Day 1 Game 2: IFAF Europe’s France (#4) vs. IFAF Americas’ Brazil (#7)
This is the first meeting between these two teams although France has played in three previous World Championships (2003, 2007 and 2011). Brazil is a first-time participant having beaten Panama in a qualifier earlier this year. France qualified by virtue of their third place finish at last year’s European championships.
France arrived in Canton on Tuesday in the middle of a torrential rainstorm following a five-day mini camp at the University of Cincinnati that allowed them to acclimatize to the time difference of six hours between continents. France’s squad is composed of veteran players many of whom have just concluded their season in the French top league. Quarterback Paul Durand, the only non-import quarterback in the Elite league in France this year is impressed with the team’s preparation:
“We have done a lot of work in five days in Cincinnati and I think we’re ready and we have confidence and the coaches give us confidence that we can win.”
“I don’t know much about Australia and Korea, but I’ve seen a little bit of Brazil and the quarterback looks pretty good and I expect all those teams will play with great passion because they are playing for their national teams. These are the best players each of those countries has playing American football.”
Team France held a low-key walk through before packing up on Wednesday featuring a long-time tradition that head coach Patrick Esume and his defensive coordinator Bob Valesente have employed since their days coaching in NFL Europe and with the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes in Esume’s native Germany. The team holds a mock game without helmets but wearing funny masks. Esume wore a scary green mask he says matches his personality on the sideline.
France head coach Patrick Esume:
“I feel really good because I think we had a really good camp. I feel fortunate that we didn’t lose many players. We basically lost just one, but other than that, there are a few bruises here and there, but not much more. I think we’re going to play a pretty good tournament.”
Team Brazil is a first-time participant and although inexperienced they do have some talent on their team. Brazil’s quarterback-wide receiver tandem of Rhudson Fonseca and Heron Azevedo have both played in the United States before. Fonseca played quarterback with Lincoln University and the American semi-pro team the New Jersey Savage, while Azevedo lined up at quarterback for Diablo Valley Junior College in Pleasant Hill, Calif.
Brazil’s head coach, Danilo Muller Ribeiro is extremely proud to be taking part in the World Championships for the first time. He explains some of the obstacles they have overcome to get here:
“We’ve been preparing this national team for four years. The past two years have been about the World Championship. Our first focus was the qualifier against Panama and we beat them and since then we have been thinking about all the other countries here. We know we’re going to start with France and I think we’re going to be prepared. We’ve had four good training camps since December, so I think we have a really good group here. We tried out more than 200 players to get to these 45 guys. I think we’re going to be competitive.”
“I think we are very physical and very quick. We have a very physical team on offense and defense and we can run the ball and put the ball in the air at the same time. I think we can be aggressive and get good results in the World Championship.”
Rhudon Fonesca is a little amazed at the experience:
“It is going to be a great experience to take back to Brazil. I have played in America but never in a stadium like the Hall of Fame and it is going to be a great chance for us to grow as players.”
“I think we are strong on both sides of the ball and any part of the team can step up and help. It’s all about the team for us. I know that the other teams are going to come ready to play ball and all we can do is prepare ourselves to face them and their A-game.”
This game will be hard to predict. Both teams are known for their athleticism and speed. France has a new head coach in Esume who has coached NFL Europe as well as in both the top French and German leagues. Brazil’s inexperience will no doubt be a telling factor but the game promises to be exciting.
Kickoff is Thursday, July 9 at 3.30 PM EDT, 9:30 PM CET, 4:30 PM Brazil