The 2018 International Federation of American Football (IFAF) European Championship tournament kicks off this weekend with six countries vying for the title.
Running from Sunday July 29 to August 4, and hosted by Finland, the tournament will feature Finland, Austria, France, Great Britain, Denmark and Sweden. The defending champions, Team Germany, are notably absent.
The European Championships for American Football have been held 13 times since 1983, most recently in 2014 in Austria when Germany defeated Austria in double overtime. Finland is the most successful country in the history of the ECs with five championships (1985, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000), four silver medals (1983, 1989, 1991, 2001) and two bronze medals (1987 and 2005). Finland finished fourth in the 2014 tournament held in Austria.
Germany has won three of the last four titles.
With the war between two IFAF factions which had been waged since 2015, it was questionable as to whether this tournament would include most of the top teams. However, the two recent CAS rulings first removing Tommy Wiking and then recognizing Richard MacLean as president of IFAF,have returned a semblance of unity to IFAF. As a result, of the top four nations from the 2014 tournament, only Germany is missing.
Austria finished second in the 2014 tournament held in Austria, France was third and Finland fourth. Sweden and Denmark finished fifth and sixth respectively.
The Men’s European Championship Tournament has been played twice before in Finland, in 1987 and 1991.
In less than a week, a total of nine games will be played with the teams divided into two groups. One group consists of Finland, Great Britain and France while the other pits Sweden, Denmark and Austria against each other. The groups will play a round robin format with the group winners meeting in the final.
Austria, France pre-tournament favorites
Austria arrives as the pre-tournament favorites although France is a very close second. Despite the fact that Team Austria has not played since that tournament in which they came within a hair of winning it, they have proven in the past eight years that they have improved. The Austrians finished third in the 2010 tournament but came close to beating the eventual champions, Team Germany, in group play. France were the silver medalists that year losing to Germany 26-10.
In the 2014 tournament, France finished third. However, the French team lost to Austria in group play rather decisively. Nevertheless, Team France, under head coach Patrick Esume defeated Germany 14-6 in the 2017 World Games in Poland.
France and Austria are playing in separate groups and would have to be favorites to reach the gold medal final.
With Team Finland’s success over the years in the European Championships and the fact that they will be playing at home, they would have to be considered the dark horse. Finland finished fourth in the 2014 tournament losing to France in the bronze medal game. This year, they are playing in the same group as France so that game on August 2 could be decisive. Finland trounced Team Sweden in 2017, shutting them out 37-0.
Sweden defeated Denmark in the 2014 tournament to capture fifth place. Both teams played Team Poland in 2016 with Denmark barely getting by Poland 37-35. Sweden beat Poland that same year, 28-21.
However, in both those games, Sweden was without the services of their normal starting quarterbacks, Philip Juhlin and Anders Hermodsson. Juhlin is expected to play in this tournament.
Great Britain qualified after beating both the Czech Republic and Russia in a qualifying tournament in 2016.
2018 IFAF European Championship schedule (all of the games will be livestreamed and shown on American Football International):
Myyrmäki Sports Park, Vantaa,Finland:
Sunday July 29
3 pm: Denmark – Austria
7 pm: Finland – United Kingdom
Tuesday July 31
3 pm: Sweden – Denmark
7 pm: Great Britain – France
Thursday August 2
3 pm: Austria – Sweden
7 pm: France – Finland
Saturday August 4
11 am: 5th-6th
3 pm: Bronze medal game
7 pm: Gold medal game