IFAF European Championship: Sweden takes down Serbia in qualifier

On Saturday evening at Behrn Arena in Örebro, Sweden, the Swedish national football team hosted Serbia in an International Federation of American Football European Championship qualifying match. 

The game was a battle between two stingy defenses, as both teams accumulated just 330 yards of total offense, 165 yards each. Sweden made the biggest plays of the game though coming away with a 21-14 victory at home.

Sweden opened the scoring in the first quarter with a touchdown pass from quarterback Philip Juhlin to receiver Edvin Almeida.  That would be the only scoring play of the first half, as the hosts took a 7-0 lead into halftime.

Swedish defense hauling down Serbian WR Peter Bajalica #1 Photo: Jonas Domfors

In the third quarter, the Swedes extended their lead with a huge play on special teams as Sebastian Diakiti blocked a Serbian punt and then recovered it in the endzone to extend the lead to 14-0.  Serbia would quickly strike back, though, as receiver Peter Bajalica took a backfield toss from quarterback Dimitrije Obradinovic, got to the outside and raced 68 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the ensuing drive. 

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, it was once again Diakiti who made a game-changing play to extend Sweden’s lead, as he batted a Serbian pass into the air and caught it for an interception in the end zone, extending his team’s lead to 21-7.  Serbia made a late push, adding on another TD with about a minute and a half left as Obradinovic hit wide receiver Jovan Ikić with a 14 yard scoring pass, and even recovered the onside kick to stay alive.  But their offense could not get anything more going at that point, as Team Sweden linebacker Mattias Eriksson made the game-clinching interception with nine seconds left.

Serbian RB Danijel Dordic evading Swedish defender Photo: Jonas Domfors

Both teams’ defense played extremely well overall, as the offenses recorded just 330 total yards and 19 first downs combined throughout the entire game.  While Sweden’s offense was fairly well-balanced with rushing and passing, Serbia’s offense was one-dimensional, as they gained 171 yards passing and lost 6 yards rushing over the course of the game.  Sweden pulled out the win despite taking a lot of penalties, racking up 108 yards lost via penalty on 12 infractions. 

Without a doubt, Diakiti was the MVP of the game, as he recorded three sacks, as well as a blocked punt that he returned for a touchdown and an interception that he returned for a touchdown.  Many times in sloppy games of football, the team who can make the biggest plays at the right time give themselves a huge advantage, and that is what happened on Saturday. 

Sweden’s next game will be against Switzerland on the road this Sunday, October 16.

A current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carter played football in high school and has been a lifelong avid football fan.