Italy: Semifinals set to produce games of the year

This weekend, the four top teams in the Italian Football League (IFL) will battle it out for a chance to play in the Italian bowl in two weeks’ time.

The Parma Panthers who finished second in the IFL standings will play host to the third place Firenze Guelfi who defeated the Bologna Warriors 49-0 in the wild card round. In the other semifinal, the Ancona Dolphins, fourth place finishers, who downed the Modena Vipers 49-7 in wild card action, pay a visit to Milano to face the number one seeded Milano Seamen.

Saturday, June 18

Guelfi Firenze @ Parma Panthers

The first game of the weekend will see the rushing powerhouse, the Firenze Guelfi, take on the defending IFL champs, the Parma Panthers.

Their one and only meeting this season happened during week 1 and saw a disjointed Guelfi team get beaten by a last-minute field goal as Parma came away 24-21 winners. Both teams have come a long way since then, but in opposite directions.

The Guelfi were joined by returning head coach Art Briles just a week after that loss and their offensive production went through the roof. Quarterback Andrea Fimiani along with running backs Jared Gerbino and Ahmed Tanner, have combined for a shocking 2,515 yards rushing, averaging over 314 yards per game.

Fimiani has also proved effective with his arm too, dicing opposing defenses at key moments to be on the winning side of sizable deficits.

The Panthers, on the other hand, have lost to both the Milano Seamen (convincingly) and uncharacteristically, to the Modena Vipers during an injury bug that plagued the team. 

However, Parma have gained a little momentum in recent weeks following their success in the Central European Football League which saw them knock off the Danube Dragons and Swiss powerhouse, the Calanda Broncos. Still, they will undoubtedly go into this one as underdogs as Guelfi will look to get vindicated from their week-1 defeat.

Sunday, June 19

Ancona Dolphins @ Milano Seamen

The second game of the season may be the surprise of the weekend as the number one passing offense in the league, the Seamen, take on the IFL’s number one passing defense, in the Dolphins.

During the regular season, Milano defeated the Dolphins 35-13.

The Seamen’s run up until now has been flawless. They lead nearly every statistical category in the league, apart from rushing, where they rank dead last. But why run the ball when you have the hottest quarterback in the league?

The Seamen’s signal caller, Luke Zahradka, has been on a tear with the help of first-year IFL import Markell Castle. Zahradka has thrown for 2,427 yards and 35 touchdowns – 17 of which went to Castle. And the most impressive aspect of this is that he’s done it on just 129 completions. 

Zahradka is a monster to deal with, but if anyone is up to the task it will be the Ancona defense. Their Italian secondary has shut most teams’ passing games down completely. Nevertheless, they will surely have their hands in this game. But the bigger question mark will be the offensive match up.

Colin Di Galbo, the Dolphins returning quarterback, has flashed in moments this year but has mostly relied on the exemplary play of his defense. He will need to have the game of his Italian career if he wants his team to advance to the finals. The key to this will be his duality as a quarterback. The Dolphins could surprise the league with a monumental upset if they bring their A game on Sunday.

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.