual who's who of gaming glory. Mario, Kirby, Fox, Bowser, Samus, Donkey Kong, Wolf, Sonic, and many more were gathered on the makeshift stage. In the middle of the group was a table with a raffle drum in the middle with many multicolored balls inside.

One of the grunts for Team Galactic approached the microphone. "Would Ash, Ethan, May, and Dawn please step forward." The four Pokémon trainers, representing the Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh republics moved to the front of the stage. "Since you are the co-hosting nations in this tournament, your lot has already been drawn. Kanto will play in group A, Johto in group C, Hoenn in group E, and Sinnoh in group G. So the four of you can sit down."

On the electronic board hanging from the ceiling, the four Pokémon teams showed up in the giant grid under their respective groups. Then, one by one, the captains were called up to pick out a ball from the drum, which would decide which group they would land in.

KK Slider, captain of the Smashville team, was called first. With a tug, he pulled out a ball that said "D" on it. Smashville was headed to group D. Satisfied, the canine walked back to re-join his teammates. Issac, captain of Weyard's squad, made his choice next. They landed in group E, meaning that they were off to Hoenn for the early round games.

They continued on in this fashion until all teams were selected. "And so the field breaks down like so." the grunt said as he pointed at the board.

Group A - Kanto, Great Sea, Mute City, Kongo Jungle
Group B - Corneria, Orange Star, Yoshi's Island, Distant Planet
Group C - Johto, Termina, Zebes, Subspace
Group D - Smashville, Isle O Hags, Green Hill Zone, Onett
Group E - Hoenn, Weyard, Bern, Valley of Bowser
Group F - Hyrule, Northern Kremisphere, Venom, SFThai
Group G - Sinnoh, Mushroom Kingdom, Disneyworld, Megaman
Group H - Popstar, Raccoon City, Tethealla, Spira

Below the groups were the cities that would host matches in the tournament.

Kanto - Saffron, Celadon, Pewter, Fuschia
Johto - Goldenrod, Blackthorn, Olivine, Cherrygrove
Hoenn - Mauville, Slateport, Rustboro, Petalburg
Sinnoh - Veilstone, Snowpoint, Hearthome, Sunyshore

The female grunt again approached the microphone. "The tournament begins in 2 weeks time, with the opening game set for June 25 in Saffron City. Training camps will commence at the time and place of your choosing. Good luck to all teams, meeting adjourned."


Chapter 4:

June 18 - Viridian City

"Let's go Ash! You make a beautiful weave through the defense only to put up a shot ten yards left of goal! If you want to be the striker for this team, act like it for goodness sakes!"

Ash could only hang his head at the shouting of the Rocket grunt, Butch, who was now doubling as their coach for the tournament. He wanted to smack him upside the head for his antics, but thought better of it. As luck would have it, he wouldn't have to wait long for somebody to beat him to the punch, literally.

On the next move, Ash took the ball just outside the 18-yard box and passed wide to Misty. The fiery redhead beat the defender and ran into the box before giving a great cross to the far post. Gary Oak ran in from the right and headed the ball perfectly, right past Mr. Mime, who was the team’s goalkeeper.

Gary pumped his fists. "Yeah! There's more where that came from too!"

Butch blew his whistle. "You stupid numbskull! You were at least two yards offside. The assistant referee is going to flag you for that every time."

"Oh yeah?!" Gary yelled.

"Yeah! No goal!" Butch yelled back in his face. "You have to time your run properly or it isn't worth a hill of beans! You're worthless!"

Gary had heard enough. In the blink of an eye he charged up a vicious punch and connected, right underneath Butch's nose. And second blow fell and Butch was on the ground. "Yeah, I don't hear you now you stupid prima donna punk!" Gary shouted as he continued to attack until Ash and Brock got into the mix to separate the two. Watching from the stands at Viridian Pokémon Stadium, a shadowy figure broke his glass, the one he held in his right hand. Before his very eyes, his plans were going up in flames, and he was not about to let it happen under his watch.

All throughout the week, training camps like these played out throughout the various cities and towns of the Pokémon islands. There was quite a mass of star power in Kanto alone, as just down Route 1 and across the ocean on Cinnabar Island, Kanto's first game opponents from the Great Sea were also preparing. Up Route 2 in Pewter City, Orange Star, led by army brigadiers Andy and Rachel were getting ready for battle. And across the remainder of the continent, contingents from the DK Isles, Planet Hocotate, and Planet Corneria were on hand. Emotions and tensions were already running high as teams worked toward their goal. The first game of the tournament was just days away.


June 25 - Tournament Day 1 - Kanto vs Great Sea - Saffron City, Kanto

The stage could hardly be larger. The Saffron Psychic Dome, right in the center of Kanto's largest city, Saffron, was host to the first game of the Rocket-Galactic World Football Cup, and it was to pit the home side Kanto against a squad from the Great Sea. The anthems rang out as over forty thousand spectators watched the two teams walk out onto the pitch. The two captains, the great Pokémon master Ash Ketchum and the sage of the Rito clan, Medli, exchanged national emblems at mid-field, and the game was on.

Kanto nearly scored in the second minute, as Misty launched a brilliant cross in toward Gary, but his header went just past the near post. Things were definitely heading in their favor early as Ash, Brock, and the rest of them kept possession well into the Great Sea half. The Great Sea defense was tough though, led by a pair of dastardly pirates, Tetra and Niko, and tackled extremely well.

Twenty minutes in, Kanto kept the pressure, but lost possession thanks to a great challenge by Niko in the back. He flung a long ball down to Aryll on the left, who then beat Erika down the left flank and moved into the eighteen. One pass to Quill the Rito atop the box and an easy point blank shot past Mr. Mime later, and it was 1-0 Great Sea. The crowd was stunned, but it was a perfect counterattack. Ash and Gary were both despondent for the goal had been against the run of play.

Kanto had several other chances in the half but went into the dressing room down one goal to nil. At halftime, Butch commanded the team to finish, and Gary provided his own unique commentary. They knew what they had to do.

In the 48th minute, Kanto struck again, a brilliant high ball for Ash, which he headed well at the near post, but Lord Valoo, the fire dragon who was the keeper for the Great Sea squad, made an outrageous diving stop. Ash could hardly believe his misfortune as he drove his hands into the pitch. Another chance came in the 55th minute, this one a long driving shot by Blaine, a central defender, but his shot slid just wide of the far post. It just wasn't going for Kanto, and time was starting to run thin. Butch commanded the team to start pushing forward. He brought midfielders Sabrina and Mewtwo on as subs in the 64th and 66th minute and pushed Misty up to forward in a 4-3-3 look.

Great Sea got a beautiful looping shot from Aryll in the 73rd minute, but it flew just a bit high of the crossbar. On the immediate goal kick by Mr. Mime, Niko stumbled, allowing Gary to win the ball. He ran hard, turned past Tetra, and forced the keeper Valoo to come at him. About to shoot, he saw Ash streaking by unmarked to the right. He faked the shot and passed, and Ash dribbled the ball into the net for the equalizing goal. Pandemonium ensued as the stadium went berserk, cheering and shouting for their squad as Gary, Brock, Misty, and the others ran to Ash and congratulated him on the goal.

Fifteen minutes left, the game ground down into a standstill. A tie seemed to loom on the horizon, but in the 89th minute, Brock got off a good run down the right hand side. Tetra battled him fiercely and perhaps too fiercely as she elbowed him in the face as he tried to turn. For that she was booked by the referee, a yellow card, giving Kanto a free kick just outside the eighteen yard box. The crowd pulsed, as this was perhaps the final shot at victory. Sabrina elected to take the kick, and it was a high arching kick toward goal. Mewtwo made a perfect break on the ball, and as the tallest player on the pitch, got a head on it first, re-directing it to the right and past Valoo. The crowd screamed so loud and jumped up and down so much that the stadium began to shake. Mewtwo ran toward the crowd and beat his three-fingered hands into his chest before the players mobbed him on the sidelines.

Three minutes later, the game came to an end, and Kanto was victorious, 2-1. Ash and Gary exchanged jerseys with Medli and Tetra, and the rest of the players did likewise. They had to fight harder than expected, but they had a victory and three points.

Day 1 scoreboard:
Kanto - Great Sea 2:1
Mute City - Kongo Jungle 0:0
Corneria - Orange Star 3:0
Yoshi's Island - Distant Planet 2:0


June 26 - Tournament Day 2 - Green Hill Zone vs Onett - Cherrygrove City, Johto

An embarrassingly small crowd, maybe 21,000 or so were on hand for this first round group match. The organizers were unsure of the decision to host matches in what was only Johto's 7th largest city, and sure enough, their fears were not unfounded. Nevertheless though, the fans were in luck, for Green Hill Zone were a talented side with a good chance of going all the way. They would be favored in this match. The two teams filed out of the tunnel, and after the anthems and the flag exchange between captains Sonic and Ness, the game was underway.

Straight away, Sonic won a free kick just outside the eighteen yard box. He looped a quick shot at goal that flew high and wide of the post. But his mates didn't have to wait long to get on the board. On a quick break in the 11th minute, Sonic made a solid run down the center of the field with Shadow up ahead and Knuckles to his left. Sonic dribbled around Jeff, and then made a move right around the fullback and passed to Shadow, who was to his right. From just inside the eighteen yard box, Shadow launched a ground ball toward the far post which nailed the back of the net. 1-0 to Green Hill Zone.

The hedgehog clan nearly got another on a corner that led to a bicycle kick from Knuckles in the 22nd minute, but the kick hit the post. It was cleared quickly by the Onett defense, ending the chance.

Onett got their first really good chance in the 30th minute, as Paula played a nice early ball out to Lucas on the left. The young psychic weaved past Tails and into the box and took a right footed shot. Dr Eggman was equal to the challenge, and turned it over the bar. On the ensuing corner, Ness got banged around a bit by Knuckles, who cleared the ball. The Onett captain looked for a penalty kick but the referee did not appease him.

Right before half, Green Hill Zone nearly got their second goal on a brilliant cross into the box by Knuckles for Sonic, but the main man didn't get a good hold of the shot and drove the ball over the goal. A wonderful chance missed, and it was 1-0 at half.

Onett, being a defensive team, found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to push forward in search of a goal, which left them vulnerable to counterattack. Indeed, it wasn't long until that scenario played itself out, in the 54th minute; Silver took the ball from Paula in the midfield and played forward to Amy Rose. It was a 4-on-3 breakaway, and Amy found Sonic down at the right top corner of the eighteen yard box, who put in a beautiful cross for Knuckles, who headed the ball into the top left of the net from eight yards out. It was 2-0 Green Hill Zone, but they weren't done yet. They would add two more goals, a long strike by Amy Rose in the 66th minute, and a brilliant solo run by Sonic in the 71st minute. At that point Green Hill began to substitute and pack it in. The game ended 4-0, and following the traditional exchange of jerseys, the hedgehog clan had 3 points, but there would be greater challenges ahead.

Day 2 scoreboard:
Onett - Green Hill Zone 0:4
Johto - Termina 1:1
Zebes - Subspace 0:1
Smashville - Isle O Hags 0:0


June 27 - Tournament Day 3 - Kingdom of Bern vs Valley of Bowser - Petalburg City, Hoenn

Two physical, defensive-oriented sides were set to meet in Petalburg Town on day 3. Both sides prided themselves on being able to outslug and outlast the other and were known for taking difficult, even reckless challenges at the ball. A game filled with cards and physical play was expected as the two teams filed into Petalburg Petal Blast Park, one of the more intricately designed stadiums with its grassy-filled standing-room only sections behind the goals.

Bowser and Ike exchanged national flags, and the game was on. It was a hard hitting encounter right from the get go as Eliwood took Ludwig Von Koopa down with a vicious slide tackle, earning a yellow card. The free kick didn't result in much though. A few minutes later, Wario was booked for a blatant trip in the midfield against Marth. With so much intensity and so many tough challenges, it was difficult for either side to get much forward momentum. Bern finally got a decent chance to score in the 28th minute when Marth released Lady Lyndis with a good early pass. Moving toward the right just outside the eighteen yard box, she unleashed a shot toward the far post which beat Baby Bowser, but it ended up striking the left post. Larry Koopa was able to beat Marth to the ball to clear it as Lyn buried her face in her hands, overcome by her misfortune.

That was clearly the best chance for either side to score, as it was 0-0 at half. Another batch of yellow cards opened the second half, one against Ike and then one the other way against Morton Koopa. Valley of Bowser began to get the upper hand though, and came close to scoring in the 54th minute, as Bowser launched a well-timed ball into the box for Waluigi. The tall forward headed the ball toward goal but it went off a defender and out of play. The corner kick resulted in a shot from Kamek the magikoopa, but the shot was wide to the right.

In the 62nd minute though, Valley of Bowser got another good chance, as Kamek got off a good run down the right side, then beat Roy around the corner, Kamek dribbled into the box and found a streaking Wario in the middle for the point blank shot past Bartre and a 1-0 lead. Massive cheers filled the stadium as the Valley players mobbed one another. They were in the lead.

The game only got more chippy and aggressive following the goal. Roy got carded for a cheap tackle against Wario in the 73rd minute, and then on the other side Bowser elbowed Lady Lyndis on a good run down the middle, prompting another booking from the referee, who was clearly unhappy at the lack of fair play by this point. With less than 10 minutes left, Bern pushed forward, and the Valley sank back into their own end, hoping desperately to hang on. It looked like they would too, thanks to their physicality and strong defense, but in the 88th minute, just when all hope seemed lost, Ike broke away from Iggy and Morton and moved into the box. Baby Bowser came out to front the shot, but he passed toward Lady Lyndis in the middle instead. Lyn was about to receive the ball when Kamek blatantly slide tackled her from behind. The referee sprinted over and showed the magikoopa a red card, sending him off and awarding Bern a penalty kick in the dying minutes.

Lyn rose and moved to the penalty spot. It was now her against Baby Bowser, and she needed to score to save the game. She ran up on the whistle and took a shot to the right. Baby Bowser jumped the wrong way and the shot found the back of the net, equalizing the score. The Bern players rejoiced as they mobbed Lady Lyndis in the penalty area.

Two minutes later, the game ended, a 1-1 draw.

Day 3 scores -

Bern - Valley of Bowser 1:1
Hyrule - Northern Kremisphere 2:0
Hoenn - Weyard 0:0
Venom - SFThai 2:1


June 28 - Tournament Day 4 - Popstar vs Raccoon City - Sunyshore City, Sinnoh

It was a sweltering hot day on the shores of Sinnoh as two squads of differing build and strategy took the field for their first round group match. Popstar was a finesse bunch led by their fearsome threesome of Kirby, Dedede, and Metaknight, but lacked depth. Raccoon City, though led by forward captain Leon Kennedy, was a hard-nosed bunch of non-descript, yet talented players. Kirby and Leon exchanged flags and after the anthems were belted out, the game began.

The game was highly civil and free-flowing early on, much different from the tussle in Petalburg the day previous. In fact, the first goal came quickly in the 8th minute. Kirby took the ball in the midfield and made a strong move, getting around Rebecca Chambers in the central defense. He then weaved around Billy Coen to get through on goal and fired toward the top left corner, beating keeper Albert Wesker in the 6th minute to give Popstar a 1-0 lead. It was a phenomenal run, one that sent the Sunyshore crowd into hysterics when the ball crossed the line.

But Raccoon City would answer quickly. A strong run down the right side by Ada Wong in the 12th minute resulted in a corner, and Leon Kennedy took the corner, a well placed kick toward the six-yard line. The Popstar keeper, Marx, came out for the ball at the last minute but Chris Redfield fought into position and got a head on the ball first, driving it into the net to equalize the score. More screams ran down from the crowds as Chris took off his jersey and twirled it as he ran toward the corner.

The almost constant, end-to-end action continued throughout much of the first half and indeed, there would be more scoring as well. Raccoon City took the lead in the 37th minute, as another high ball from Leon Kennedy dropped right into the path of Billy Coen, who beat two Popstar defenders down the middle of the field and launched a right footed shot that beat a diving Marx for a 2-1 advantage. They wouldn't be able to celebrate long however, as a Popstar counterattack four minutes later resulted in a Kirby run down the center, and a late pass to Metaknight who pounded the ball past a hapless Wesker to tie the score once more. It was 2-2 heading to the locker room for half-time.

Both teams sought to limit the other team's chances in the second half, and as a result, the game began to tense up. It got more physical as well. King Dedede was booked ten minutes into the half on a ridiculous challenge against Jill Valentine. Metaknight was booked as well five minutes later, as his attempt to kick the ball out of the air failed miserably and he caught Ada Wong in the thigh instead. It was a close call, he could've been sent off for the infraction. With the Kirby stars having to play more cautiously, Raccoon City started taking advantage of possession and got off a couple good chances in the 70th and 74th minutes, but Marx made good saves on both. Eventually the dam would break though, in the 78th minute, Leon Kennedy was facilitator once again, driving through several defenders before passing wide to Billy Coen, who drove toward the six and passed across at the last minute to Jill Valentine, who pounded in the point-blank shot to give Raccoon City the lead once again. At 3-2, it was the highest scoring game of the tournament.

Popstar got in two more chances to tie the game in the 90th minute, a corner attempt by Kirby was punched out by Wesker. Dedede then gave a go at it from long range but the shot sailed high of the crossbar. Then in the 2nd minute of injury time, Metaknight won a corner down the right side, and Popstar brought everybody forward, even the keeper, Marx. The ball was well struck, but was played out by the Raccoon City defense. The whistle blew, and Raccoon City had won what was the highest scoring game of the tournament thus far, 3-2.

Day 4 scoreboard:

Popstar - Raccoon City 2:3
Sinnoh - Mushroom Kingdom 0:1
Disneyworld - Megaman 2:0
Tethealla - Spira 1:1


July 2 - Tournament Day 8 - Hearthome Park - Hearthome City, Sinnoh

It was halftime of Sinnoh's 2nd group game against Megaman, currently 1-1 at half-time. A group of higher ups in the Team Galactic organization were talking in their luxury box. The tournament was proceeding fairly well, but there was concern in the air.

"So what do we do now? Team Aqua and Magma are closing in on us. They aren't all that pleased that they were left out of our little tournament."

"What do those Johto people know anyway? It was our idea, but we had to bring the Kanto people on board for it to be marketable. That's not personal, just business."

"Yeah but have you seen some of the calls down there so far tonight? Our guys are getting held and punched and kicked down there and we're not seeing any calls being made. And the goal scored by Megaman right before half was off-side, or at least it looked like it to me."

"I think the referee is a Johto plant." a grunt said.

"Oh stop it!" the leader bellowed. "We've done extreme background checks on all the referees, we're not letting anybody muck up the tournament like that, especially not at the expense of our home side. We have good money to prevent that."

"Ah so we are on the inside of this thing." another grunt said.

"You could say that. But those guys in Kanto, you don't mess with them. They'll knock your block off. The leader of Team Rocket is the kingpin of organized crime in the Pokémon Islands. Don't think for a minute that he's not pulling strings all over the place, from the players down to the ball boys."

"So Kanto is going to win the tournament then?"

"What do you think?" the leader asked all assembled.

There was a disquieting silence in the room. Was the tournament really a farce, and were Team Aqua and Magma trying to sabotage the games? These thoughts hung heavy as the Galactic team members watched the 2nd half, a fairly non-descript half in which neither side scored, resulting in a 1-1 draw. It would be an uphill battle for Sinnoh to qualify as they would need a win against Disneyworld by at least 2 goals in their 3rd group game to move on.

Meanwhile, the next day, back across the continent in Pewter City, Team Kanto was on the field warming up for their 3rd group game against Mute City. Having drawn against Kongo Jungle in their 2nd group game they needed only a draw against Mute City to advance. Ash and Gary noticed on the giant scoreboard that the groups and aggregate scores were displayed:

Group A:
Kanto - 4 points
Mute City - 2 points
Kongo Jungle - 2 points
Great Sea - 1 point

Group B:
Corneria - 6 points
Yoshi's Island - 4 points
Orange Star - 1 points
Distant Planet - 0 points

Group C:
Termina - 4 points
Subspace - 4 points
Johto - 2 points
Zebes - 0 points

Group D:
Isle O Hags - 4 points
Smashville - 4 points
Green Hill Zone - 3 points
Onett - 0 points

Group E:
Valley of Bowser - 4 points
Bern - 2 points
Weyard - 2 points
Hoenn - 1 point

Group F:
Hyrule - 6 points
Venom - 3 points
Northern Kremisphere - 3 points
SFThai - 0 points

Group G:
Disneyworld - 4 points
Mushroom Kingdom - 4 points
Sinnoh - 1 point
Megaman - 1 point

Group H:
Raccoon City - 4 points
Popstar - 3 points
Tethealla - 2 points
Spira - 0 points

"Hey, looks like we're in good shape. At least compared to some of those losers in Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh. We might be the last Pokémon team left after the group stage." Gary said.

"It won't happen unless we do we need to today. Let's go Gary, let's get that win. Mute City's got nothing on us!" Ash shouted.


July 3 - Tournament Day 9 - Corneria vs Yoshi's Island - Poison Park - Fuschia City, Kanto

After two rounds of group games came one of the most highly anticipated games of the group stage. Powerful sides Corneria and Yoshi's Island were set to do battle in the seaside city of Fuschia, where the wind was howling and the rain crashing down. Through strong play, Corneria were already in the next round, having defeated Orange Star and Distant Planet their first two games. Yoshi's Island opened with a win against Distant Planet but drew against Orange Star, making this match of great importance. Team captains Green Yoshi and Fox McCloud exchanged national flags and after the anthems, it was go time.

The early going was difficult on both sides as both struggled for footing in the soggy, sloppy turf. The goalkeepers were having some difficulty holding the ball however, and that would be a major key to the game. Corneria got off a decent chance in the 7th minute when Fox McCloud made a strong run down the center, but his shot was blocked in front by Red Yoshi. Two minutes later Fox made another move and shot from distance, but it was turned away by the Yoshi's Island keeper, Pac E Derm.

Due to the rules of the tournament, in the 3rd group stage, both group matches were played at the same time, meaning that Orange Star and Distant Planet were engaging in Saffron City at the same time. Word trickled in that Orange Star had scored in the 12th minute, putting further pressure on the Yoshis to get at least a draw out of this game or risk not reaching the knockout round. Perhaps sensing a bit of danger, Yoshi's Island began to sit back and let the Cornerians come at them a bit. Falco took a pass from Fox at the corner of the eighteen yard box and shot, but it was wide left. A minute later Krystal attempted to get free down the left hand side and was hooked down by Boshi, earning the dinosaur a yellow card. The resulting free kick by Fox was a high-hanging shot that traveled far over the net.

Thirty minutes in, it appeared that Yoshi's Island was out of it, but that was just their strategy. They were exceptionally skilled on the counterattack, and they were waiting for their chance to strike. They got it in the 39th minute when Falco slipped and fell on the right side. The ball was taken by Yellow Yoshi, who lofted the ball up field to Poochy, who outran Bill to the corner and passed back to Green Yoshi, who waited atop the eighteen. Yoshi's shot was amazingly stopped by Slippy, but Poochy was there to head in the rebound to give YI a 1-0 lead, which they took into halftime.

Clearly comfortable in the rainy conditions, Yoshi's Island continued to press in the early second half. Boshi had a great chance at a goal off a corner kick, but his header swerved just past the post. A few minutes later, Birdo launched a strong shot from 25 yards, on which Slippy had to make a diving stop. Corneria wasn't done though, they kept playing hard, and they were rewarded in the 67th minute. Katt chipped a high ball down into the path of Falco on the right, who against Boshi was able crossed the ball toward Fox in the middle. Fox made a perfect run underneath the ball and headed it past Pac E Derm to equalize.

The game died down a bit after that as the teams began to substitute, and clearly had thoughts about getting inside and taking a hot shower. It is in times like these where athletes are often at their most vulnerable, and mistakes happen. In the 81st minute, Blue Yoshi worked his way up the middle and made an ambitious attempt from thirty yards out. The ball skidded across the soggy grass toward Slippy, who tried to fall on it but instead had the ball squirt between his legs and into the net. It was a major gaffe, one that gave Yoshi's Island the lead once again and ensured they would go through.

Ten minutes of non-descript play later the whistle blew. Yoshi's Island and Corneria would both be advancing, but because of Slippy's miscue, YI had won the group and had presumably secured an easier match in the round of 16.

Day 9 scoreboard:
Kanto - Mute City 2:0
Kongo Jungle - Great Sea 3:1
Corneria - Yoshi's Island 1:2
Orange Star - Distant Planet 1:0

Round of 16 matches:
Kanto - Corneria
Yoshi's Island - Kongo Jungle


July 4 - Tournament Day 10 - Termina vs Subspace - Dungeon Dragon Stadium - Blackthorn City, Johto

With Group C firmly up for grabs heading into the final round of group games, a pair of hard-working, tough sides met in Blackthorn to decide who would go through. Termina and Subspace had 4 points each through two games, but Johto, the home side with only 2 points, were facing a poor Zebes squad in Olivine, and would likely get 3 points from the match. A loss would probably eliminate either side, so there was some understandable nerves as the two sides entered the stadium. Team captains Solid Snake and Skull Kid exchanged national flags.

The action started fast and furious, and perhaps out of nervousness or unfamiliarity with the high elevation in Blackthorn, many passes were airmailed out of play. But despite the rocky start, it didn't take long for one side to find the net, and it was brilliant. Eleventh minute, from the midfield spot, Nana lofted a high ball into the middle, which was taken by Solid Snake just outside the eighteen yard box. He made a juke move left to get away from Sakon and Cremia and fired a left footed ground ball that got past Majora and bounced off the inside of the upright to give Subspace a 1-0 advantage. He was mobbed by his teammates as the commentators shrieked over what was probably goal of the tournament to this point.

Eight minutes later, Termina equalized, and it was no less brilliant. Skull Kid made a strong run down the center of the pitch with Mikau on his right and Kafei on his left. He weaved past Popo and around Mr. Game & Watch before passing to Mikau. The Zora pounded a shot from 13 yards out past a diving ROB for a goal. It was a great shot, but the goal was set up by the great run by Skull Kid, who did a happy dance in the penalty area.

Chances were stark for the rest of the half, as the teams started to play a bit closer defensively. At half, the score was 1-1. Word from Olivine was that Johto and Zebes were nil-nil at half-time, meaning both teams would go through with a draw, but things could certainly change.

It looked for the first fifteen minutes of the second half, that both teams were fine with playing for a draw, as neither pressed, and kicked the ball around the midfield. Termina changed tactics though. They attacked hard around the 60th minute, and they were immediately rewarded when Skull Kid made another strong run down the center. He again passed to Mikau, who went for the top right corner. ROB made a great save on the ball, knocking it over for a corner. But that wasn't the end of the danger for Subspace, as they failed to defend the corner well. Cremia's kick swooped down toward the penalty spot, and Darmani, the big goron who had just come on as a substitute, headed the ball into the corner for a 2-1 lead. ROB lambasted his defenders for hanging him out to dry, but his trouble was just beginning.

Four minutes later, Subspace pressed hard to try to net a tying goal, but Pit lost the ball in the midfield on a sliding challenge by Keaton. The wily animal looped a ball up to Kafei on the right, who ran in front of the defense. He entered the penalty area and lined up a shot, but was closed down by Solid Snake. Snake's challenge looked good initially but the referee blew his whistle, giving Kafei a penalty kick. Snake went crazy and argued his case, for which he got booked.

Kafei's penalty was perfect, into the corner, to give Termina a 3-1 advantage.

Subspace was in trouble, but with the other game 0-0, they still were alive. They helped their cause in the 86th minute when Pit received an inside back pass from Snake, and his chip shot flew above Majora and just under the bar to make it a 3-2 game. Subspace nearly tied the game in the first minute of injury time when Nana unloaded from far out, a shot that Majora had to turn away. Two minutes later, more danger as Solid Snake uncorked one from 25 yards away. The shot was to the far corner, and Majora just barely got up enough to turn it over the bar. Snake slammed his fist into the turf, knowing he was so close to knotting the score.

Subspace tried and tried, but time eventually ran out on them as they succumbed to Termina 3-2. Following the game, the final minutes of injury time between Johto and Zebes were shown on the stadium's big screen. Although Johto very nearly scored on a counterattack shot by Chuck, the ball went off the crossbar and out of play, much to the dismay of the crowd. The whistle blew, ending the match at 0-0, sending Johto out, and putting Termina and Subspace into the 2nd round.

Day 10 scores:
Termina - Subspace 3:2
Johto - Zebes 0:0
Green Hill Zone - Isle O Hags 0:0
Smashville - Onett - 2:0

2nd round matchups:
Termina - Isle O Hags
Smashville - Subspace


July 5 - Tournament Day 11 - Hyrule vs Venom - Tsunami Stadium - Slateport City, Hoenn

The largest city in Hoenn was host to what was expecting to be a tantalizing encounter between two very distant sides. The Hyrulians, built from a medieval era of swords, shields, and ancient mythical powers, had done well in their first two games, winning both. Venom, a side coming from spaceships, laser blasters, and wormhole technology of the future, were no less fierce and had one win along with a defeat. Both sides needed to do well to go through, and despite their divergent roots, both teams were prideful and played smash mouth football. Link exchanged flags with Wolf, and after the anthems the match began.

The match early on wasn't quite as physical as expected, perhaps because the teams weren't willing to risk getting sent off, and thus knocked out of the first match of the knockout round. Also, the first twenty minutes were quite plodding, as neither side could figure out the other's defense. Many a run ended up dying in the midfield, and the attackers looked lost. As the minutes ticked by, the crowd and the benches tried to get their teams to respond, but things were difficult. Finally, Wolf O’Donnell was able to get around the Hyrulian defense enough to launch a shot at goal in the 34th minute. Zelda made a great diving spot to turn the ball around and out of play. The corner kick was flicked on by Andrew Oikonny but it was straight at Zelda, and she corralled it easily.

Hyrule got their first real chance in the 41st minute as Nabooru made a strong run down the left and lofted a ball in to Link, who quickly played it off to Ganondorf in the right of the penalty area. His nearly point-blank attempt went off the bar though, and out of play. He punched the ground in disgust following the miss. After a few more minutes, the whistle blew for halftime, the score still 0-0. Over in the other group stage match in Rustboro City, SFThai and Northern Kremisphere were also knotted at 0-0. Nothing was decided yet.

The defense continued to be heavy early into the second half, and for the first time, the game started getting chippy. Wolf made a strong run down the left in the 50th minute but was cut down by a slide tackle from Impa. Much to the Shadow Sage's dismay, it earned her a yellow card. The resulting free kick ended up going over the bar. Two minutes later, Venom attacked again, getting a long ball from Panther Caruso that Leon Powalski ran underneath. As he battled with Telma and Ashei for position on the ball, Zelda came out to grab it. She got there first, but Leon kept running and ended up kneeing her in the chest. That earned him a yellow card as well, and he was perhaps somewhat lucky as it could've been red. The game continued to get more and more physical, but also more interesting. Darunia, who had just come on as a substitute, launched a well-placed kick into the penalty area that was pounced on by Impa. Her header had beaten the keeper, Andross, but like Ganondorf's earlier kick, ended up hitting the crossbar. Link's attempt at the rebound was deflected out of play by a defender.

Around the 70th minute, news shuffled in that SFThai had scored against Northern Kremisphere, putting them up 1-0. That was good news for both teams as a loss by Northern Kremisphere would put both teams through. With the result far from certain, Venom continued to attack. In the 76th minute, Pigma Dengar picked out Wolf with a good early pass. Wolf trotted in, and with only one man to beat, Bo, he made a juke move to the right and shot for the far corner. Zelda reacted well and was just able to beat the ball over the bar. Wolf could only shake his head as he thought he'd settled it.

Six minutes later, Hyrule got a ball deep into the Venom zone, but Ganondorf's intended pass for Link was intercepted by Pigma. Pigma again released Wolf with a good early pass for a racing counterattack down the field. Wolf this time raced to the eighteen yard box and passed to Leon, who was streaking into the middle. He fired away, and yet again Zelda made the impressive save. The ball bounced back toward Wolf though. He corralled it but was immediately pressed by Telma and Ashei. He made a move left, then right, then in a spate of brilliance kicked the ball between Telma's legs and moved between them. Ashei desperately threw her arms out to stop his progress, bringing him down in the box. The referee's whistle blew, and he pointed to the spot. Penalty kick.

Arguably, Wolf and Zelda were the best players on the pitch this day, so this penalty kick was fitting. Wolf placed the ball, intensity in his eyes as he bore down on the hyrulian princess. Zelda took her spot on the goal line, knowing this kick would decide the game. On the whistle, Wolf moved forward. He shot toward the left. Zelda guessed right and left also, but the shot was perfect, just out of her reach and inside the left upright, goal for Venom. The Venom half of the crowd went wild as Wolf ran to the corner of the field and pumped his fists, his team running and tackling him from behind.

Hyrule, knowing that they were already assured to go through with Kremisphere losing, shut it down for the most part after the goal. Eight minutes later the final whistle blew, 1-0 to Venom. With the win, Venom had not only gone through, but they had also won Group F in the process.

Day 11 scoreboard:
Hoenn - Bern 1:2
Weyard - Valley of Bowser 1:3
Hyrule - Venom 0:1
Northern Kremisphere - SFThai 0:1

Round 2 matches:
Valley of Bowser - Hyrule
Venom - Bern


July 6 - Tournament Day 12 - Sinnoh vs Disneyworld - Veil Force Point Stadium - Veilstone City, Sinnoh

For team Sinnoh, it had been a frustrating world cup. Their team had been racked with dissention and a seeming lack of talent compared to the other teams. Through it all though, they had rounded into a decent side, perhaps buoyed by the home fans cheers. They lost just 1-0 to powerful Mushroom Kingdom in the opener, and registered a draw against Megaman four days later. But now they needed to beat Disneyworld in their final group game to have a chance at advancing. Team captain Wally exchanged flags with the Disneyworld captain, Sora.

The atmosphere in Veilstone, a historic city on the fringes of the Sinnoh countryside, was frenetic at kickoff and it got even more frenetic after Wally looped a corner kick into the box for Cyrus, who got tugged down, earning his team a penalty kick. Roxas and Axel vehemently argued the call, but to no avail. Cyrus, the leader of Team Galactic, banged home the penalty kick to give Sinnoh a 1-0 advantage, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Sinnoh pressed the issue early, and were rewarded again in the 16th minute as Mars weaved through the central defense of Disneyworld and found Wally on the edge of the eighteen yard box. He made a brilliant turn to get around the defense and made a perfect shot past Mickey into the lower right corner to make it a 2-0 Sinnoh advantage.

For the remainder of the half, Disneyworld appeared somewhat shell-shocked, and the crowd pulsed with excitement. In the 24th minute, word came in that Mushroom Kingdom had taken the lead on Megaman, meaning that Sinnoh would go through with a win. Mushroom Kingdom scored again in the 33rd minute, and then again in the 36th minute and led 3-0. As they entered the locker room down 2-0, Sora and his mates did not dwell on their situation. They vowed to get even.

And get even they did. In the 49th minute, Sora made a brilliant early pass to Namine, who crossed to substitute Christopher Robin in the middle. The tall boy of the 100 acre wood chipped the cross past the keeper easily to cut Sinnoh's lead in half. Disneyworld continued to pressure, and several minutes later, Kairi fired a shot from distance that just barely missed left. Two minutes later, Sora took a shot of his own from 30 yards that ended up going slightly over the bar. Clearly, the Sinnoh central defense was rattled, and pressure was starting to seep in.

Wally attempted to rally his troops, and brought out his strongest creatures to substitute in, Dialga and Palkia, who moved to defense. It was the first action they'd seen in the tournament. The move had the desired effect of jamming the field, and making it harder for Disneyworld to maneuver. The keybladers continued to press though. In the 75th minute, a high ball in the box for Sora ended up going off his chest and was cleared before he could get to it. He wanted a foul but got none.

Another Disneyworld attack came in the 86th minute. With only five minutes left, Kairi won a free kick on the left, 25 yards out. Her free kick went to the far side of the penalty box but was won by Roxas, who fired away. Her kick went off the bar though. Two minutes later, Namine came down the middle on a run and attempted to squeeze a pass to Sora, but it was intercepted by Palkia, who ran down the center around two Disneyworld midfielders and fired a long ball down to Cyrus. Cyrus put a perfect counterattacking through ball in to Wally, who ran straight through on goal and blasted the ball past Mickey, putting Sinnoh up 3-1 and ensuring their advancement to the 2nd round. The crowd went absolutely berserk once again, and in fact the game had to be stopped for several minutes as some fans had run onto the pitch following the goal.

The whistle blew four minutes later to massive cheers from all assembled. Sinnoh was through, against the odds. For Disneyworld, it was a bitter defeat, one that they would not forget for some time.


July 8 - Tournament Day 14 - Studios of Silver Station LLC, Goldenrod City, Johto

One of the four television broadcasting teams dispatched to the tournament, world renowned commentators Trevor Brooking and John Motson of the BBC, commenting on the tournament and what to look for in the knockout round.

The shadowy figure in the foreground yelled to his inferiors. "Hey, turn that up, I want to hear what they're saying!"

"So Trevor, here's the field once again. Take a look at this and tell me what you see."

Kanto - Corneria
Valley of Bowser - Hyrule
Termina - Isle O Hags
Mushroom Kingdom - Raccoon City
Yoshi's Island - Kongo Jungle
Venom - Bern
Smashville - Subspace
Tethealla - Sinnoh

"Well, the first thing John, the top half is extremely strong, much more so than the bottom. In fact I'd go so far to say that they bottom four doesn't quite measure up, but one of those four will make the semifinals."

"That's because we've had some upsets in the bottom haven't we?"

"Yes we really have. I for one did not expect Sinnoh to make it to round 2 at the expense of Disneyworld, and I certainly did not expect Smashville to win group F. Their victory over Green Hill Zone was probably the biggest upset victory of the group stage. Their run so far has been fairly miraculous really, and if they win another match, you'll start to see comparisons between them and teams like Senegal in 2002 Korea/Japan, and Bulgaria in USA 1994."

"Who do you think has been the biggest disappointment, Trevor?"

"Well, it has to be Green Hill Zone. This was a group that should have been in contention to win the whole thing, and they're not even here. I also think Popstar and Disneyworld have reason to be disappointed. Both of them had the talent to make it deep into the tournament and went out in the group stage."

"What is the best matchup in the 2nd round of the tournament in your opinion?"

"My goodness, I cannot really say. I think for emotional value, you can't get away from the top matchup, Kanto - Corneria. As the strongest home side in the tournament, there is a lot of pressure on Kanto here, but Corneria is a really fast, free-wheeling side. The atmosphere in Celadon is guaranteed to be off the charts tomorrow night, similar to what we saw in Veilstone two days ago. Two other matches I really like are Valley of Bowser - Hyrule and Yoshi's Island - Kongo Jungle. The first is a match between two physical sides that play smash mouth football. I really think we could have players sent off in that one if it is tight. The other matchup is between animal-laden sides that play a freer, finesse-heavy style, and it really is the beautiful game for them. We could see a lot of scoring there."

"Well there you have it. Trevor and I will be following this all the way to the finals in Saffron two weeks from now. From Goldenrod, this is John Motson."

"Just as I thought. The whole world is keying in to our little game now." the shadowy man said. "We'll be sure to put a show on for them tomorrow night."

"And then again in two days in Sinnoh right?" the grunt asked.

"Eh, don't you dare tell the Galactic people this, but I don't think Sinnoh is all that strong. If we can break them off without them knowing, that's the way to go. Our team though...just think, we beat Corneria, then beat either Valley or Hyrule, then we're probably looking at Mushroom Kingdom. When we beat those teams, we'll be the biggest hits in the entire world. Our whole country will be on the map. Those that have disregarded us for eons will recognize that Kanto truly is the land of the strong and powerful. Then with our loyal pocket monsters manning the lands and the seas, we will have control over everything, politics, economy, social policy, everything that the western world attempts to control on a daily basis."

"Boss, don't you think you're carrying this a bit far?" the grunt asked. "It's only a game."

The shadowy man grabbed the grunt by the neck and shoved him against the wall. He spoke very calmly. "This game, is our Big Bang. Remember that." He let go and the grunt fell to the floor. The man turned around. "Tell my inferiors that we are heading to Celadon immediately."


July 9 - Tournament Day 15 - World Cup 2nd round

Valley of Bowser vs Hyrule - Pewter Mountain Park - Pewter City, Kanto

Up in the mountains of northwestern Kanto laid Pewter, a working class, rough and tumble place. It was a perfect setting for what was certain to be a rough, physical confrontation between two proud sides. By the appearance of it, the two teams did not like each other either, as they never looked at one another entering the field, and Link and Bowser quickly exchanged national flags without even so much as a handshake. The fierce, swirling winds and dark clouds of the afternoon seemed fitting.

From the opening kickoff, tackles were aplenty. It didn't take long before cards came out from the referee. Nabooru was booked in the 4th minute for an elbow to the head of Kamek on a 50/50 ball. Perhaps a bit vengeful, Kamek slide-tackled Nabooru from behind 2 minutes later, and he was shown yellow as well. The fouls kept coming, as Bowser fouled Impa on the right side just beyond midfield in the 8th minute. Ashei took the kick quickly and passed to Link, who made a brilliant, galloping run down the run, weaving around Iggy and Larry before picking out Nabooru. She laid the ball back perfectly for Ganondorf, who buried the shot from 14 yards out to give Hyrule a 1-0 lead. The two gerudos rejoiced as the rest of the team congratulated them for the play that Link set up.

The elbows and legs kept flying throughout the first half. Larry Koopa was booked in the 20th minute for a pull down on Telma in the Hyrule box. 3 minutes later Princess Ruto was booked for a ridiculous slide tackle against Wario. The resultant free kick was a decent chance from 25 yards out, but the kick went off the Hyrulian wall of defenders.

Valley of Bowser got a brilliant chance in the 38th minute, as Iggy shot from the far left of the box. It was deflected by Midna up high into the air toward Zelda. She batted the ball, but right in the direction of Bowser, who took a shot from 15 yards. Zelda jumped and made the save, batting it to the right. Waluigi took a last stab at it but found the side netting instead. At halftime, it was 1-0 Hyrule.

Down 1-0, Valley was determined to break through the Hyrulian defense. In the 52nd minute Kamek made a sweet run down the right and was upended by Midna as he attempted to turn into the box. Midna was booked for the infraction, and Bowser stepped up for the free kick. His kick swooped over the wall, and down towards goal. Zelda jumped and batted it at the last second, knocking it just over the crossbar. Bowser stamped his feet and growled in disgust. The resultant corner kick was headed out by Impa.

Another Valley chance came in the 59th minute. Bowser released Wario down the left with a good ball. He turned in around Telma and moved to the corner of the 18-yard box before crossing toward Waluigi. The tall villain couldn't get inside position against Impa though, and the ball was headed high into the air. Zelda grabbed it on the way down before any Valley players could get to it.

The direction of play was clearly in Valley's favor, but they were always more based in their strong defense. Pushing far forward was somewhat out of their comfort zone, and left them vulnerable to counterattack. Such a scenario unfolded in the 65th minute. Zelda corralled a harmless shot from Wario and threw quickly out to Impa in the center. The shadow sage dribbled it to almost midfield before launching a great ball down the left that Nabooru was able to get to behind the defense. Nabooru slowed a smidgen, then saw Link running into the middle. She launched a left-footed cross into the middle of the 18-yard box, right near the penalty area. Link ran under it and headed it past a helpless Baby Bowser to give Hyrule a 2-0 lead. Link let out a roar as he ran to the corner, and was mobbed by his teammates. They were looking good.

Valley was in trouble, but they had no choice but to continue to attack. Hyrule substituted in the 71st and 74th, bringing on Darbus and Darunia, which stiffened the Hyrulian defense further. Things were looking grim, and it began to get chippy very fast. On a corner attempt in the 80th minute, Waluigi went way over the top of Zelda to try to head the ball in, knocking the keeper to the ground and earning a yellow card. It just wasn't going for Valley. The minutes ticked away, and the Hyrulian fans chanted national anthems and cheers in the stands. Finally, Bowser decided that he'd had enough. On a long ball in the 88th minute, he challenged Darunia for the ball, by kicking him in the butt and head butting him at the same time. The goron crumpled to the ground, holding his head while the rest of the Hyrule team shouted indignance. The referee promptly gave Bowser a straight red card, sending him off. Darunia had to be taken off on a stretcher, which was rather difficult as it took 6 men to hoist him from the pitch.

That was the last piece of drama as the whistle blew 5 minutes later. Hyrule was through to the quarterfinals, 2-0. But that was not the only game on this sweltering summer Kanto afternoon, oh no. About 200 miles to the southeast lay Kanto’s mecca of department store shopping and slot-machine gambling, Celadon City. As Hyrule walked from the field victorious, two other teams walked onto it, looking to join them in the round of 8.

One of those teams was Corneria, one of the pre-tournament favorites. As they warmed up and stretched, two star players, Fox McCloud and Falco Lombardi, conversed with one another.

“Falco, like I’ve always said.” Fox said. “If we stick to the game plan, play smart, play hard, and not take unnecessary risks, we’ll come out a winner.”

“Fox I don’t know about this. I think we need to make a statement and make it early.” Falco said.

“Why?” Fox asked. “There’s ninety minutes with which to score goals. We don’t need to kill ourselves in the first ten minutes.”

“Yeah we do. Fox, you and I both watched the Sinnoh-Disneyworld game yesterday. Did Roxas look offside to you on that goal in the first half?”

“Uh, it was a close one.”

“And what about the penalty kick that was called in the 2nd minute? That didn’t look like much contact to me.”

“Yeah, that was a tough call.” Fox admitted.

“Let’s face it. These guys that organized this tournament, they all look legit on the surface, but I don’t trust them. Why is it that Kanto and Sinnoh are still in it and Johto and Hoenn aren’t? Is it just coincidence that their crime syndicates weren’t involved in putting the tournament together? Is it just coincidence that when Sinnoh needed a win to stay alive, that the ref called a penalty in the second minute?”

Falco’s words hung in the air for a bit before Krystal came over. “Falco’s right Fox. I have a bad feeling about this. I think we need to go all out, throw the game plan out, because this game isn’t likely to be fair at all.”

Fox nodded his head. “Fine. But we’re not going to do anything stupid. Press forward, but play fair.”


Kanto vs Corneria - Razor Leaf Stadium - Celadon City, Kanto

It was an atmosphere unlike any other. Fans were standing, screaming, and shouting all throughout Celadon's Razor Leaf Stadium more than an hour before kickoff. The noise only got louder as the teams entered the stadium. Ash Ketchum and Fox McCloud exchanged national flags, and the anthems were sung.

Kickoff came, and true to form, Corneria went for the jugular early. They actually got a decent shot from Peppy in the opening minute, which was deflected by Mr. Mime over the goal and out of play. The corner kick was headed out by Lance, and Brock pounced on it, delivering a well placed ball down the right to Misty. The water trainer got to it, and tried to move into the penalty area but was cut down by Katt, earning a free kick.

On the free kick, Katt lofted it into the box, and sure enough, before the ball came down, the referee blew his whistle for a penalty kick, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Apparently, Bill Grey had grabbed Ash's jersey inside the neck, and he was given a yellow card. Ash lined up for the penalty kick against Slippy Toad, the somewhat maligned keeper for Corneria. Ash's kick was to the lower left, but Slippy guessed right and knocked it away out of bounds. Ash held his head, visibly fazed by his misfortune.

Corneria attacked again in the 13th minute, getting a strong shot from Falco from 25 yards. The ball sailed high past Mr. Mime but it went just over the crossbar. Two minutes later, Corneria moved forward again, getting a shot from distance by Krystal, but it was corralled easily by Mr. Mime.

In the 18th minute, Corneria continued their onslaught as Peppy worked a ball down the left for Falco, who beat Koga and entered the box. He shot, but it was immediately deflected out by Erika, the hometown plant-type gym leader. Falco got up and took the corner kick for Corneria, which came down toward the near post. Fox got into perfect position and headed the ball right into the corner to put Corneria up 1-0 and stunning the capacity crowd. Fox and Falco made it known that they wished the Kanto crowd to stay quiet.

Corneria was playing well, but they were on the fringe of being overzealous. Four minutes after the goal, Krystal was booked for a blatant trip on Katrina Corrales in the midfield. Three minutes after that, Falco was booked for elbowing Ash on a 50/50 ball near the midfield circle. Fox pleaded with his teammates to tone it down, they didn't need anybody sent off.

Kanto finally got a decent shot on goal in the 38th minute, the Cornerian defense had been tough, but Ash found some space in the right of the pitch and kicked inside for Gary, who made a good turn to the right and shot for goal. The kick swerved just past the far post. Gary pounded his fists into the pitch, knowing a kick on target could've tied it up. The half ended soon after, with Corneria going into the locker room, 1-0.

Right at the start of the 2nd half, Corneria pressed again. Peppy won a high ball in the Kanto half and headed forward to Fox. Fox faked a pass outside and back-tapped the ball between two Kanto defenders for Krystal, who ran in from the right. Krystal got to it and shot, but Mr. Mime had come off his line quickly, and blocked the shot. Lance cleared it out of danger. It was a beautiful through ball, and were it not for Mime's quick reaction time, Corneria might have well gone up by 2 goals.

Kanto began to panic a bit, as they were back on their heels constantly. On one of their rare moves forward in the 55th minute, they gave the ball up in the midfield. General Pepper won the ball and kicked far ahead, dropping the ball right in front of Fox. Fox was right through on goal, pressed only by Koga and Lance on the left. Fox dribbled in and took the shot from 18 yards, but surprisingly, he missed badly to the right. He could barely contain his disgust and he trotted back on defense.

Kanto substituted, but didn't have much offense to show for it. Mewtwo and Pikachu brought some speed onto the pitch, but they simply could not break through the Corneria defense. Time was ticking away as well. The crowd began to get nervous, thinking perhaps that the dream was about to come to an end. In the 87th minute, Kanto pressed nine men forward in search of an equalizer. After several kicks and challenges, the ball came out to Brock in the middle, 35 yards out. He dribbled forward, and passed to Misty on the left, who immediately chipped to the middle. The pass was first touched by Bill, but he lost balance and the ball went to Gary, who pounded a bouncing ground ball into the far corner past Slippy. The crowd let out a gigantic scream of adulation as Gary ran to the far corner shouting and beating his chest. It was salvation for the host nation, as surely, somewhere along the way, they and their fans must have given up hope.

The game got more frenetic in the final minutes of regulation. With the crowd noise it was absolute bedlam in Celadon, but Corneria kept pressing. Krystal received a great pass from Peppy on the left of the pitch and crossed a ground ball in for Fox, who had a point blank shot on goal. But most unfortunately, the ball took a weird hop right before it reached him, and he mishit it over the goal. As he lay on the pitch, Fox could only wonder how it didn't go in.

In the first minute of injury time Kanto intercepted a Corneria pass and counterattacked down the right. Gary tried to beat Pepper around the corner but the bulldog skillfully kicked it out for a corner. On the corner, Gary chipped into the box, and Brock attempted a bicycle kick. The kick was powerful and on-target, but it was right at Slippy. A yard to either side and Kanto would have gone ahead.

Two minutes later, the referee whistled for full time. At 1-1, the game would go into extra time. Under the rules of the tournament, extra time would be 30 minutes, sudden death, meaning that the next goal ("golden goal" in football lineage), would win the match. If no goal was scored before 120 minutes plus stoppage time, it would proceed to a penalty shootout.

Kanto opened the overtime on a break, and Fox had to upend Ash as he got close to the penalty area. The referee signaled for a free kick. The Cornerian defense built a wall of defenders in front of the goal. Ash looked to take it, but ran over the ball, and Misty took it instead. The ball went underneath the wall as the defenders jumped, and traveled toward the right corner. Slippy dived and just barely got a hand on it, knocking it out of play. On the ensuing corner kick, Bill was able to head it out of danger.

Things got testy in the overtime. Misty earned the first yellow card of the game for Kanto when she plowed into Falco as he was receiving a throw-in. In the 104th minute, Katt Monroe slide-tackled Ash in the midfield, and she too was booked. Unfazed, Katt made a brilliant play to intercept a Brock pass intended for Katrina, and then dribbled around two Kanto midfielders before sending a long ball up toward Fox. Fox headed it forward to Falco, who turned to the right and entered the penalty area. At the last moment before he could get a shot off, Lance pressed for the ball, knocking Falco down. The referee, who was far behind the play, blew his whistle for a penalty kick...

...Or so it was thought. The referee ran forward toward Falco, clearly not interested in granting a penalty, and raised the yellow card in his direction. That was his second yellow, meaning a red card, sending him off. The Cornerian attackers went berserk and surrounded the referee, indignant at the call. The crowd went wild as the red card came out. Falco waved his hands and shouted at the decision, but could only bury his head in his jersey as he walked off.

Playing a man down, Corneria was in trouble, but they continued to poke holes in the Kanto defense. On a throw in from midfield in the 110th minute, Peppy found Fox all alone in the middle 30 yards out, he moved left to evade the defense and then played a perfect ball in to Krystal, who was cutting in from the left. Krystal took the ball, cut right to juke out Mr. Mime, and pounded a ground ball towards goal just as whistles blared again. The ball rolled into the net, but the goal was disallowed by the referee's sideline assistant, who whistled Krystal for offside. It was a brilliantly thought-out play and if it was offside, it was very, very close. It was just enough for Kanto though.

After five more, tense minutes, it looked like penalty kicks were looming. Brock won the ball in the midfield and played forward to Gary down the left hand side in the 116th minute. Just outside the penalty area, Gary pulled it back and passed to Katrina, who had come forward to just outside the left corner of the penalty area. Katrina lobbed the ball into the box toward Ash, and the Kanto captain beat his defender, leapt, and re-directed the ball with his head towards goal. Slippy dived, but the ball bounced into the bottom right corner of the net. The stadium rocked and shook with a noise that could be heard halfway to Pallet Town as Ash threw his hands up and ran and jumped with delirious exultation. The team mobbed him in the corner of the pitch as fans began rushing the field. Kanto was through, 2-1 in extra time on a golden goal by Ash Ketchum, for them a perfect outcome via perhaps the most thrilling and incredible ending possible on a football pitch. The celebration would turn Kanto's entertainment mecca upside down.


July 10 - Tournament Day 16 - Mushroom Kingdom vs Raccoon City - 24 Karat Memorial Stadium - Goldenrod City, Johto

This quarterfinal encounter featured the one side believed to be the tournament's overall favorite, if there was one. Unlike most sides, Mushroom Kingdom's side was filled with players that had actually played semi-professionally in the past, including legendary plumber brothers Mario and Luigi. They had sailed through the group stage, but were up against an attacking side from Raccoon City that had played better than anticipated in the group stage. Mario himself exchanged national flags with Leon Kennedy, and the anthems were exhilarating.

The two sides were unfamiliar with one another, and as a result the game started slowly. It was also quite sloppy early, with many turnovers in the midfield. Neither team got in many chances at goal until the 14th minute, when a series of well executed passes got Raccoon City in position to score. Ada Wong received the final pass just outside the right corner of the eighteen yard box and launched it for the far corner of goal. The keeper, Frogfucius, was able to react well and beat the shot over the post. The ensuing corner was headed out by Toadsworth, and the chance faded.

Mushroom Kingdom got their first shot in the 22nd minute, as a well struck pass from Toad found Peach about 30 yards out. Peach made a strong move to the left to get around Jill Valentine, and when the defense collapsed on her, she deftly passed to Mario, who was open just inside the eighteen yard box to the left of the circle. Mario one-timed the shot, going for the far post. The keeper was beaten, but Mario's shot swerved just past the post. It was a surprising mishit for the striker, who had been phenomenal in the group round with 3 goals.

Raccoon City tried to be aggressive against the swarming Mushroom Kingdom defense. They knew they were opening themselves to counterattack, but kept pushing. In the 29th minute, a cluster of tackling in the MK half of the field resulted in Ada Wong winning the ball on the right hand side. She quickly dribbled forward and launched a crossing ball toward Leon Kennedy, who was positioned just outside the six-yard box. He leapt up over Toadsworth and headed the ball right into the lower left of goal past Frogfucius to give Raccoon City a shocking 1-0 lead. The RC players celebrated in front of goal as Kennedy ripped his jersey clean off following the goal. (RC had to play the next minute down a man while they found a new one in the locker room).

Raccoon City had all the momentum, and nearly made it 2-0 nine minutes later, when Jill Valentine passed inside to Kennedy, who made a nice turn to get around Toad and fired toward goal. Frogfucius was able to dive to the right and turn it around this time, but Mushroom Kingdom were on their heels. Three minutes later, RC came strong again. Chris Redfield made a strong run down the right hand side, and saw his sister, Claire Redfield, running strong into the middle. The defense of Toad and Toadette swarmed him before he could get off a pass though, and he chipped back for Leon Kennedy, who made a fantastic juke move around Luigi and fired toward the left corner. Frogfucius again made a great jumping save, batting it to the left. Claire attempted to bang in the rebound but was at too tight an angle as the ball hit the side of the net.

Down 1-0 at halftime, powerful Mushroom Kingdom was actually lucky to not be down 2-0 or worse. Mario and Luigi implored their team to start attacking and to be more positive in the midfield, where they were getting crushed in terms of ball possession. The result was a more conservative approach early in the second half. Mushroom Kingdom wasn't moving much forward, but at least their goal wasn't being shot at every five minutes. Still, they needed a spark of some kind to equalize the game, and in the 67th minute, Princess Peach ventured forward against double coverage on the right. She made a neat turning back tap to get around one defender, and beat another by kicking through their legs. Just outside the eighteen yard box she lofted a ball into the middle toward the plumbers. Luigi took the ball off his chest, made a brilliant turn, and between two defenders, booted the ball past a hapless Albert Wesker into the top left. It was phenomenal strike, one of the best all tournament. Luigi ran, punched the air, and flashed the victory sign as his teammates mauled him. It was 1-1.

The game was tense, and rather defensive following the goal. Neither team was interested in making a mistake that would cost the game, and their tournament. Both teams substituted to bring on fresh legs. Raccoon City, perhaps not liking their chances in extra time or penalties against such a tough side, made one last push to get a go-ahead goal in the 82nd minute. Claire Redfield pushed toward the left corner and passed to Chris, who uncorked one from 25 yards. It was high of the bar though. Two minutes later, Leon hoisted a high ball from the left side toward the center of the eighteen yard box. Toad misplayed the ball, and it bounced into the middle. Both Frogfucius and Chris went for the loose ball, and Chris very nearly got a head on the ball to re-direct it in, but it just swerved out of his reach and out of play. The RC players were visibly unhappy with their rotten luck.

Mushroom Kingdom meanwhile, was lying in wait, like a tiger on the prowl, ready to pounce on its prey. They were built for speed and the counterattack. Raccoon City came forward again in the 87th minute, but this time, Toad applied pressure, and Jill's pass for Chris was intercepted by Toadette. Toadette quickly passed to Daisy, who ran frantically into open space down the right. She had Mario and Luigi both running toward the middle, so she crossed an early ball in toward them. It came right to Mario, who had timed his run perfectly, gotten behind the defense, and one-timed the shot through the legs of Wesker for the go-ahead goal. As with Luigi earlier, Mario punched the air and gave the Mushroom Kingdom "v" or "2" sign for victory. Their fans screamed and cried in the stands, knowing that despite a very rough match, they were just minutes away from going through to the quarterfinals.

Raccoon City got one final chance in the 92nd minute on a free kick from 25 yards out. Chris Redfield took it, and it hooked rightward, but couldn't get down in time as it hit the top netting of the goal. On the ensuing goal kick, the whistle sounded, sending Mushroom Kingdom through, 2-1. Raccoon City, though clearly unhappy with their defeat, held their heads high. They had done well, and had played for the victory instead of the draw. But for them, the tournament had come to an end.

Several hours later, the second game of the day would begin...


Termina vs Isle O Hags - Lighthouse Park - Olivine City, Johto

This game was a bit of an unknown, two sides that came from primitive lands that nevertheless had displayed their talents in the group round. The venerably Lighthouse Park, a small yet quaint stadium along the coast of Johto's port city, was the venue on a picturesque evening. Team captains Skull Kid and Banjo exchanged national flags, and after the anthems the game was on.

Isle O Hags was a very defensive side, and they prided themselves on not allowing goals. Their defensive front was strong and physical, led by Banjo, Gruntilda, Klungo, and Jingaling. The Termina attack was quick and shifty though, led by Kafei and Mikau. The early part of the match was a cat-and-mouse game as the Termina offense looked to find the holes to pass the ball. After 15 minutes though, neither side had been able to break through.

The first major chance actually came for Isle o Hags in the 17th minute as Banjo released Tooty with a long ball into the midfield. The young bear moved quickly and fired toward goal, but her shot was mishit, and it dribbled slowly toward Odolwa, who corralled it easily. Four minutes later, a better chance came as Mumbo Jumbo made a good run down the midfield and shot from distance. This one had greater emphasis and Odolwa had to punch it out. Tooty got the rebound but her chance was deflected out by Onilink.

Termina got a good chance at goal in the 34th minute, as Onilink made a good run down the right. Klungo came over to clear the ball, but his defense was sloppy and Onilink took it away, running into in the eighteen and shooting from a tight angle on the right. Jiggywiggy made a tremendous save knocking it over the bar. Jiggywiggy yelled for better cover in the box.

That was basically it for the first half, as the two sides were 0-0. At the start of the second half, it was more defense. The midfield battles started getting more intense, and more chippy. Sakon was booked in the 48th minute for a tough slide tackle on Jingaling. Two minutes later, Boggy saw yellow for a rough challenge against Mikau on a 50/50 ball. Frustration began to run high, as the strikers began dropping deeper and deeper into the midfield, demanding the ball.

The 69th minute saw Onilink pressing on the right, and launching a ball into the middle for Kafei, who came down with it, and passed wide left to Mikau, who uncorked a shot toward the far corner. Once again though, Jiggywiggy got the hand up to turn the shot over the bar. The ensuing corner was another opportunity, as the ball was batted out to Kafei atop the eighteen, but his shot went wide left.

In the 75th minute, Tooty got off a good run down the left of the field, then cut inside to beat Cremia and get into the eighteen. She faked a shot and passed back into the middle where Humba Wumba was moving forward. Humba one-timed the shot and had beaten Odolwa with it, but the ball went off the post. Romani quickly cleared the ball out for a throw-in. Humba held her hands over her face, as she thought her great strike had settled it.

Humba didn't have to wait long for another opportunity though. Four minutes later, Sakon turned the ball over the midfield, and it was taken by Banjo, who passed up to Mumbo, who then released Tooty with a good early ball down the left. Tooty ran ahead and came up against Cremia and Romani, who both stood in her way. She angled her run in toward the middle, before back-tapping the ball back into the open space for Humba to run it down. She did, and from just outside the penalty area, launched a right-footed shot toward the far post. Odolwa, who had come off his line to cut down Humba's angle but couldn't get to her in time, could only watch as the ball found the back of the net. Humba jumped up and tumbled her way behind the goal as her teammates congratulated her.

Termina's task of scoring was tough already, and even tougher now as Isle O Hags substituted and settled into an all-out defense. Time after time, their attempts were turned away. Time ticked down. In the first minute of injury time, Onilink finally did break away from the defense, getting past Gruntilda on the left and crossing the ball ahead toward Mikau on the right. From just inside the eighteen, Mikau fought with Banjo and got position enough to one-time a beautiful shot toward the left post. Jiggywiggy though, made another beautiful diving stop, batting the ball away. Onilink attempted to score on the rebound but his angle was too tight and found the side netting. Mikau slumped to the ground, mystified that Jiggywiggy had denied him the equalizer.

As it turned out, he had denied Termina their chance to advance as well. Two minutes later, the whistle blew, sending Isle O Hags through 1-0. They would face Mushroom Kingdom in the world cup quarterfinals.


Tournament Day 17 - Yoshi's Island vs Kongo Jungle - Oxidation Arena - Rustboro City, Hoenn

It was a dark and stormy afternoon in Hoenn's westernmost and oldest city, actually a highly appropriate setting for two sides that were very much used to rain and sloppy conditions. It was also a matchup between dinosaurs and primates, as the Yoshis, winners of Group B, were set to do battle with the Kongs, runner-up of Group F. Green Yoshi and Donkey Kong presided over the national flag exchange, and after the spirited anthems, the match was underway.

Driving rains and high winds didn't deter the Yoshis one bit, and they pushed forward quickly. In the 2nd minute, Boshi hit Green Yoshi on a ball into the middle. Green Yoshi made a great turn to get around DK and ran into the middle of the eighteen. He made a good move to get clear around Chunky Kong, but before he could shoot he was brought down in the box by Lanky Kong, and the referee signaled a penalty kick. Funky Kong, the Kongo keeper, made a diving effort but was unable to stop Yoshi's penalty, which went straight down the middle for 1-0.

The Kongs didn't wait long to equalize though. In the 9th minute, Diddy Kong made a strong run down the middle, and passed to Dixie on the left of the eighteen, who knocked a ground ball behind the defense and back to Diddy who easily beat Pac-E-Derm with a one-timer. It was a brilliant give-n-go, and it made the score 1-1. Two minutes later the Kongs nearly took the lead on a powerful shot by DK from roughly 25 yards, the shot hung just a bit too much and hit the top of the netting.

The Yoshis came back the other direction and made the score 2-1 on a well set up play. Green Yoshi dribbled down the center, then passed to Birdo, who lofted a ball back to Yoshi who made a straight run at goal, prompting the keeper and the defense to come for the ball. Yoshi ran quickly and headed the ball backward and to the left, and seemingly from out of nowhere, Baby Mario ran forward and kicked the ball inside the near post for a 2-1 lead. It was the infant's first goal of the tournament, and an unlikely one at that.

Right before halftime, in the 44th minute, Green Yoshi played creator again, this time releasing Boshi down the left with a good through ball after intercepting a pass in the midfield. Boshi beat his defender to the corner and ran in towards goal at a tight angle. Perhaps expecting Boshi to pull it back, the defense moved off, toward Birdo and Blue Yoshi who were both running into the middle. Seeing this, Boshi pulled the trigger, pounding the ball over the head of Funky and under the bar to make it 3-1. It was a powerful strike, one that nearly sent Funky diving for cover. Boshi jumped and hovered all the way to the corner before pulling out his designer shades and holding up the victory sign. It was a great cap to a phenomenal offensive first half for Yoshi's Island, as they took that lead into halftime.

In most instances, a 3-1 lead would be fairly solid. But in wind and rain like this, and with two attacking sides, anything was possible. Kongo Jungle made their task a bit easier in the 53rd minute, as Diddy Kong made another strong run down the center, passing off for Lanky, who shot from the right. The save was made by Pac E Derm, but he failed to hold the wet ball cleanly, and it rolled off toward Diddy. Red Yoshi reacted quick enough to tackle Diddy before he could get the shot off, but his challenge was rash and he was shown the yellow card by the referee. Since the foul occurred in the eighteen-yard box, that meant a penalty kick as well. Diddy made no mistake on the PK, as he sent Pac E Derm the wrong way to make it 3-2.

Both teams had several more chances in the next twenty minutes as play went from end to end. It was arguably the most entertaining match of the tournament to this point. Still, Kongo Jungle needed another goal, and time was starting to run short on them in the 74th minute. Diddy served a long ball up toward Rattly, who had come on as a substitute. The snake jumped high and headed the ball back toward Dixie, who played the ball to Donkey Kong. Then, unexpectedly, from about 30 yards out, DK fired a slicing shot from distance. The shot was blistering, and moved hard right away from Pac E Derm, deflecting in off in the inside of the upright. DK was almost shocked that it went in, but then went running to midfield, beating his chest. It was 3-3.

It looked like overtime was in the works, but then things really got wacky. In the 86th minute, Kongo Jungle pushed forward again, this time with Expresso kicking into the box for Dixie, who had gotten behind Birdo and Yellow Yoshi. Dixie's kick initially went into the pitch, but took a weird hop, and re-directed off a defender past Pac E Derm, giving Kongo Jungle a 4-3 lead. Once down 2 goals, they were now only minutes away from going through to the quarterfinals and the Kong fans made ruckus, junglefied cheers all across the stadium. But the elements weren't done toying with the players or the match, much to the Kong fans' chagrin. Yoshi's Island won a corner in the 90th minute, and on Birdo's kick, Funky went up to grab the ball on the six yard line, but he slipped as he started to jump, and fell, allowing Poochy to make a great jump and head the ball into the top right corner, squaring the match 4-4. Poochy was mobbed by his dinosaur teammates, and their fans went crazy, as just a few minutes earlier, it looked as though they were heading out.

One minute later, the referee blew the whistle for full time, it was 4-4, meaning that extra time beckoned. Strangely, for all the scoring that occurred in the match, there wasn't a multitude of chances in the overtime. This was because the players were tired from all the running on the wet, muddy pitch in such muggy, humid conditions. In the 115th minute, Yoshi's Island had a decent chance on a corner, but this time Funky didn't mess around, and punched the ball way out before any YI players could get to it. After five more minutes, the referee blew his whistle again, signaling the end of extra time. For the first time in the world cup, two sides were headed to a penalty shootout.

By a coin flip, it was determined that Yoshi's Island would kick first, followed by Kongo Jungle. 5 players each would kick, and then if it was still tied, the kicks would continue one by one until one side was victorious. Green Yoshi went first for Yoshi's Island, and his penalty was perfect, going right past Funky. Dixie Kong went first for Kongo Jungle, and her kick was fine, sending Pac E Derm the wrong way for 1-1. The next kick by Yoshi's Island was from Baby Mario. He kicked to the right, but Funky made a diving save. Less than a minute later, Diddy Kong found the back of the next to put Kongo Jungle up 2-1 in the shootout. The third kick for Yoshi's Island, by Boshi, was terrible, right at the goalkeeper. Funky made the easy save and Kongo Jungle was looking good. But their third kicker, DK, missed wide to the right, keeping the score 2-1. Blue Yoshi went fourth for Yoshi's Island, but his kick found the crossbar. For a team so skilled at scoring the ball, their struggles in the shootout were inexplicable. Then, perhaps even more shocking, with a chance to seal the victory, Chunky Kong's kick was weak, and was saved by Pac E Derm. It was still 2-1.

The final kick taker for Yoshi's Island was Birdo, and she made no mistake, finding the top left corner to make it 2-2. It was all down to the final kick-taker, Tiny Kong. With a make, she would put her nation through. Though certainly not a physical stalwart, Tiny was very smart, and she had noticed that Pac E Derm had dived hard on all four kicks so far. Tiny ran up and tapped a chip shot straight up the middle. Sure enough, Pac E Derm dove to the left, and the ball went straight in. With a 3-2 victory on penalty kicks, Kongo Jungle was through to the quarterfinals, and the rest of the Kongs hoisted Tiny onto their shoulders, carrying her high above as they celebrated their triumph.


Bern vs Venom - Igneous Mountain Park - Mauville City, Hoenn

With the weather in western Hoenn very unsettled, those in Mauville were bracing for not only storminess in the skies, but on the pitch as well. Two very prideful, smash mouth, physical sides were set to do battle. Ike and Wolf exchanged national flags, and both sides gave out ferocious renditions of their anthems.

Almost immediately, Wolf picked up a yellow card for a takedown on Eliwood. The resulting free kick by Hector was a good one that nearly found the net but it was knocked over the bar by Andross. The corner was flicked on by Lady Lyndis but it was headed out by Pigma.

Ten minutes in, Eliwood was booked for a nasty challenge against Andrew Oikonny. Wolf's free kick was headed by Leon Powalski into the path of Panther Caruso, who shot at goal. The ball was hit hard, but directly at Dorcas, who deflected the ball into the air and out of play.

Things continued to be quite physical. Venom picked up two more cards in the 23rd and 25th minutes thanks to errant slide-tackles by Panther and Pigma. Both were in the midfield though, so Bern wasn't really able to capitalize on the rough play. The game was tight, and not exactly free flowing. A good shot finally came in the 38th minute courtesy of Ike, who had gotten inside his defender and fired for the near post. The shot ended up banging off of the crossbar. Then amazingly, not even a minute later, Wolf made a decent run down the left and passed across to Leon, who one-timed the shot, and hit the bar himself. Two hits of the bar, one at each end.

Just before halftime, Lady Lyndis picked up a yellow card for a vicious elbow against Pigma that could very have been a straight red. The resulting free kick was a nice ball in toward the far post. Wolf ran under it and re-directed it with his head across the six yard box to Leon Powalski who banged it in from point blank range. Leon began to celebrate before his joy turned to dismay as he saw that the referee's assistant on the sideline raised his flag for offside. Indeed, though Wolf was onside, Leon was beyond the last defender, and thus the goal was chopped off. The score was 0-0 at half.

Venom pressed early in the second half, sensing that momentum was on their side. Wolf played another good ball into the top of the eighteen to Panther, and he turned loose a ground ball shot that just missed wide to the left. In the 58th minute, the weather, which had held up for much of the match, began to turn a bit toward nasty. The wind kicked up, and the rain began to sprinkle. Both teams continued to try to force their way through the midfield, but an already difficult task became tougher as the once dry pitch got soaked.

All the physical play finally came back to bite Venom in the 65th minute, as Lyn played a well placed ball from Hector, dribbled into the eighteen and crossed back to Marth, who was readying a shot from up top. Panther came over and attempted to take the ball away before it got to Ike but ended up tripping him instead. Panther couldn't bear to watch as the yellow card came out again, followed by the red card, sending him off for a second infraction. The moment put Venom down a man and forced them to play much more cautiously. They changed tactics and looked to counterattack. But Bern was keen to this, and possessed the ball cleanly on each possession. They started to spread the pitch out with Roy and Marth on the flanks and Ike and Eliwood pressing the middle.

Still, their efforts were rebuffed by the Venom defense until the 80th minute, by which time the rain has picked up to that of a downpour. Lady Lyndis launched a long ball over the Venom midfield, which was picked out by Roy in the right corner. He got around Andrew and moved toward the box. He tried to get it to Eliwood in the middle but it was knocked out by Pigma. That ball was eventually re-directed to Hector, who crossed to the left for Roy, who then found Eliwood on the left side of the eighteen. Eliwood attempted to turn before he was contacted by Leon and went down. The referee stepped in and signaled for a penalty kick, and an irate Leon berated the referee along with Wolf and Andrew, all three claiming that Eliwood had slipped and fallen on the wet grass. Their words would fall on deaf ears.

Eliwood went to the spot and placed the ball. Andross was in a tough spot, needing a save to save the match. Unfortunately for him and for Venom, Eliwood sent him the wrong way, scoring for Bern to make it 1-0. The Bern fans went crazy as the players celebrated the goal.

Venom never seriously threatened after that, and nine minutes later the whistle blew, sending Bern through to the quarterfinals, 1-0. They would face Kongo Jungle in the round of 8.


Tournament Day 18 - Smashville vs Subspace - Telltale Park - Hearthome City, Sinnoh

Now for what was perhaps the most intriguing matchup on the board in the round of 16. Filing onto one side of Hearthome City's Telltale Park was Subspace, a team built on strength and individual finesse. Heading in the other side was Smashville, an exotic side that virtually nobody picked to get out of the first round, the tournament's cinderella side, if you will. Team captains Tom Nook and Solid Snake were the embodiment of their sides, and as they exchanged national flags, you would hardly be amiss if you expected a blowout. But as they say in sport, matches are never decided on paper.

It didn't look good for Smashville early on though. In the 7th minute, Mabel was booked for a rough challenge against Popo about 30 yards from goal. On the ensuing free kick, Smashville expected Snake to take a shot at goal, but he stepped over the ball, allowing Popo to kick it instead, around the wall and toward Nana in the right of the eighteen yard box. Nana was through and shot for the far post. The Smashville keeper, Blathers, made a great kick save with his right leg. The rebound bounced out toward Pit, who one-timed a shot, but saw it miss to the left. Just like that, a great chance had gone by the wayside.

Four minutes later, Pit did well down the left, winning a corner. The aerial archer took the corner kick, and it was a good one, looping toward the penalty spot. Solid Snake made a great run on the ball and headed it with authority from 10 yards out, deflecting it past the keeper and two defenders for one-nil. Snake dropped to one knee in the corner, his signature celebration. It was a great header but also a goalkeeping error of sorts as Blathers had come to receive the ball, but never got anywhere near it.

Smashville did not seem rattled by the goal though, and got forward for a great opportunity six minutes later. Tom Nook took a pass from Phyllis and moved out to the left. He made a lovely turn around a defender and took a shot that deflected off of Mr. Game & Watch toward the penalty spot, where Mabel was in behind the defense to pound it past a diving ROB to tie the score. Or so they thought, as the referee's assistant raised his flag on the far side. On replay, it was a very close call, but the correct one as Mabel was a half step beyond the last defender.

The upstart animals were not to be deterred however, and retained control of possession for much of the half. In the 37th minute, Nook made a good run up the center of the field before passing off to KK Slider near the top of the eighteen. Slider made a good juke move rightward and hit a beautiful ground ball past two defenders and a diving ROB into the net. Eight minutes from halftime, Smashville were level. It was a phenomenal shot, probably one of the tournament's best, courtesy of the rocker puppy.

With the score knotted at 1-1, Subspace attempted to regain the momentum to open the second half. They got a good push forward in the 51st minute as Pit made a solid run down the right hand side. His cross was intended for Snake but deflected off the head of Sable, and right to Popo, who attempted to one-time the shot. He didn't get a hold of it properly though, and drove it into the pitch, allowing Blathers an easy save. Five minutes later, a long ball from Tabuu landed at the feet of Mr. Game&Watch down the right. Through some jostling, he got away from Phyllis, then evaded Tom Nook at the right sideline of the eighteen. Just as Snake was making a run into the center of the eighteen, wide open, Game&Watch shockingly decided to go for glory at the near post. Blathers made the easy save, and Snake put his hands on his head in agony. The ensuing corner failed to yield much.

Both teams began to substitute around the 70th minute, in search of the goal that would get them through to the quarterfinals, but the game was stalling in the midfield. Pit took a shot from distance in the 79th minute, but it went over the bar by several feet. Two minutes later Nook tried his luck from deep, only to have it sail wide to the right. Overtime seemed in the offing. Smashville got off one more solid chance in the 90th minute as Tortimer, who had come on as a substitute, launched a good ball deep into the right for KK Slider. Slider took a shot from a tight angle, and it was punched out by ROB. The ball deflected to the left, and Mable took possession, eventually launching an effort from the left corner of the eighteen. This shot was taken by the robot keeper. As soon as he punted the ball downfield, the referee blew his whistle, indicating that for the third time in the round of 16, two sides were headed for extra time.

The match suddenly picked up in the overtime, with both teams going end to end with chances. Subspace ventured deep into the Smashville zone in the 94th minute as Nana lofted a ball into the box for Snake, who chipped it over toward Tabuu, who got tackled in the box but the ball deflected back to Pit at the top of the eighteen. Pit made a ridiculous standing 360 degree turn on the ball to get past a sliding Nook, and shot for goal, only to have the ball crash against the right upright and out of play. Pit sunk his head into his hands, for he could not believe his misfortune. Neither could Subspace's fans, who were at once speechless at Pit's outrageous piece of skill, only to have the ball not find the back of the net.

In the 99th minute, Smashville came down the other way with Mable in the middle. She made one defender miss and then passed out to Nook on the left. Nook was double teamed, but faked out Tabuu by moving right, then kicked the ball between the legs of Nana, weaved between the two defenders, and shot for the far post. The shot beat a diving ROB, but missed outside the post by mere inches. Nook fell to the ground in disbelief, but actually smiled a bit as he got back up. Perhaps he was feeling confident after the near game-winner.

After two amazing moves by Pit and Nook had failed to finish the game, what could possibly prevent the match from progressing to penalty kicks? Mabel, who had played a phenomenal game in the midfield, attempted to attack up the center. She then moved rightward, but just before pulling the trigger on a long shot from 30 yards, she back-tapped the ball into the path of an oncoming KK Slider. Slider dribbled once, evaded a defender by going left, and was through on goal atop the eighteen. The dog nailed a grounder toward the left post. ROB was beaten. The players and fans all watched as it dribbled toward the goal line, bounced off the inside of the left upright, and into the net. Pandemonium ensued as the Smashville bench stormed the field and their fans went crazy. Slider ran toward the corner, then back toward the bench along the sideline, giving a loud howl just before his teammates mobbed him. He had scored for the second time, and this time it was the knock-out punch, a golden goal that gave Smashville a 2-1 victory and kept their cinderella dreams of a world cup championship alive.


Sinnoh vs Tethealla - Blizzard Bowl - Snowpoint City, Sinnoh

The final contest of the round of 16 pitted the home side, Sinnoh, against Tethealla, an upstart squad that surprised many by winning Group H. It was bound to be an interesting match as not much was known about either side, despite their advancement through the first round. Team captains Wally and Colette exchanged national flags, and after the anthems, the match began.

Unlike most world cup venues, which were situated in summer weather and low elevation, Snowpoint City's Blizzard Bowl was neither. The weather was cold and biting, and the ball flew high and long in the thin air of Sinnoh's mountainous terrain. Tethealla didn't seem to have trouble with it though, as their country was quite mountainous as well. In fact, Tethealla made the first big play of the game in the 9th minute as Lloyd Irving went one on one with several Sinnoh defenders and launched a shot from just outside the eighteen. The shot just missed to the right, but it was a taste of things to come. Tethealla's great team speed was giving Sinnoh fits, and four minutes later Lloyd made another run, this time down the middle. He passed off to Zelos on the left, who made a great turn in the box and pounded a strike past the near post for 1-0. Zelos and his teammates celebrated, and the home crowd and team were stunned.

Tethealla held possession for much of the half and continued to take their shots at the Sinnoh defense. They nearly got burned on a counterattack in the 35th minute though. Wally intercepted a pass in the midfield and launched a long ball to Cyrus in the center left. Against just a single defender, Cyrus booted a shot from 25 yards. The shot looked good but swerved late, just missing the net to the left. The Team Galactic leader visibly cussed as he jogged back.

Tethealla nearly added to their lead in the 40th minute, as Zelos took a shot from the left that was blocked by the keeper and deflected to the right. The ball bounced out to Marta, who faked a shot, swerved around a defender to the left and shot. The shot went off the post. Tenebrae had a chance on the rebound but was challenged by Wally before he could get a shot off. Tenebrae looked to the referee for a penalty kick but none was given. That's how the half ended, 1-0 to Tethealla. Sinnoh was in trouble, and Wally knew it. He implored his team to dig deep, and to fight to defend their turf.

Sinnoh responded better to start the second half, and a long ball from Dialga was taken by Wally. Before he could shoot he was upended by Lloyd, earning the latter a yellow card. Wally could raise the roof with a goal on the free kick, and the Sinnoh captain knew it. He struck the ball perfectly, a bender to the left that hit the top corner of the net past a diving Ratatosk. They were all tied in Snowpoint, and Wally's effort was cheered in delirious adulation. No matter what happened from here, he had given the fans a moment to remember.

Substitutions came beginning in the 60th minute. Sinnoh brought some of their heavier, tougher defenders on to try to slow the Tethealla attack, and perhaps to get their own counterattacking game started. Tethealla responded by putting attackers into the game, a surprising move as it was gutsy and played into Sinnoh's hands to some degree. But Tethealla was a confident side, and in the 73rd minute, a beautifully coordinated attack saw the ball go from Zelos to Lloyd to Marta, and lastly to Emil, who had timed his run and gotten behind the defense on the right of the box. Marta's pass was perfect, and had gotten past the keeper, leaving Emil to bang in the point blank shot. Just as it seemed that Sinnoh would be able to rekindle the magic and survive as they had in the group round, they now trailed for the second time.

Sinnoh did everything they could to tie the match once again, but attack after attack petered out in the midfield as Tethealla dropped back into a defensive set. Then in the 86th minute the dagger came, a crushing counterattack set up by Colette when she intercepted a pass intended for Mars. She ran down the right of the field and launched an early ball to Emil, who juked the one defender remaining and after getting the keeper to commit, passed to Marta, who banged it home and ensuring that Tethealla would face Smashville in the quarterfinals. It was nearly an instant replay of the previous goal, where Marta had passed to Emil. Their positions were reversed this time, but the result all the same.

Knowing that their side were going out, the Sinnoh fans rose to their feet and cheered vapidly into stoppage time. For a team not expected to contend, they had done well. The cheers swelled as the referee blew the whistle to finish the contest, 3-1 to Tethealla. It would be a quarterfinal of underdogs between Smashville and Tethealla up next.


July 14 - Tournament Day 20 - Station of KNT (Kanto National Television), just outside world cup headquarters in Saffron City

Renowned soccer announcer John Terry and analyst Alexi Lalas gave their thoughts on the round of 16 and what to expect in the round of 8.

"Ladies and gentlemen, if you did not believe in good football coming from the parallel world of gaming, then you were sorely mistaken because Alexi, we have truly seen some great talent on the field here in the Pokémon Islands."

"Indeed we have John, the speed, the technique, the strategies employed by these national sides have been exemplary. The matches generally speaking have far exceeded my expectations, and the hosts, especially those here in Saffron have been exceedingly inviting. Sure it's a little weird seeing giant creatures walking the streets here, but once you get over that aspect of it, we've really been treated to an event that is truly world class."

"Let's a take bit of a look back at the last round, some beautiful football. One game in particular stuck out at me and that was Yoshi's Island-Kongo Jungle, that match was free-flowing and imaginative, and gave us eight goals despite some awful rains. Alexi who do you like from the last round?"

"John, I think of all the teams, Mushroom Kingdom made the strongest statement. They did not play their best against Raccoon City and they were lucky to only be down one goal at half, but they dug deep and found a way to respond. Their stars stepped up, scored, and now they are in the final eight. I had them winning the tournament at the outset, and I still think they ultimately will."

"Now I'm going to put up the board for the round of eight. Give us a bit of a rundown on what to expect in the quarterfinals."

Kanto - Hyrule
Mushroom Kingdom - Isle O Hags
Kongo Jungle - Bern
Smashville - Tethealla

"Let me start by saying that these are all going to be great matches, all of them. But the one match I really want to see is Smashville vs Tethealla. Those are two sides that nobody expected to reach this deep into the tournament, and they've played an attacking, finesse-laden game that has really been fun to watch. This could be a high-scoring game and best of all, one of these teams will go through to the semifinals and it's not outlandish to think that they could go all the way."

"I still remember Smashville beating Green Hill Zone earlier and how everybody thought it was such a massive decision, but in lue of the evidence, perhaps not. I cannot wait for the game right here in Saffron tomorrow night, Kanto vs Hyrule. You have the telegenic, modern home side going against the old-school, physical side in the Hyrulians. And I don't want to harp on this too much right now, but I think in the last round Corneria had some unfortunate decisions go against them, particularly the offside in the 110th minute. I think there will be a closer microscope on the officiating in this match. Either way, it is bound to be a grand contest, and it takes place right here at Saffron Psychic Dome tomorrow night, where our good friends JP Dellacamera and Tommy Smyth will be on the call."

Meanwhile, right down the street inside the Silph Company HQ, the shadowy man himself was doling out final instructions for the match upcoming.

"Again, this has to be a top notch operation. I won't tolerate any rag-tag dress or attitude. Our city and our country are on display and we must treat the visitors well."

"Yes Boss." the grunts all responded.

"You are dismissed." the man said. The grunts all began to leave, until the man called out to one in particular. "Cassidy, could you stay here a minute please."

The young woman turned around. "Yes boss, what is it?" she asked.

"That work you helped oversee at Poison Park last week, I was quite pleased. The whole concept of tailgating before a game is foreign to me, but you did well. All the fans told us that they had a blast and I wanted to thank you personally."

Cassidy wasn't used to praise from her boss. "Why, thank you boss." she said.

"I wanted to reward you. You see, we have a bit of a situation with the refereeing. The referee that was supposed to do tomorrow's match has evidently skipped out of town. We cannot locate him. He left a note saying that he would not be involved in what he called a corrupt, unjust event. Since you have been the brains behind much of our operation in Kanto, I have selected you to call the game in his stead."

Cassidy's eyes lit up. "Me? You want to make me the head official?"

"That is correct."

"But, won't that blow our cover? And I would surely be outed."

"Cassidy, think about it. You're out in the field wearing a sweater with a giant R on the front of it. We're not the stealthiest of organizations. Hell, I don't even need to hide myself anymore."

The man pulled off his hood, exposing himself as Giovanni, the president of Team Rocket. "I saw this thing through this far, and now nobody's going to stop us from finishing the job."

"So you want me to rig the match?"

"Eh, not so much rig it. Just, if our side is in a pinch and needs a call to go their way, you know what to do."

Cassidy understood. She left the room without a word.


July 15 - Tournament Day 21 - Isle O Hags vs Mushroom Kingdom - 24 Karat Memorial Stadium - Goldenrod City, Johto

It was a glorious sunny day in Johto's capital city, the perfect afternoon for football. Pretournament co-favorites Mushroom Kingdom, who battled past a game Raccoon City squad in the last round, were set to face off against the tough, physical side from the Isle O Hags. Mario and Banjo, icons in their home countries and in many ways embodying the soul of their teams and nations, exchanged national flags before the game. As they did so, Mario flashed the victory sign, and Banjo held up a jiggy in his right hand, the respective victory poses.

The start of the game was spirited, but quickly gave way to some tough and physical play in the midfield. Almost immediately, Jamjars was booked for taking out Geno at the knees. Princess Daisy was upended by Humba Wumba two minutes later, and the latter was shown the yellow card as well. Mushroom Kingdom, despite being the more complete side and having a greater regard for fair play, seemed lethargic early on. Their passing was sloppy, and they weren't getting good runs into the middle of the field against the tough defense of Isle O Hags, which was anchored by Gruntilda and Banjo.

In the 17th minute, Geno was able to make a few defenders miss and he launched a shot from 25 yards. The shot was a bender that came down just under the bar, but it was in the middle of goal, and Jiggywiggy knocked it over for a corner. The corner by Peach nearly found Luigi but it was headed out by Jingaling before the plumber could get to it.

The next chance came in the 23rd minute. A turnover by Mushroom Kingdom was taken by Tooty, who kicked the ball up to Banjo in the midfield. He pressed up to Mumbo Jumbo, who launched a high ball down across to the left for Humba Wumba. Humba was in one-on-one coverage against Daisy, who fought for position but stumbled a bit as the ball arrived, allowing Humba to take the ball cleanly to the inside. Frogfucius tried to come off his line, but Humba's shot from near the penalty spot was perfect, finding the right side of the goal to put Isle O Hags up 1-0. The other players mobbed Humba in the box, especially Mumbo, who had shockingly assisted on Humba's goal. Mushroom Kingdom was dismayed. For the second straight game they had conceded an early goal and were trailing.

Mushroom Kingdom, unlike the last game, didn't wait long to press the situation. Mario made a strong push down the left in the 27th minute, weaved around Tooty and Banjo, before launching a right footed shot toward goal. The ball bent, but not quite enough as it missed to the right. Still, it was a solid effort. Two minutes later, Princess Peach received a pass in the middle from Geno and took a shot of her own. This one ended up going straight at Jiggywiggy, who corralled it on the ground.

Isle O Hags got a decent chance in the 40th minute, as on a corner kick, Kazooie leapt high into the air and got a beak on the ball. Frogfucius made a good play on it though, and beat the shot over the bar. Another yard or so to the right or left and Kazooie might have made it 2-0. The next corner was corralled in the air by Frogfucius, and the threat was neutralized.

At halftime, Isle O Hags led 1-0. Down for the second straight match at half, Mushroom Kingdom knew they couldn't mess around. Isle O Hags had several big, strong defenders on the bench they could substitute, guys that had harassed Termina the previous match, so they had to score quickly. Not even two minutes into the second half, Geno made a solid play to gain possession in the midfield, and was fouled by Mumbo. Geno got up and took the free kick quickly, passing to Princess Peach, who proceeded to make a brilliant run down the center. She made a great fake out with her legs to get around Jingaling, and had Mario and Luigi both up ahead. With just two defenders to beat, Banjo and Gruntilda decided to press Peach and play the offside trap, but Peach saw this, and near the top of the circle she passed to Luigi, who was to her right. Luigi one-timed a left-footed grounder that screamed past a diving Jiggywiggy to equalize the match. Luigi ran down the pitch toward midfield, did his signature kicking legs jump before flashing the "2" sign as the others celebrated around him.

It was at this moment that things quickly came unraveled for Isle O Hags. Their passing wasn't as crisp as it was in the first half. They started committing silly fouls too. Kazooie was booked for an inadvertent head butt against Mario in the 49th minute. One minute later, Gruntilda accidently kicked Peach in the back of the leg trying to get the ball in the defensive zone, earning her a yellow card. The foul occurred on the right side, about 30 yards out. Peach measured the free kick, and the defense for Isle O Hags figured she would cross to the middle. But instead, Peach launched a high-arching shot toward the far post. It swerved leftward at first, and Jiggywiggy came out to get it, but then it curved back right in midair. The tall keeper jumped, but it was too late. The ball found the top left corner of goal, putting Mushroom Kingdom ahead 2-1. Peach ran into the corner, did a cartwheel before spinning around and giving the "2" sign. It was an unmistakable free kick, probably the greatest all tournament, right when her team needed it the most.

Isle O Hags really began to panic, having conceded two goals in five minutes. They were all over the place, losing balls in the midfield, not concentrating on defense. Twice Jiggywiggy made great saves against Geno and Mario in the 55th and 59th minutes to keep the game alive. Finally, a break came in the 65th minute. Daisy passed to Geno on the attack, and he tried to find Peach in the middle. Gruntilda got there as Peach did, and the ball spurted away from both. Both players went for it, and Peach inadvertently kicked Gruntilda in the foot after the latter had gotten to the ball a split second earlier, sending the witch to the pitch. The referee blew his whistle, and showed Peach a red card, sending her off. Peach held her hands on her hips, incredulous at the call. The call was indeed harsh, drawing comparisons between it and Falco's red card against Kanto in the round of 16.

Now playing a man up, Isle O Hags began to push ahead with more success. Banjo came forward and shot from 25 yards, but was turned away by Frogfucius. A few minutes later, Humba worked around Toad and fired a left footed shot that sailed just past the left post. Mushroom Kingdom responded by bringing in some defenders off the bench.

With time running out in the 86th minute, Banjo pushed everybody forward, and his pass wide to Jamjars was flicked into the middle toward Kazooie, who made another run at heading it into the net. He never got to it as he was bumped by Luigi, and the ball was eventually cleared by Toadette. Kazooie wanted a foul but got none from the referee.

In the third minute of injury time, knowing only seconds remained, Banjo tried it again, and this time the breegull was able to get free enough to head the ball. Frogfucius was beaten, and the ball turned left towards goal, only to deflect off the post. Toad attempted to clear the ball, but it was deflected off of Brentilda, then Mario, then Bottles, before it sprayed out to Tooty who had a point blank look at the tying goal. Tooty wound up, but before the young bear could shoot, she was brutally tackled by a desperate Mallow, perhaps the rashest challenge of the whole tournament. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and gave Mallow a red card, sending him off.

It was now down to this, one shot to save the match, on the foot of perhaps the most unlikely player. Tooty was visibly nervous as she placed the ball, almost to the point where she was trembling. Frogfucius, the wise old frog of Tadpole Pond, was in many ways Tooty's opposite, very calm and collected. The crowd in Goldenrod was deadly silent. The referee's whistle blew. Tooty trotted forward slowly, almost slow enough to be a walk, and shot for the left. Frogfucius guessed correctly and was able to get a hand on the ball, deflecting it out of play. A roar came from the Mushroom Kingdom faithful as the referee's whistle blew for full time. Tooty collapsed onto the pitch in tears, and was consoled by Banjo and several other Isle O Hags players before Frogfucius himself came over to exchange jerseys with her, a great sign of sportsmanship.

Mushroom Kingdom was through, 2-1. They now awaited the winner of the Kanto-Hyrule match in the semifinals.


Kanto vs Hyrule - Saffron Psychic Dome - Saffron City, Kanto

Before this titanic quarterfinal encounter, the Hyrulians focused in on game planning, hoping to knock off the home side. After their drawing board session, they watched video of the Kanto-Corneria match, which was narrated by Ian Darke and John Harkes.

"Long ball down to Falco, Falco in the arc, he turns it, goes down, Corneria won a penalty!"

"Referee, not interested in fact what's he doing here?" **Raises yellow card. "Oh Falco's already got a yellow card. He gets another one, presumably for diving, and he's going to be off!" **Raises red card, causing the crowd to go crazy. "Well Mute City had two men sent off against Kanto, and now Corneria has had their top man dispatched to the dressing room because the referee says he dived here."

"What a strange decision." Link said.

"Indeed." Ashei said. "The Corneria manager was furious, yea?"

They fast-forwarded ahead to the 110th minute.

"Thrown in by Peppy to Fox, he moves against Blaine. Pass is through to Krystal who's through on goal but wait. Flags gone up, she's put it into the net, it's not going to count."

"Boy that must have been very tight Ian."

"John, in fact, Krystal was onside as that's played. But the Kantoans did stop, the keeper did stop."

Nabooru entered the room from the washroom. "Hey, why are all of us watching this nonsense anyways. We know our opponent, we're the strongest team, and we're going to give these Kanto folks a big surprise in their own backyard."

"I don't feel confident." Saria said. "It seems as though the referees like Kanto. Look at what happened against Corneria."

"Well, let's ask Zelda. She's never led us wrong with a prophecy. Princess, what say you?" Link asked.

Zelda appeared to be deep in thought for a few moments, then spoke. "I sense danger. I sense violence. But worst of all, I see dark clouds ahead. I don't have a good feeling about this match."

Link's face was flushed. "Ladies and gentlemen, prepare ye for battle!" He shouted.

The crowd was filled to capacity with screaming fans. Only this game was a bit different for two reasons. First of all, the game was indoors, which amplified the noise even further. And secondly, unlike the rest of Kanto's matches to this point, there was a vast contingent of fans for the opponent, as a determined minority of Hyrulians had managed to see their way to the Psychic Dome. The stage was set, and as Ash and Link exchanged national flags, the tension was palpable. The winner would advance to the semifinals, where powerful Mushroom Kingdom were waiting.

Kanto didn't waste any time, and nearly went up in the fourth minute when Gary made a weaving run through the Hyrule defense and struck from 25 yards. The shot was just over the bar however. Four minutes later, Gary set up Brock for a header in the box, but it was beaten away by Ganondorf. Katrina came down with it and tried her luck from 30 yards. The shot was a ground ball though, and Zelda easily corralled it.

Hyrule got their first big attack in the 14th minute, as Ashei launched a ground ball into the left corner for Link. Link took the ball behind the defense and attempted to pass it into the middle for Nabooru. Blaine was able to sweep in and bat the ball away to the middle, cutting down Nabooru in the process. Playing the advantage, the rebound went to Impa, who cracked from the top of the eighteen, only to have the ball hit the right post and deflect out of play. Nabooru was very upset at not being granted a penalty kick, and she and Blaine jawed as the return ball was played by Mr. Mime.

Play became more physical in the late part of the half. Nabooru continued to battle with Blaine, and the latter was booked for an emphatic shove in the back on a 50/50 ball. Princess Ruto was yellow carded two minutes later for a slide tackle against Ash Ketchum in the Hyrule half. The latter play set Ash up for a free kick, but the ball raced straight to Zelda, who corralled it on one bounce. The half concluded 0-0, as the two sides headed to the locker room hoping to find the one goal they needed to gain the advantage.

The Kanto crowd was nervous, and the jitters would come stronger as Hyrule came out firing to start the second half. In the 49th minute, Impa won a ball on the left side of the Kanto half. She moved forward and launched a cross in for Link. The cross was high, and instead of shooting at a tight angle, Link deflected the ball rightward toward a diving Nabooru, who headed the ball into the net without so much as a flinch from Mr. Mime. The gerudo began to celebrate for a moment, but to everybody's amazement, the referee's assistant flagged for offside. Nabooru pleaded to the assistant, and then to the referee, as did several other Hyrule players, but Cassidy showed her the yellow card for arguing.

Nabooru was angry, and channeled that anger into a brilliant play four minutes later. She played a long ball into the left corner for Impa, who moved in and shot. Mime blocked the shot, but the defense couldn't clear. Darunia ran the ball down and chipped back into the box. Nabooru made a great jump over Blaine to head the ball across goal into the top right corner, putting Hyrule up 1-0.

Kanto was down, but they were hardly out. Following a vicious collision in which Ganondorf ended up with a yellow card, Ash took a quick free kick, and Misty sprinted down the left with the ball. The Hyrulian defense was slow to react, and Misty launched a good ball into the box for Gary, who right-footed the ball to the left past a hapless Zelda to tie the match. The goal came out of nowhere and against the run of play, causing the Kanto fans to erupt with vociferous cheers. Gary let out a yell and pumped his fists in the corner, a familiar sight for him throughout the tournament.

After some substituting, Kanto moved forward again in the 78th minute. A shot from Ash was deflected backwards by Zelda. The ball was headed back into play by Katrina, and Ash attempted to one-time the shot against three Hyrule defenders. Like the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, the ball got some air and took a weird deflection off of Darunia and into the top left corner to give Kanto their first lead of the match, 2-1. The crowd, which just 10 minutes ago thought their team was going out, went bonkers. Ash pulled out a ball cap from his shorts, put it on and turned it sideways as he raised his arms above his head and got mobbed by his teammates.

Hyrule nearly squared the game in the 85th minute as Saria found Link with a long ball at the top of the eighteen. As Link shot, he appeared to get tripped up by Janine, but no foul was called. The shot was easily corralled by Mr. Mime. The Hyrule fans hissed, no doubt showing their displeasure.

The 90th minute emerged, and a long shot from Ganondorf missed to the right. The fans were cheering like mad. It appeared that Kanto was going through to the semifinals. In the first minute of injury time, Hyrule pushed all 11 players forward, including the keeper, Zelda. In fact, it was Zelda who took a pass from Malon in the midfield and launched a long ball toward the box. Link and Ash battled for the ball but it went over both of them, landing between Nabooru and two Kanto defenders. Nabooru weaved through enough to get to it just as Mr. Mime attempted to corral it, and the ball ended up taking an odd bounce, missing everybody and rolling into the net as multiple players fell to the ground. The Hyrule players and fans roared at their salvation, only to find that the referee had disallowed the goal, presumably for a foul against Nabooru for pulling at the shirt of Blaine.

Replay showed that although Nabooru had tugged at Blaine's shirt, he had done the same against her as well. Nabooru snapped, and ran straight for Cassidy, screaming at the top of her lungs. Ganondorf immediately ran to Nabooru's defense as did others, all of them lambasting the ref for the call. Cassidy immediately showed Ganondorf and Nabooru the yellow card, for both their second of the match, but before the red card could come out of her pocket, the two gerudos both attacked her, dropping her straight onto the pitch. The Kanto players, along with other Hyrule players eventually got the two pulled away from Cassidy and the other officials, who had congregated in the area. Seeing what had occurred, the fourth official on the sidelines blew the whistle, ending the match. By this time, fights were breaking out in the stands between Kanto and Hyrule fans, and security was having difficulty keeping Kanto fans in the stands, and away from the Hyrule players.

Ten minutes later, things were mostly under control. It would be Kanto vs Mushroom Kingdom in the semifinals, but the tournament had suffered a great bit in getting there as feelings were hurt, and sport had taken a back seat to violence.


July 16 - Tournament Day 22 - Kongo Jungle vs Bern - Tsunami Stadium - Slateport City, Hoenn

It was a picturesque Friday afternoon in Slateport, the principal city of Hoenn, and the situation was such that the mayor had declared a holiday in the city. Massed ranks of supporters from both the DK Isles and the Kingdoms of Bern and neighboring areas came out for the Pokémon Islands' biggest tailgate party. Over 10,000 pounds of hamburgers and hot dogs were served, and live musicians lined the streets. It was a festive atmosphere unlike any other, one that was well scheduled less than 24 hours after the disastrous melee in Saffron City.

On the field though, there was no doubt that this match would be extremely defensive and physical. Ike and Donkey Kong exchanged national flags, both of them a show of strength for their countries. After the anthems, the game began to wondrous cheers from the crowd.

Right off the bat, Chunky Kong gave a hard challenge against Amelia, landing him with a yellow card. The free kick was taken by Amelia from 40 yards out, and was headed on by Ike. It was a decent header, but a slowly hit one, and Lanky Kong was able to haul it in. Two minutes later, Bern won a 50/50 in the midfield. Marth took it down the right hand side before moving to the middle and weaving around two Kong defenders and shooting from the top of the box. The shot was blocked in front by Kiddy Kong, but bounced back out to Roy at 30 yards. The wild-haired attacker passed wide to Lady Lyndis, who let loose with a shot from the left. Lanky punched that one out of the way and out of play.

In the 19th minute, Kongo Jungle made their first move forward down the left with Dixie Kong, who pulled off a nice give-and-go with Diddy Kong to get around the defense. Dixie then crossed into the middle for Donkey Kong, but the ball was deflected out by Eliwood for a corner. It was actually a dangerous ball, and a bad deflection could've meant an own goal. The corner kick was filled with drama, as Dixie crossed it for Diddy, who headed it over to Donkey, who shot from close range on the right. The ball was blocked in front by Hector, and it deflected to the left, where Chunky got it. He attempted to beat the keeper near-post, but it was deflected out of play well by Dorcas.

The rest of the first half was very physical and very defensive. Kiddy and Tiny picked up yellow cards for Kongo Jungle, while Eliwood, Hector, and Lady Lyndis did so for Bern. At the half, it was 0-0. Given the path of the tournament, it was perhaps surprising that neither side made any changes coming out of halftime to try to score. Bern got the first chance of the second half, as Marth worked hard against the defense down the right, and worked a give-and-go with Roy just outside the box. Marth got the return ball and shot, but found the side netting as it was just off target.

Eight minutes later Bern got another decent look as a good series of passes down the left got Eliwood in a good position to cross toward Ike. The ball was headed out by Chunky, but it was taken on the bounce by Marth, who ran toward the end line and got off a cross for Ike in the middle, who beat the keeper far post to give Bern a 1-0 lead. The Bern fans went crazy, as their team was in control of its fate once again.

For such a defensive contest, the Kongs readied themselves quickly, and in the 70th minute, Kiddy launched a long ball down the left that was headed forward by Donkey Kong up to Diddy. Diddy ran in toward the box but was tripped by Hector just outside the eighteen. The free kick by Diddy was perfect, sailing around the wall and bending enough to beat Dorcas far post to tie the score at 1-1. The Kong fans, dispirited just minutes earlier, were up on their feet cheering rampantly.

The teams finally did start to substitute in the 75th minute, perhaps thinking about a long, extended contest. And indeed, the game did return to plodding defense until the 83rd minute, when Prince Marth got off another solid run down the right. With only one defender left to beat, Tiny kicked the ball out of bounds. But Marth got up quickly and threw in, catching the Kong defense flatfooted. His throw found Ike just outside the six-yard box between two defenders. The Bern captain arched a shot toward the far post, beating Lanky, but the ball hit the post. Lady Lyndis got the deflection one on one against Dixie, and she eventually got around her but her shot was off the side netting to the left.

There were no further challenges, and after 90 minutes, the referee blew the whistle for extra time. The extra time period proved to be fruitless though. 3 other players picked up yellow cards and past the 110th minute, with both teams exhausted and not wanting to risk going down a player and potentially losing players for the next game, the teams packed it in defensively. After 120 minutes, the whistle blew again, sending the game to a penalty shootout.

Kongo Jungle was to kick first, and they sent Donkey Kong up first. Dorcas very nearly saved it diving left, but it deflected in. Eliwood shot first for Bern, and he sent the keeper the wrong way to make it 1-1. Tiny Kong was second for Kongo Jungle, and her kick was perfect, right into the corner for 2-1. Lady Lyndis's ground ball shot also sent the keeper the wrong way, tying it at 2 apiece.

Dixie Kong was third for Kongo Jungle, and she had another perfect kick, to the same spot Tiny had kicked before. Like a copycat, Hector found the same area, and Lanky dove the wrong way anyway, making it 3-3. Diddy Kong was the 4th kicker for his side, and his kick was high down the middle. Dorcas's jump was awkward but he very nearly got a hand on it. Still, it went through for 4-3. Prince Marth readied the fourth kick for Bern, and kicked low and to the right. Lanky guessed correctly and batted the ball away, sending a huge cheer from the Kong faithful. They were up 4-3, with the match resting on the foot of Chunky. The biggest of the Kongs took a big swing and mashed the ball into the right of goal, winning the match 5-3 on penalties and setting off a celebration at the south end of the pitch. For the second straight match, the Kongs had won on penalty kicks, and were through to the semifinals.


Smashville vs Tethealla - Veil Force Point Stadium - Veilstone City, Sinnoh

The capital city of Sinnoh was host to probably the most unlikely of quarterfinal matches. Under the lights in Veilstone entered Smashville and Tethealla. The former had defied the odds and beaten two powerful sides already to reach the round of 8, while the latter had navigated their way through the field with a powerful attack that had other teams jealous. A freewheeling and imaginative contest was anticipated as Tom Nook and Lloyd Irving met at midfield to exchange national flags. In a lot of ways, neither team had anything to lose, as neither was expected to make it this far.

In fact, the first goal came quickly in the 4th minute. Lloyd had made a good run down the left of the pitch and the ball had to be deflected out by Phyllis for a corner. On the corner, Lady Marta launched a well placed ball to Emil, who shot. The ball was blocked in front, but it ricocheted to Presea, who found the back of the net on the rebound. Tethealla was ahead 1-0.

Smashville, on the other hand, seemed a bit out of sorts early on. They were sloppy with their passing, and didn't appear to be in the flow of the match. The goal put them into a bit of a funk, and in the 15th minute, Sable was challenged, and the defender turned it over. Sheena pounced on it, and ran down the right before passing to Lloyd, who attempted to cross to the middle. The ball took a deflection off the head of Mabel though, and re-directed towards goal. Blathers made a desperate lunge to save it but it was too late, the ball sneaked inside the near post to put Tethealla ahead 2-0. Lloyd could only shrug his shoulders and place his hands on his head for his good fortune.

Smashville continued to be flat-footed, and Tethealla continued to press the advantage. Their edge in size was really starting to show, and it helped them on a forward push in the 33rd minute. Lloyd Irving sent a long ball down the right for Marta. The attacker won the ball against the smaller Smashville defenders and crossed in for Emil, who had gotten between two defenders and headed the ball into the top right corner for a 3-0 lead. The Smashville fans were stunned, and the Tethealla fans rejoiced. After just a half hour's play, it looked like their side were advancing to the semifinals. A dejected Smashville entered the locker room down 3 goals.

Something happened during the half though, and the animal side came out much quicker in the second half. Tom Nook got off a rip towards goal in the 47th minute that ended up going off the bar. KK Slider missed with the rebound attempt but it was a taste of things to come. Five minutes later, Slider won a corner down the right, and on the ensuing corner, Slider's kick was well headed by Tortimer. Ratatosk was able to make the diving stop, but the ball bounced straight to Nook, who blasted it straight in to make it 3-1. Nook didn't even so much as celebrate, he immediately motioned for his team to get back on defense. They were still down 2 goals, but perhaps they had hope.

Tethealla got off several good chances in the next 10 minutes, but Blathers came up big both times, denying Marta in the 59th minute and stopping Lloyd in the 64th minute to keep the game alive. Smashville made some substitutions, but their efforts would come down to Nook and Slider, the two guys that had played so well all tournament long. Those two made a strong give and go attempt in the 67th minute, Nook passing to Slider for a shot atop the eighteen. The shot was partially deflected by Zelos out of play. The ensuing corner was headed out by Tenebrae, but Smashville came down again in the 71st minute, another two on four by Slider and Nook against the defense. This time, Slider set up Nook for a shot on the left of the eighteen, but instead of shooting against three defenders, Nook pulled backward, and back tapped to get around one defender. Then, unexpectedly, he noticed that the keeper, Blathers, had come all the way off his line and was making a run into the middle. The move had the Tethealla defense off guard, and Nook crossed for the owl. Presea was the closest Tethealla defender to Blathers and attempted to kick it out of harm's way, but ended up knocking the ball into the net instead for an own goal, making it 3-2. Presea dropped to the pitch and buried her head in the grass, her teammates consoling her, but it was the surprise move by the Smashville goaltender that set up the goal.

With the game suddenly in doubt, Tethealla put some of their bigger and stronger defenders into the game. Smashville attempted to keep the pressure on, but had difficulty breaking through the defense. They simply did not have the depth to outrun Tethealla late in the match. By the 85th minute, Nook and Slider were gassed, and had nothing left. The defenders attempted to come forward and help and the goaltender came forward again as well, but with three minutes remaining, Smashville turned it over in the box, and the ball was launched downfield by Zelos. Lloyd ran under it and stampeded down the field against the lone Smashville defender remaining. He could've scored himself in all likelihood, but about 25 yards out he passed to a streaking Marta, who took it atop the eighteen and dribbled in the empty net goal to make it 4-2 and seal a trip to the semifinals. Cheers rang out from the Tethealla fans as the team celebrated the goal on the sidelines.

The Smashville fans stood and cheered as the seconds ticked down. Their side had been the darlings of the draw, and had given their fans a ride to remember. This time though, their magic had run out. The whistle blew, sending Tethealla through to the semifinals, where the powerful apes of Kongo Jungle awaited.


July 19 - Tournament Day 25 - Team Rocket Southeast HQ - Fuschia City, Kanto

"Look, I don't care what happened, they can't just haul off and punch a game official like that! Those hyrulian demagogues are nothing but old-world savages! If I could get my hands on them and teach them a lesson myself, I would! I don't care if they've got spinning blades and swords and all that nonsense, our Pokémon could easily take them out!"

"Boss, what are we going to do about the semifinal!" a rocket grunt interrupted.

"Hold on one second." Giovanni said as he put his phone down. "What do you want?" he asked condescendingly.

"This whole tournament has gotten out of control. The television analysts are all over our team, our whole organization is under fire, and Mushroom Kingdom is threatening to forfeit their semifinal match unless they get a refereeing crew that isn't from Kanto."

"They what?! They're threatening to forfeit?!" Giovanni shouted. "James I'll call you back." He put the phone down. "Who told you that?"

"A certain group of plumbers named Mario and Luigi. Supposedly they are quite big shots in their world."

"You imbecile. Mario and Luigi are the best players on the team, and are the heroes of Mushroom Kingdom itself. Of course they are big shots. Any threat they make has to be taken seriously."

"So we should stand down then?" he said.

Giovanni smirked a bit. "Yes, it's time for my ace in the hole." he said.

Over the intercom, a voice blared. "Giovanni, Ash, Butch, and Cassidy are here."

"Send them back please." Giovanni said. Ash Butch, and Cassidy walked back down the hallway. Cassidy had been hospitalized the night following the Kanto-Hyrule match, and walked with a bit of a paced limp.

"Cassidy, that was a fantastic job in the last match. You did well, and it's not your fault that some hyrulian cretins decided to take matters into their own hands. Oh and Butch, I'm glad I put you duty for the other match that day. That red card you called on Peach, that took some guts there."

"It was a tough call boss, but it was the right one. So was the one on Mallow." Butch said.

"We won't be having to use any of our operatives to referee the rest of the way. It'll be the minor leaguers from Johto. But I'm proud of what you did in a tight spot. Cassidy, anything you need to feel better, just let me know." He turned to Ash. "Mr. Ketchum, what is the report out of practice today?"

"We're looking good. We know that this game is going to be a fight, but the last two games were as well. We're feeling energized, the trophy could be ours with two more strong games. But I need to ask something."

"What is it Ash?"

"Are you fixing this tournament for us to win?" Ash asked.

"Ash don't be ridiculous. This is an international sporting contest. We couldn't possibly rig the matches even if we tried. It's inconceivable. Our organization has been nothing but the best of hosts for all the teams, and to actively engage in match fixing would undo the goodwill that we have worked so hard to create for us and for the nations of the Pokémon Islands. Sure Corneria and Hyrule had some calls go against them, but that's just life."

Ash didn't say a word, but his heart had sunk. He left the building immediately. Butch and Cassidy shouted to him but he paid them no attention. He had seen enough of Giovanni to know when he was lying. There was now little doubt in his mind that Hyrule, and possibly Corneria as well, had been hosed due to poor officiating, and that the criticism growing against his team was warranted. The Kanto team facility was in a white building between the Safari Zone National Park and Poison Park, the arena in Fuschia. He proceeded straight to Gary, who was talking with Koga and Janine, the two Kanto players from Fuschia.

"Gary, it's official. You know what we've been talking about?"


"It's true. Team Rocket is fixing the games in order for us to win the tournament."

"Ash, come on man. They don't even like us enough to do that. Team Rocket isn't smart enough to pull that off."

"Gary, you're right, they aren't smart at all. The television cameras are all over the city, sending out reports that we aren't worthy of being in the last four. I fear it's true. Even you know that Hyrule scored twice and had the goals called back."

"That's part of the game man. Why are you worrying about that. Come on Ash, get your head on straight. We have a big game, a humongous game on Tuesday night. The whole world is going to see us against the best team in the world, and you owe it to everybody to be fully ready for that game."

Ash sighed. His heart ached. His mind hurt even worse. He wanted to win so badly for his home country, but only if it was legitimate. Meanwhile, back at rocket headquarters, Giovanni called back another person into his office. Her name was Gina, but in truth, she was Gary Oak's beau to be. She was also a minor league referee in the Johto league. She was about to be tapped to call the biggest game of her life, one that would change the course of Kantoian history.


July 21 - Tournament Day 27 - Kanto vs Mushroom Kingdom - World Cup Semifinals - Poison Park - Fuschia City, Kanto

It was the match that everybody was waiting for. The home side, Kanto, which had battled tough competition on the field and media scrutiny off it, heading into battle with the charismatic pretournament favorites from Mushroom Kingdom. The crowd at Poison Park pulsed with excitement, both the huge majority supporting the home side and the determined minority that had supported their side all tournament long, perhaps the best fans in the gaming universe. Ash and Mario exchanged national flags under thunderous ovation, and the anthems were loud and proud.

Mushroom Kingdom was missing two of their players, Peach and Mallow, due to being red-carded in the quarterfinals against Isle O Hags, and they came out a little flatfooted early on as a result. Gary made a brilliant pass on the left to Katrina, who one-timed a looping shot toward goal. The ball went just past the post though, much to the chagrin of the Kantoian faithful.

In the 16th minute, Kanto attacked again, this time sending Ash and Janine into the box on a crossing ball from Brock. Ash got there and played the ball back for Janine, who struck a line drive towards goal from 25 yards. The ball was a dart, but relatively close to Frogfucius, who batted the ball out and to the right. Gary ran it down and re-crossed into the box but it was headed out by Geno, ending the threat.

Mushroom Kingdom made a powerful advance in the 34th minute as Daisy beat Sabrina and Koga down the center with a powerful run. Two defenders converged on her and she passed to Mario on the right. Advancing into the box with only Brock to beat, Mario made a turn to the left and shot. Mr. Mime played it well though, and beat it over the crossbar for a corner. On the corner, Geno and Blaine fought for the ball near the penalty area, and it was kicked out by Brock.

In the 40th minute, Janine picked up a yellow card for roughing up Daisy with her elbow on a 50/50 ball. The resulting free kick was a looping ball that dropped in good position for Luigi, but he mishit the shot, a dribbler that was easily corralled by Mr. Mime. Neither side really threatened much from that point, and the whistle blew for halftime with the match square at 0-0. In the locker room, both sides planned and plotted on how they could break the defense.

Under a din that just seemed to grow louder and louder, the two teams slugged it out in the midfield, hoping to break out on the one run down the field that would give their team the lead. Kanto thought they had it in the 58th minute, as Gary released Ash with a good early pass. Fighting against Geno, Ash moved into the eighteen and ripped a shot that was deflected in front by Toadette. The rebound bounced out to Brock at thirty yards out. He immediately struck for goal, and Frogfucius had to punch it out. The bouncing ball dropped for Gary, and he weaved around Toad and Daisy into great position atop the eighteen. He was sure to score, but his shot ended up hitting the crossbar and dropping straight down onto the line before Frogfucius got it on the bounce. The crowd cheered for a moment, thinking Kanto had taken the lead, but by the smallest of margins, they hadn't.

Mushroom Kingdom came back the other way in the 64th minute, as Mario dropped a pass in front of Daisy on the right. Daisy moved in against Sabrina, and made a strong cut toward the end line before launching a cross into the middle for Geno, who had made a run straight into the center of the box and headed the shot past Mime for the lead. Before he could celebrate though, the referee's assistant flagged the star road warrior for offside, nullifying the goal. It was a very tight call, but most likely the correct one as Blaine and Koga had inched forward just a split second before Daisy played the ball.

Both teams substituted, but the defenses settled down a bit. After 80 minutes there was still not a goal. The crowd continued to make lots of noise though, perhaps vainly hoping that their cheers could do it for their side. Mario was hit with a yellow card in the 82nd minute for a tough challenge against Misty. Two minutes later, Toadette was yellow carded as well, a questionable decision on a 50/50 ball. The Mushroom Kingdom fans hissed, perhaps keen to the chances that the officiating, which had been stellar to this point, would falter once again late.

It was then that a series of unforgettable events would rock Fuschia City and most of Kanto to its core. On a long ball in the 85th minute, Gary ran underneath it and pried it away from Toad and Geno in the penalty area, attempting to slice between the two defenders. Amid some pushing and shoving, Gary fell just as Frogfucius charged for the ball, and Gina, the referee, pointed to the penalty spot, sending massive cheers all throughout the stadium. Geno was yellow carded on the play. Before the penalty ball was spotted, Gina motioned to Gary, as if to discuss something with him.

"Gary, I know everything." Gina said.


"About how you guys should've lost already. About how this is all a fix. They're paying me off for this game too."


"Yes. And so that's why you're going to miss this kick."

"What? No. I'm not going to miss intentionally, that's ridiculous." Gary said.

"Suit yourself Gary. But if you make this kick, we're through."

She handed Gary the ball. His face was flushed and his mind raced as he faced Frogfucius. A goal would send his side to the finals. On the other hand, it would mean playing for a title that was potentially bogus, and, if she stuck by her word, the end of his relationship with the girl he loved. Dead silence filled the stadium as the referee's whistle blew.

Gary moved forward and kicked. To the surprise of everybody in the stadium, he shanked it badly, missing the goal to the left by at least seven yards. Frogfucius, who had dove the wrong direction, let out a cheer as did the other Mushroom Kingdom players.

"What, the hell, was that?!" Giovanni shouted from his stadium box.

Two minutes later, Mushroom Kingdom broke down the field, as Luigi and Mario faced a two on three against the defense. The defenders converged on Luigi, and he passed over to Mario. Just then, Gary came tearing down the field and blatantly challenged Mario for the ball, kicking him in the back of the right leg. Gina promptly showed Gary the red card, sending him out of the match, and also out of the finals in the event of a Kanto victory.

"You were right buddy." Gary mumbled to Ash as he left the pitch.

Giovanni and his mates could hardly believe their eyes. "What the, did he just do that intentionally?! Has he lost his mind?!"

The free kick came from just outside the box, and it was deflected away by the wall of defenders. After about thirty seconds worth of possession, Daisy got loose and fired from 25 yards. Mime was able to block the shot out of play for a corner. In the 89th minute, Luigi took the corner. The ball was headed out by Blaine, but straight to Geno, who weaved by two defenders, faked an outside pass before dropping a great ball to Mario on the right, who one-timed a curving shot past a diving Mr. Mime to put Mushroom Kingdom ahead 1-0. The Mushroom Kingdom fans, most of whom were in the area behind the goal, erupted while the rest of the stadium saw their collective hearts sank.

Needing a miracle to survive, Kanto pushed forward hard in the first minute of injury time, but a looping ball into the box was headed out by Geno. Katrina attempted to control it on the bounce but Geno ran full speed and took it away, running down the center. He passed to Mario across midfield, who sent a long ball down the left for Daisy. With only one defender to beat, Daisy ventured toward the middle, drawing the defense her direction and away from Luigi, who was getting forward down the left hand side. Daisy back-tapped the ball to the oncoming plumber, and with a ferocious strike, Luigi ripped the ball past Mime to put Mushroom Kingdom up 2-0 and finish the match. As he ran behind the goal and celebrated in front of their sides' fans, the final whistle blew, and the Mushroom Kingdom players stormed the field. They were through to the Final.

"Tell my operatives that Gary Oak has but days to live." Giovanni said as he exited the stadium box.


July 22 - Tournament Day 28 - Kongo Jungle vs Tethealla - World Cup Semifinals - Razorleaf Stadium - Celadon City, Kanto

In the wake of the first semifinal, an incredible affair that ended in shocking fashion and sent the host nation out, the second semifinal seemed almost anticlimactic and a mere warm-up for the finals. But for the members of Kongo Jungle and Tethealla, it was a chance to seize glory. The Kongs had been driven to extra time the past two matches but survived both on penalties, while the Tetheallan side had weaved through the field with grace, defeating the tournament's cinderella side in the previous round and assuming that mantle themselves. As Donkey Kong and Lloyd Irving exchanged banners on the pitch of Celadon's Razorleaf Stadium, the tension was palpable.

Both teams came out somewhat nervous at the start, and were careless with their passes and tackles. The normally calm Dixie picked up a yellow card for a takedown on Emil, while a few minutes later Sheena saw yellow for a misplaced slide tackle against Diddy. The shots were quite outlandish as well, as both sides fired from distance early, none of them finding the net or even the frame for that matter.

The first solid chance came for Tethealla in the 28th minute, as Emil threaded past Chunky and in front of two defenders shot for goal. The ball was deflected up and out of play by Lanky Kong for a corner. On the corner, Marta directed the pass in front of Lloyd, who got a head on it. The header was a good one, but headed directly at Lanky, who made a kick save, and it was kicked away by DK. Lloyd hung his head, as he knew he was very close to putting Tethealla ahead.

The Kongs came back the other way 5 minutes later, as Tiny and Dixie did a nice give and go on the left, and the latter broke free, crossing in for Diddy in the middle. Diddy went up for it against Zelos, and the young monkey went down in the box, but no foul was called. The ball swung out, and DK quickly threw into the box. The 50/50 ball was headed up twice before it fell into the path of Swanky about 25 yards out. Swanky's shot was a looping one that landed just over the bar.

The half continued to be rather ugly, and a giveaway by Tethealla in the 40th minute proved to be devastating. Lloyd passed to Presea in the middle about 30 yards from goal, and when she attempted to swing around the defense for an inside pass, she tripped and fell. The ball was collected by Kiddy, who fired ahead to Dixie, springing a 4 on 3 counterattack the other way. Dixie moved forward in the center with Diddy running ahead and DK to her left. Dixie passed up to Diddy, who entered the box against the defense, which swarmed him. Seeing this, Diddy pulled it down and passed across to DK, who had timed his run well. But before he could get the shot off, Zelos raced in from behind and slide-tackled the gorilla. The referee blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot. The Kong fans, who had booed just seconds earlier, went crazy. Zelos was yellow carded, and he did not object, for it was a fairly blatant challenge.

DK lined up the penalty kick against Ratatosk, and didn't waste any time, running up and pounding the ball at full speed, right into the right side of goal for a 1-0 lead. The Kongs all celebrated and jumped over DK as the latter beat his chest and clapped in front of the Kong faithful.

The teams went into the half at 1-0 for Kongo Jungle. Tethealla, which had difficulty with the Kong defense in the first half, would only see their task get more difficult as the Kongs brought on Rambi and Ellie, two powerful defenders for the second half, sitting some of their attackers out. Their plan was clearly to sit on the lead, and it was a decent strategy as Tethealla couldn't get a pass through to the second level the first fifteen minutes. Lloyd attempted a few runs on his own around the 60th minute, but both times he was pressed and ended up losing the ball. The tight defense wasn't without trouble for the Kongs, as Kiddy and Swanky both picked up yellow cards for overly aggressive defending, but they were staying in control for the most part.

Frustration was beginning to mount for Tethealla in the 70th minute, and that frustration nearly put the match out of reach, as a long ball for Lloyd was re-directed back to Emil, who then attempted to take on half the Kong defense on the left of the pitch before eventually losing it. Kiddy again started off a brilliant counterattack by pushing forward to Dixie, who found Diddy deep on the right. Diddy beat one defender and then, with only Sheena to beat, turned inside, and fired a laser shot from just inside the eighteen. Ratatosk was beaten, but the ball struck the right post instead. The ball deflected rightward and eventually was cleared by Presea.

Tethealla finally cleared their heads enough to initiate a good team attack in the 77th minute. Marta put in a ground ball to Emil, who turned a bit and passed to Sheena, who passed to the corner for Lloyd, who passed into the middle for Colette. Colette couldn't get there though, and the pass was deflected away by Swanky. Emil ran it down though, and moved forward, passing outside to Presea trying to set up a give and go. The Kongs were caught flat-footed by this, and Kiddy reached out and grabbed Emil's jersey, and the Tetheallan fell down just in front of the eighteen, prompting the referee to show Kiddy yellow, then the red card as it was his second yellow. Kiddy protested the call, but to no avail, he was sent off. Lloyd and Emil both stood over the free kick ball. Emil ran to take it but he ran over it, and Lloyd kicked instead. The ball deflected off the wall of defenders, and nearly in, but went about two feet wide to the left.

More craziness ensued on the corner kick. Marta took the corner, and ball was headed straight upward as Swanky fought Lloyd for it. The ball deflected to the far side, where Zelos ran it down and crossed back into the middle. Tenebrae, normally the last line of defense for Tethealla, ran forward and headed it with authority. The ball hit the bottom of the crossbar and straight down before bouncing outward. The Kongs proceeded to clear the ball, but The Tetheallans cheered, thinking they had scored. However, no goal was given. Replay would show that the ball had landed just inches in front of the goal line after going off the crossbar.

A heartbroken Tethealla side could only slink back on defense. Mentally, they never seemed to recover after that play, and outside of a few optimistic shots from way far out, they never seriously threatened again as the time ticked down. The Kong defense was simply too strong on this day, they had grown up a lot since their 4-4 shootout against Yoshi's Island in the round of 16. As the whistle blew, Diddy, Dixie, DK, and the others ran to midfield and tackled one another in a giant pile. They were through to the final, where they would face Mushroom Kingdom for the World Cup Championship.


July 23 - Streets of Saffron City, just north of the athletes' village

Ash, Gary, Misty, Brock, and others of the Kanto team were out. It was late, and Saffron City was buzzing, both from the great run the home team had provided and in anticipation of the final match in three days. They had the intention of meeting up with Erika, Janine, and Sabrina at the Saffron Gym before heading for a night on the town.

"The pressure's off now. Our job is done, and done well. Let's just kick back and have some fun yeah?" Gary said.

"Well, we still have the third place match." Ash said.

"Yeah I guess it'd be nice to finish third. Still, we've got all tomorrow to practice. Tonight, let's blow off some steam and have a good time."

"I like it, let's do it!" Misty yelled.

They turned down a block west toward the gym, and they were passing the Silph Company headquarters when rocket grunts emerged from the darkness to their south. They seemed to keep coming from all directions, and before long there were about thirty or so of them.

"Hey! Just what do you all think you're doing!" Gary shouted.

Giovanni walked to the front of the squadron. "Gary, the game is up."

"What are you talking about?"

"Your performance was simply abysmal, to the point that you have failed us in our mission behind this tournament to bring Kanto to prominence."

Gary laughed. "What are you talking about? We made the semifinals. Nobody expected us to reach that far into the tournament. We played hard and accomplished a lot. Any one of my friends would tell you that too and don't you forget it."

"Then why did you throw away the last game! That penalty kick that you flubbed into the third row and that red card right after it! We could've been into the finals and you ruined it. You ruined us! All of our careful preparation and efforts were for naught because of you!"

"No, it was because of you Giovanni! Little did any of us know that you were fixing the tournament behind our backs. If it wasn't for some investigation work by Ash and Misty, and for my loving fiancée Gina busting it open for us during the match, we would've been accomplices for one of the biggest hoaxes in modern history! And you're proud of that?!" Gary shouted. The whole group around him started shouting toward the grunts raising the tension higher.

"I've had enough. It's time that you all were taught a lesson. Team Rocket, ready your Pokémon, and commence battle!"

Within seconds, the army of grunts called upon their primary Pokémon and tossed poke balls into the street. Realizing that they were in danger, the Kanto players called on their Pokémon as well. Within seconds, Pikachu, Charizard, Nidoking, Arcanine, Starmie, Psyduck, Onix, and Golem were out on the defense. With tens of Pokémon clogging the street, a conflagration of fire, electricity, water, ice, and other attacks filled the atmosphere of central Saffron. Bystanders in the area immediately started running, yelling for help. The fight was extremely intense, a true war as up to a hundred Pokémon fought tooth and nail. The Kanto players tried everything they could to keep their charges in the battle but the numbers game eventually started to catch up as the Pokémon fainted. With Brock, Misty, and Ash's main Pokémon starting to tire, they yelled to them to keep fighting while they turned and ran northward down the street.

"After them!" Giovanni shouted. The grunts ran forward, attempting to dodge the various Pokémon fighting as they moved. Some of them were burned, frozen, zapped, and waterlogged in the process. By now, there was mayhem across at least a four block radius. Sirens blared and buzzers were heard. They all kept running northward and eventually started to close in on Saffron Gym, which was three blocks away.

Ash saw Sabrina, Erika, and Janine waiting on the outside. "Call your Pokémon out and get inside!" Ash shouted to them. Immediately, Kadabra, Gloom, and Weezing were called upon. As the Kanto players ran into the gym, the three Pokémon unleashed a giant plume of psychic power, toxic gas, and sleep powder in front of the pursuing grunts, whose numbers had swelled to upwards of forty. Many of the pursuing rocket grunts were brought down in the atmospheric mess, as were several bystanders, many of them from the nearby fighting gym and Pokémon center, which stood adjacent to Saffron Gym.

In the lobby of Saffron Gym, the Kanto players huddled.

"Wow, that was too close." Brock said.

"What happened down there?" Sabrina asked.

"It was a trap. Team Rocket tried to take us down in the streets near Silph Company." Ash shouted.

"What? Why would they do that?!" Janine exclaimed.

"Something about them rigging the games and us not going along with it." Gary said.

A loud noise was heard from above. A few seconds later, the ceiling broke through, exposing a hole. "Thought you could run from us eh?" Giovanni shouted from atop the building.

"Quick, to the transporter!" Sabrina yelled. Immediately, one by one the players ran into the psychic transporter tile in the center of the room, warping them to another room in the 9-room facility. They couldn't stay long in the second room either, as more grunts broke a hole in the ceiling above that room. So they each stepped quickly onto another of the three transporters in the second room. But the transporters all linked to different rooms, so now the players were strung out all over the gym. This process continued for several minutes before Gary and Gina found themselves alone in the middle room of the gym, which doubled as Sabrina's quarters as well as the gym leader battle arena. They had no idea where the others were, but they did see another figure across the room, and it was Giovanni.

"I figured it would be worth it to take you down in the streets, but here, alone with just your beloved girl here, helpless to watch, this is just too delicious."

"You take your best shot!" Gary shouted.

Just then, through the transporter behind Giovanni came one rocket grunt, then another, then another. They had cracked the riddle of the transporters and were pouring in one by one. The look on Gary's face dropped as Giovanni's mates filled the room.

Giovanni held out a sphere-shaped object, something that looked similar to a master ball but much larger. "It's all I ever wanted." he said. He was set to throw it in Gary and Gina's direction before a massive sound came from the left as the wall was blown out totally. From out of the hole stepped Link, Zelda, Ganondorf, and the members of the Hyrulian team. Then another wall was blown out on the right, and out came Mario, Luigi, Peach, and the Mushroom Kingdom team. Then another wall collapsed in the back, and from this one came more characters, Captain Falcon and his mates from Mute City, Diddy, Dixie, and Donkey Kong along with the Kongo Jungle team. Lastly, from the ceiling, another squad appeared, this one the Cornerian team led by Fox, Falco, Peppy, and Krystal.

"What in tarnation is this?!" Giovanni shouted.

"We-a know everything." Luigi said.

"You, are the dastardly one that brought us here, and-a thought that we would fall for your-a little scheme." Mario said.

"You and your helpers thought that you could outwit us, that you could outthink us, and that we were just pawns in helping your guild take over the land of Kanto." Link said.

"Well we have intelligence and power beyond anything that you could ever dream of. Bigger than anything contained in that little capacitor thingy you've got in your hand." Fox said.

"And now, it's time that you paid for the injury, the injustice, and pain that you have caused the people all over Kanto for the sake of your personal greed and self-worth." Krystal said.

"Nobody is more evil than I." Ganondorf said.

"Nobody is more wise than I." Zelda said.

"Nobody is more beautiful than I." Peach said.

"And nobody is more dead meat than you." Falco shouted.

"Show me your moves!" Captain Falcon shouted, as he rushed in. Giovanni ordered the grunts forward, as the combined force of the teams ran in to face them.

"Do a barrel roll!" Peppy shouted as he barked to his comrades. The grunts were totally overmatched by the combined Mushroom-Hyrulian-Cornerian-Kong-Mute City force, interestingly enough, all teams that Kanto had faced during the tournament. One by one, the grunts fell to the ground, bleeding, bruised, and battered from fireballs, sword slashes, flying coconuts, and cornerian blaster shots. The battle only lasted several minutes, and after most all of the grunts had either succumbed or run away, only Giovanni was left. A blast of magical energy from Zelda coupled by a barrage of fireballs from Mario left him a mess right before Captain Falcon moved in for a final falcon punch. The hit drove him back into the wall. Krystal, Peach, and Donkey Kong moved in but Gary called them off. From across the room, he saw Ash and the others again, and they were talking to several police officers, Officer Jennys of course. They eventually moved into the now broken and tattered Pokémon gym.

"You're a pathetic man Giovanni. But you sure do know how to have a good time." He took his finger into his mouth and stuck it into Giovanni's ear. "That's for getting my brand new shirt all dusty."


Following the excitement and mayhem in Saffron City, the international news media's focus shifted away from the tournament itself and the match fixing allegations onto the battle in the city itself. In many ways, it was exactly what the tournament and the Kanto players needed, as they had stood up for fairness and justice, deposing the kingpin of Team Rocket in the process.

And after all of that, Kanto still had a third place match to play against Tethealla two days later! The match, which took place in Saffron the day before the final match, saw Tethealla jump out ahead 1-0 on a corner kick header by Tenebrae, but the Kanto side snapped into gear, scoring three consecutive goals late in the first half to take the lead. Sabrina had the first, which stoked the hometown crowd into a frenzy, while Misty and Brock had the other two scores, both set up on brilliant passing combinations from Ash and Gary. In the end, Tethealla would score once more on a one-timed shot from Lloyd in the 79th minute but could not equalize and Kanto were victorious 3-2, giving them a bronze medal finish. Ash and the rest of the team celebrated with fans, who rushed the field after the win and remained on the pitch long after the match was final.

It was mutually agreed that since all Rocket involvement with the tournament was vanquished, and thus there were no referees available, that Gary would be head referee for the final match. Misty and Brock would be the referee's assistants, and Ash would be the fourth official on the sideline. The stage was set for a grand conclusion to four long weeks of competition, controversy, and in many cases, a struggle between good and evil manifested within sport.

Tournament Day 32 - July 26 - 2010 Nintendo World Cup Championship - Mushroom Kingdom vs Kongo Jungle - Saffron Psychic Dome - Saffron City, Kanto

It was the final match, the one contest that would decide who would take home the 2010 world cup championship. On one side, you had the strength and power of Kongo Jungle, a side of primates that had out-physicaled and out-muscled their opponents with defense and good, hard challenging. Their game was structured, and everybody had defined roles that were worked to perfection. On the other side was the lighter and quicker Mushroom Kingdom, a team built on speed and technical skill. Their preferred style was that of individual finesse and flair, and required accurate and timed passes and runs to create scoring chances.

But there was something else on the line too. The teams entered the field under a gigantic ovation from all assembled, but when Mario and Donkey Kong exchanged national banners, they stood together for a while longer, chatting the whole time. Then they shook hands and handed Ash Ketchum a microphone.

Ash was puzzled at first, but eventually made an announcement. "Ladies and gentlemen, it has been mutually agreed that the winner of this match will not only be world cup champion, but that the winner will also be granted the right to host the 2012 world cup in their country."

The crowd cheered loudly at this news, as it injected an even greater stakes on the outcome. The noise continued during the anthems, and once the game started the noise barely settled. Mario took the first big shot of the game 4 minutes in, a looper over Chunky and Rambi that just missed outside and long. It was a notice that the game was on. Two minutes later, Luigi had a decent chance from just outside the eighteen, but his shot caromed off to the right and out of harm's way. Mushroom Kingdom continued to press the early advantage, and in the 10th minute, Geno played a strong through ball up to Mario on the right, who got away from Dixie and angled in toward the center. With only Chunky to beat, Mario crossed for Princess Peach, who settled the ball and struck for the near post. The shot was a good one, but Lanky Kong was there for a diving save, keeping the game knotted at nil-nil.

Following a frenetic first ten minutes, Kongo Jungle began to settle down in the defense, and they challenged very well. On one such challenge, Mario was undercut by Ellie, who kicked forward to DK, who one-timed a long pass for Diddy down the left side. Diddy made a move in against Toad, and shot for goal going for the far post. It was out of the reach of Frogfucius, but too far outside to score as it sailed several yards right of goal. It was a decent effort though, the Kongs' first good chance. They would get another five minutes later on a corner, Dixie played a looping ball into the middle that was nearly headed home by Rambi. Frogfucius made a jumping save to knock it back into play behind the eighteen. Swanky Kong made an effort from deep on the rebound but it was blocked down in front by the defense.

In the 30th minute, Mushroom Kingdom had a strong move of their own, instigated by Daisy, who weaved past one defender and played forward for Peach down the left. The Princesses moved in tandem, and Peach fought Chunky down to the end line, getting around enough to pick out Daisy inside the eighteen. Daisy one-timed a lay back pass for Geno, who ripped a shot from the left of the eighteen. Unfortunately for the star road warrior, the ball hit the crossbar, falling back into play where DK was able to clear it before anybody else could get to it. The Kongs turned the deflection into a counterattack the other way, as Dixie passed up to Diddy, who tried to go one on two against Toad and Mallow. He did find a lane at the last moment and struck from outside the right corner of the eighteen, but his shot slid wide left.

Two minutes from halftime, Mario tried another long volley from 30 yards. This one was a rocket, right on target. Lanky had no choice but to deflect the shot over the bar for a corner kick. On the corner, Peach's kick landed between two Kong defenders and dribbled to Mallow, who shot. Lanky made the save, and the ball bounced to Ellie, who attempted to head it out. Toad steadied it though, and dribbled forward two steps and shot from 25 yards. The shot was re-directed in front by Luigi, which totally had Lanky beaten, but like Geno earlier, his header found the crossbar and bounced out of play. Luigi could only drop his head in response to his bad luck.

That was the half, it was 0-0. The championship of the gaming world hung in the balance, and both teams tried to adjust in order to score. For the Kongs, their defense was an issue, and they responded by pulling some of their chunkier defenders off to get some speed in the back half. Chunky and Swanky were pulled in favor of Candy and Tiny. Mushroom Kingdom kept much the same approach, spreading the field wide and trying to get the Kongs to chase. They were still wary of a counterattack from Diddy and Dixie though.

Such a counterattack came in the 52nd minute, as Donkey Kong intercepted an errant pass in the midfield, he played wide right and forward for Dixie, who crossed it toward Diddy just outside the eighteen on the left. Pressed immediately again by Toad and Mallow, Diddy decided to launch for goal, aiming for the far right. The shot looped high, came down, and had a chance but found the bar as well before going out of play. Diddy stamped the ground, unluckiness ruling the game. Four minutes later, Dixie tried her own shot from 25 yards. This one was blocked down by Frogfucius for a corner kick. The corner was a poor one, headed out easily by Luigi. The match continued to be a tied affair into the 70th minute, and neither team backed down. Things became frenetic, and the action started going from end to end, as both teams fought for the goal. In the 72nd minute, DK's long strike was corralled by Frogfucius, who threw out long to Mallow, who instigated a counterattack by playing forward to Daisy, who found Luigi on the left side. Luigi moved in against Candy and turned around her with a brilliant back-tap for Peach. The goaltender, Lanky, had no choice but to press Peach on the left, but instead of shooting, the princess crossed across the box to an open Mario on the right. Mario attempted to one time the shot into the open net, but right before the ball got there, Donkey Kong came streaming in and undercut Mario with a desperate challenge from behind. Gary immediately blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot, sending huge cheers through the stadium. DK was given a yellow card as well.

Mario went to the spot and placed the ball, the long-armed Lanky defending the goal. The stadium pulsed with excitement as this could be the moment to decide it all. On the whistle, the plumber ran forward and hardly looked at the goal as he pounded the ball seemingly as hard as he could. It tore into the left of goal past Lanky to give Mushroom Kingdom a 1-0 lead. The team piled onto one another as the Mushroom Kingdom fans let out thunderous roars.

Now behind, Kongo Jungle had to press, and press hard. Dixie was the playmaker for much of the tournament, and she did brilliantly on the left in the 78th minute, weaving past Toadette and Geno before shooting at goal. Frogfucius batted it away for a corner kick, making another great jumping save. The corner kick was fought over by DK and Mario, and landed away on the right. Tiny chased it down and sent it back in. Kiddy had a shot at it, but the ball took a weird bounce before it got to him and he sent the bar well over the bar.

The Kongs came hard again three minutes later, but a deep crossing ball for DK was headed out by Rosalina, who had come on to replace Mallow. Mushroom Kingdom volleyed a bit down the field before turning it over two minutes later. Time was on their side. The Kongs got it back and pressed again in the 85th minute. This time Diddy's deep pass did find DK, who pivoted in against the smaller Toad and Toadette, and muscled his way into the box. DK ripped it, but Luigi made a phenomenal play to slide in behind the play and deflect the ball out before it could get to Frogfucius. Time was running out, so off of the throw in, the Kongs tried to set up a give and go play between DK and Diddy, which would set up either a shot or a pass for an open Dixie or Kiddy. Mushroom Kingdom had seen them run the play earlier in the tournament though, and Rosalina made a perfect break, intercepting the ball in the midfield. The little-known substitute tore down the left of the field with reckless abandon, beating one defender, leaving only one to beat. Rosalina got to the far corner before crossing over for Peach, who just left of the penalty spot faked out Lanky with a quick back tap to Luigi, who buried the ball into the open net. The Mushroom Kingdom fans erupted as did the players on the pitch and the bench, screaming, shouting, hugging one another. With only minutes to go, it was 2-0, the goal all but sealing away the world championship for Mushroom Kingdom. Luigi slid on the grass behind the goal and flashed the "2" sign before getting mobbed by the others.

The Kongs could only look on with disbelief. For they had come so far, through all the matches, only to come up short in the final match. They kept on fighting until the final whistle though. Their attempts to score were rebuffed, as the screams from the crowd only continued to grow by the second. Finally, three minutes into injury time, Gary blew the whistle, ending the match at 2-0. Mushroom Kingdom players and coaches stormed the field, hands raised and jumping all around. They had done it. Through 7 matches they had gone unbeaten and had now laid claim to the biggest trophy in the gaming universe.

The stage was assembled on the field, and members of the Saffron City sports authority were on hand to hand out the medals, first the bronzes for the third place team from Kanto, then the silvers for the runners-up from Kongo Jungle. Then Mushroom Kingdom received their golden medallions before the trophy was presented. Gary handed the trophy to Mario, who was lifted up high by Luigi, Peach, and Daisy as fireworks exploded high overhead and confetti flew everywhere. It was a surreal ending to a surreal tournament.

See you in two years, for Nintendo World Cup - Mushroom World 2012.




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