IFAF WWC: Finland stuns Team Canada with late FG to capture bronze

Team Finland kicked a field goal with a minute left in the 2022 IFAF Women’s World Championship bronze medal game in Vantaa, Finland against Canada and then held on for a 19-17 victory to capture their third ever Women’s World Championship bronze medal.

The Finnish national team trailed 10-3 at halftime but surged into the lead in the third quarter only to find themselves still needing the late field goal to take home the bronze medal. With the disappointing loss, Team Canada came up short nearly as many times in the 2022 WWC as they had in the three previous tournaments combined.

Neither team was able to score in the first quarter, but Canada took the lead in the second when running back Sarah Wright bulled her way into the end zone from the one yard line. Kristie Elliott added the extra point for a 7-0 Canada lead with 11:36 left in the second quarter. Then, with 4:34 left in the half, Elliot booted a 24 yard field goal to widen the lead to 10-0. However, Finland finally got on the board with seconds left in the first half after Laura Pulkkinen answered with a 26 yard field goal to narrow Canada’s lead to 10-3 at the half.

Team Finland RB Laura Pulkkinen #31 Photo: Jari Turunen

The Finnish offense continued to move the ball in the third quarter, and quarterback Emilia Räty scored twice on one-yard sneaks, at the 4:59 and 00:25 marks. Pulkkinen made one of her two PAT attempts to give Finland the 16-10 lead. Team Canada wide receiver Ricki Obed tied the game with 5:44 in the fourth quarter when she caught a seven yard scoring pass from quarterback Maude Lacasse, and Elliot’s PAT put them ahead 17-16. With 5:35 left in the game, Lotta Ahonen returned the ensuing kickoff 21 yards to the Canadian 49 yard line. Behind the power running of Mari Jääskelä, Finland drove down to the Canadian eight yard line. Then on a fourth down, Team Finland HC Mika Eloranta sent out Pulkkinen with the chance to go ahead. She made her kick and Finland took its second lead of the game, 19-17.

Canada had passed up an opportunity kick a field goal from the Finnish 12 yard line early in the fourth quarter but the fourth down gamble failed on an incomplete pass.

After Pulkkinen squib-kicked the Finnish kickoff following the go-ahead field goal, Canadian defensive tackle Joanie Duchesneau fielded the short kick and returned it to her own 44. With 1:06 left, Lacasse threw one incompletion, but then completed passes of four yards to Sarah Wright, and six yards to Laurence Pontbriand for a first down at the Finnish 46. Pontbriand appeared to get out of bounds on the catch, but for some reason the officials kept the clock running. When Lacasse scrambled out of the pocket and tried to run out of bounds on the next play, time expired.

Team Finland had evened the score for bragging rights between North America and Europe at one game each.

Finland racked up 262 total yards of total offense. Running back Tytti Kuusinen once again led Finland on the ground with 121 yards on 19 carries. Her backfield mate Mari Jääskelä complemented the game one MVP by carrying the ball 12 times for 84 yards. Räty threw 18 times and completed seven for 52 yards, with one interception. She also scored both of the Finnish touchdowns. Pulkkinen scored seven points in all kicking two field goals and an extra point.

Linebacker Essi Saastamoinen led Team Finland’s defense with 7.5 tackles, and defensive back Oona Tuomi had 6, and an interception. Linebacker Hikka Rahkonen sacked Lacasse once, and had another tackle for a loss.

Team Canada WR Virginie Roussel makes a spectacular catch Photo: Jari Turunen

Team Canada had 193 yards of total offense, mostly through the air. Game 1 MVP Lacasse threw for 164 yards on 17 completions in 30 attempts, and one touchdown. She also got picked off once. The Finnish defense throttled the Canadian running game. Wright was only able to gain 20 yards on 10 carries, although she did score a touchdown, and also caught four passes for 36 yards. Pontbriand led all receivers with five catches for 27 yards. Virginie Roussel caught four passes for 43 yards, and Obed had had three receptions for 45 yards and one touchdown.

Canadian linebacker Emmarae Dale had seven tackles, including one for a loss, and had an interception. Alexandra Ondo, Emilie P.Belanger, and Ophélia Poisson-Vecchio all had five tackles each. Haley Girolami also intercepted Räty.

IFAF named Pulkkinen the game MVP for Team Finland, and Lacasse repeated as game MVP for Team Canada.

Team Finland HC Eloranta:

“What a game! Leading then behind. Back and forth, back and forth, so, awesome game. Scoring the winning field goal at the end of the game. I hope the viewers got their money’s worth. Awesome game. And a clean game. I have to thank Team Canada for an awesome game. It was a thriller.”

Team Canada HC Ryan Clutterbuck:

“Very happy for Finland. Very happy for the demonstration of women’s football. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better game. It’s hard to be on this side of it, but I’m just so very proud of how our players fought until the absolute last second.”

This year’s WWC has definitely demonstrated that there has been something of a shift in the balance of power in women’s football. Team Finland’s greater experience playing as a squad, not only in their annual games against Sweden, but also in the IFAF European Championship, definitely benefited them.

Russ Crawford is an Associate Professor of History at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH. The University of Nebraska Press published his book Le Football: The History of American Football in France in 2016. He is currently working on a project