A Jefferson 7th-grader, Katerina Loncar, traveled to Gothenburg, Sweden, in July to compete in the 2018 Gothia Cup (aka the Youth World Cup). This year, the world’s largest and most international soccer tournament boasted 1,731 teams from 78 nations in all competing age groups.
Katerina made her several traveling family supporters proud and left her mark on the tournament by scoring 8 out of 15 team goals. She led her Global Premier Soccer–FC Bayern (GPS–FC Bayern) National Team to the Gothia Cup Championship.
The tournament’s two-hour opening ceremony was comparable to that of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Katerina’s mother, Daniela Loncar, told The Jefferson Chronicle that “the opening ceremony was phenomenal.” It included dancing, fireworks, live performances, and the introduction of each country represented by the players. The New Ullevi Stadium was packed with more than 50,000 in attendance.
The day before the group stages of the tournament, Katerina and her teammates practiced together to gain team chemistry before beginning the actual competition. The team worked on a few drills and then scrimmaged two different Swedish teams in their age group to understand each player’s style and timing.
Group Stages and Challenges
In the first game of the group stages, GPS–FC Bayern was matched with a very tough team. “I really was not nervous – just super excited to play,” said Katerina. Her most difficult challenge was language. “Yes! I was so confused … you have to look around instead of listening to the opponent’s communication.” The game ended in a tough 2-1 loss, but the girls used it as motivation. They did not lose again in the group stages or the entire tournament.
In the second game of the group stages, momentum began to build as GPS–FC Bayern faced KFV Segeberg, the German four-time defending champion club. The game was tied at 1-1. Subsequently, GPS–FC Bayern won all its remaining games. Each was a shutout, starting with the last of the group stage games against the Norwegian team, Lillestrom SK. Katerina began a goal-scoring streak with her first two career international goals in the 3-0 win.
In the knockout quarterfinal game, Katerina brought her “A” game by scoring her first international hat trick (three goals) in less than 20 minutes. Her team defeated the Singapore team 3-0.
One big obstacle the girls had to overcome was the heat. During the tournament week, Sweden was experiencing its biggest heat wave in 70 years. Since it tends to be pretty cool in Sweden, there was no air conditioning in the hotel rooms. Guests had to open windows and use fans to air everything out. “From the time we got there to the time we left, it was a heat wave,” Katerina’s mother told The Chronicle.
Semifinal and Final Games
Flash forward to the semifinal game of the tournament later that same day: GPS–FC Bayern was matched up with Stryn Til, a Norwegian team equally on fire. The girls were able to pummel the Norwegians with a decisive score of 4-0. Katerina continued her scoring streak, ending the day with a total goal count of four.
The tournament final was held in Heden Park in the heart of Gothenburg. The U13 Girls National Team of Global Premier Soccer–FC Bayern was destined to leave it all out on the field and win the Gothia Cup. It was an all-USA final as they were matched up against a California team, the Del Mar Sharks.
In the first five minutes of the game, Katerina scored the opening goal of the Gothia Cup Final with an impressive left-footed volley off a cross sent in by the right winger. She also netted the third goal, which was the final dagger as GPS–FC Bayern won the Gothia Cup Championship with a final score of 3-0.
Katerina Loncar expressed her great appreciation to Parsippany Soccer Club (PSC) for fully sponsoring her trip to Sweden to play in the Gothia Cup, and to her PSC Academy coach Stephanie Zalewski for her continued support.