2018 IFAF Flag Football World Championship kicks off

The world’s best flag football playing nations will converge on Panama City, Panama this week for the 9th edition of the IFAF Flag Football World Championship.

Group games will be played Thursday, August 9 through Saturday, August 11 at the Costa del Este Sports Center followed by the single elimination medal round on Sunday, August 12 at Estadio Maracaná.

No country in the world is as passionate about the sport of flag football as Panama, setting the stage for what should be the most exciting and competitive FFWC in IFAF history. Let’s preview the countries vying for a place on the medalist stand this week in both the Men’s and Women’s divisions. Four teams in each group will advance to the medal round on Sunday.

Men’s Division

Participating countries:

Group A – Austria, India, Japan, Panama, USA

Group B – Canada, Denmark, Guatemala, Israel, Mexico

Favorite: The USA has won 3 out of the last 4 FFWC tournaments and have assembled their most talented team yet for this year’s Flag Football World Championship. U.S. National Team veteran quarterback Jorge Cascudo is surrounded by versatile athletes who will challenge opposing defenses with their speed and agility. Stopping Team USA on offense will be half the battle as their defense returns four players from the 2016 gold medal winning squad and will play an aggressive style that creates turnovers and makes points hard to come by for opposing teams.

Top Challengers: No team has won more FFWC medals (5) than Denmark. The five-time defending European champions are led by Europe’s best wide receiver Jonas Bo Hansen and will be looking to avenge their heartbreaking 2016 gold medal loss (33-32) to their rivals from the U.S. Also looking to knock off Team USA are North American counterparts Canada and Mexico who bi-annually field championship worthy selections for the FFWC.

Keep Your Eye On: Austria, the only team to defeat the USA in the FFWC since 2010 (47-40 in the 2012 gold medal game). The Austrians have as many FFWC gold medals (3) as the Americans and are not afraid of the challenge that awaits them in group play. Panama, with home field advantage and an improved men’s team, will be a difficult matchup for anyone they play.

Women’s Division

Participating countries:

Group A – Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Japan, Panama

Group B – Austria, Denmark, Israel, Mexico, USA

Favorite: After winning the only women’s team gold medal (any sport) in their nation’s history, the Panama women have been preparing to defend their title for two years and will have the opportunity to do so on home turf. Led by 2016 FFWC Most Valuable Player, wide receiver Angela Evans, and a host of players returning from the gold medal winning squad, Panama is the team to beat in 2018.

Top Challengers: Group B, the FFWC’s group of death, includes Panama’s most likely challengers – Austria, Mexico and USA. Austria is the defending silver medalists and have been the best women’s team in Europe for nearly a decade. The core of the Austrian national team has played together since 2010, medaling in 3 of the last 4 FFWC events (silver in 2016 and bronze in 2010 and 2014) and will look to dethrone the Panamanians. Also lurking is the most decorated women’s national team in IFAF history, Mexico (3 gold medals), who will be eager to improve on their bronze medal finish in 2016 after a disappointing 4th place in 2014. Finally, the USA who, like the men’s team, are fielding their strongest women’s national team to date and hoping to rebound from a lackluster 5th place finish in 2016 to claim their first ever IFAF FFWC gold medal.

Keep Your Eye On: Canada, after winning gold in 2014, fell to 4th place in 2016. Winners of gold in 2 out of the last 4 FFWC tournaments, the Canadian women will aim to challenge Panama for the top spot in Group A. Brazil, with a booming flag football population, should continue to take steps towards competing with the top women’s teams in the world.

AFI
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