Italy: Semifinals – Road to Toledo, Ohio

Four teams will battle it out this weekend in the Italian Football League (IFL) playoffs to earn a spot in the Italian Bowl. Making the final of increased consequence will be the fact that this year’s will be played in Toledo, Ohio, 4,500 miles west of Italy.

Ancona Dolphins @ Firenze Guelfi 

Both the Guelfi and Ancona were front runners at the beginning of the season. A week 5 meeting between the two in Florence did not disappoint as the two teams threw everything they had at each other, ending in a 44–37 victory in favor of the Guelfi.

Since the meeting, both the Guelfi and the Dolphins have slumped slightly. A number of injuries for the Guelfi have caused them to stall in offensive output, and the Dolphins just haven’t had the same pop they had at the beginning of the year.

However, this potency did seem to return last week for the Dolphins as they dismantled the Lazio Ducks in their wildcard game. Quarterback Colin Di Galbo managed to rack up 220 yards and three touchdowns as well as rushing for a further 50 yards with his legs. It is worth bearing in mind that this was against one of the worst defenses in the league.

The Guelfi have not played a game for close to a month. This may have given them time to heal from injuries, but that much time away from the game is never good in a team sport. Their rushing attack has ruthlessly destroyed opponents since day one. They are nearly a thousand yards ahead of any other team in the league in addition to having a solid passing game.

The way things are shaping up, we could be in for a repeat of what happened in the first meeting between the two teams. The only difference this time is that Ancona may have the edge as they played just last week.

Varese Skorpions @ Parma Panthers

Before talking about this game, we need to note the outstanding job the Skorpions have done this year. Seldom do teams, in any country, earn themselves promotions into the top division, secure a winning season and advance through the first round of the playoffs. Regardless of the outcome of this game, the Skorpions should be proud of what they have done this season.

That being said, the Skorpions will have a tough battle ahead of them. They performed admirably in their wildcard win over the Milano Rhinos last week, but they failed to put much together offensively. Their victory came mostly through forced errors from the Rhinos and some solid defense.

The Panthers began the season woefully with a loss to the Rhinos but have since recaptured their 2021 glory. Offensively, running back Ryan Minniti has managed to carry the load all year and break down defenses. But their success has come mainly from their own defense, the best one in the league. Their level of stinginess seems to know no bounds. Against the best and most explosive offenses in the league, Guelfi, they let in just seven points. No team ranks near them.

The Skorpions, who have struggled offensively all year, will have their toughest opponent of the year in front of them. Their only hope will be to stop Parma’s mediocre offense and pray for one big splash play in a low scoring game.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.