LIVE STREAM: Finland Hosts Team Sweden in Annual Grudge Match

Every year Team Sweden and Team Finland play an international friendly game rotating the game between Sweden and Finland in what may be the oldest international rivalry in American football in the world. This year, the annual Viking Line Bowl as it has now been dubbed, will be played in Helsinki this Saturday.

If there were ever two countries in the world that would be considered to have a rivalry in American football, this would be the two, by a wide margin. Sweden and Finland have been playing this game if not annually, then on a consistently regular basis since 1992.

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Finland won last year’s contest to pull even in the series 8-8. However, it has not always been that even. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s Finland dominated the series having a 7-1 lead at one point. It took Sweden many years of catch up football to actually pull ahead until last year.

Sweden downed Team Poland three weeks ago  28-21 in a game that the Poles actually had a chance to win at the very end. Meanwhile, Finland has not seen any action since last year’s Viking Line Bowl game which they won 14-10 in Stockholm.

Roster changes for Finland

Finland will play their first international game without starting quarterback Miro Kadmiry. That may change the dynamic of the team with young Janne Lehtinen taking his spot. But he will share the duties with Sebastian Berndtsson, Otso Flinkman and Henri Väänänen all with some Maple League experience.

According to Team Finland head coach Tuomas Heikkinen, the run game now grows in importance:

Obviously, we need to be able to run first and are glad to have both running back Veikka Lehtonen (Örebro Knights, Tampere Saints) and Alexander Kuronen (Helsinki Roosters) in the lineup.

At wide receiver, Finland will have Tommi Pinta (Saints) who brings in size and experience and is a big target along with Kimi Linnainmaa (Roosters), Mikko Seppänen (Butchers), Aappo Saloranta (Trojans) and Phung Nguyen (Royals) who all had good seasons.

Naturally, Heikkinen would like to have had receivers Sebastian Sagne, Micky Kyei and defensive back Santeri Inkinen who play for the Dresden Monarchs, but following their semifinal loss last week, they could not make it back in time for this contest. Nevertheless, he looks at it another way:

 I am really happy for Sagne, Kyei and Inkinen for the success they’ve had in the GFL and believe that even if their probable absence from this game hurts us it is a big boost for our National Team that they are playing at the level they’re at thinking ahead to EC 2018.

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Swedish roster looks set

Sweden enters the game with their game against Poland fresh in their minds. They seemed to be cruising but late in the game a couple of miscues allowed Poland back into the contest. Nevertheless, head coach Andreas Ehrenrieich has had a week’s preparation for this game as compared to a single practice prior to the game against Team Poland.

“To play Finland us always exciting. They are well coached and they are talented and play hard. We expect nothing less this time around. The ground attack us fierce and that is what we expect offensively. We will come in with a more balanced attack and our success lies in our ability to do just that.
We are just taking our second step in our building process and we have ways to go before we are where we need to be. However we have good chemistry on the team and we look forward to see how we match up talent wise. It should be a good game and we look forward to it.
Ehrenreich has no problems at quarterback. He has two legitimate starters in Philip Juhlin from the Carlstad Crusaders and Anders Hermodsson (Lazio Marines) as well as Ludivg Persson from the STU Northside Bulls.

“Juhlin and Hermodsson bring different things to the table and we like to find out in the line of fire how effective they can be. Our third quarterback is Ludvig Persson and he has also a different skill set. He is no 3, but we want to give him the experience to play at this stage.”

Sweden’s receiving corps is impressive and is led by 6′ 5″, 220 lb Jacob Dahre who had another outstanding season with the seven-time Swedish champion Carlstad Crusaders. His teammate Andre Holgård joins him along with Fredrik Isaksson from the Tyreso Royal Crowns. Veteran Johan Stål is also in the lineup although he has hinted at hanging up his cleats again. But, according to Ehrenreich, he is looking very good and could play another year.

Sweden’s offensive line could be a key to this game said Ehrenreich:

I like how our offensive line is progressing. Not a finished product yet, but they are definitely heading in the right direction

IFAF suspension hangs in the air

However, no matter which team wins this game, there is still an IFAF suspension looming. Regardless of whether either nation recognizes the IFAF faction (Tommy Wiking) that imposed the suspension of Finland or not, there will be fallout. It is too bad that politics could mar what has proven to be an outstanding series since 1992.

Finland v. Sweden – Saturday October 1, 1:30 PM Finnish time (12:30 PM CET, 6:30 AM EDT)

Watch live for free here. (Use the translation feature and follow instructions)

Roger Kelly
Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.
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