LIVESTREAM Italian Bowl PPV: Firenze Guelfi vs Parma Panthers, July 1, 21:00 CET (9 pm, 3 pm EDT)

The Italian Bowl is being played in the Glass Bowl stadium in Toledo, Ohio, and this has somewhat overshadowed the rollercoaster journey that the defending champion Firenze Guelfi and 2021 champion Parma Panthers have had back in Italy this year. Both finished the season with a 7–1 record but have run perpendicular in performance.

The Guelfi began their 2023 campaign in the exact same way they ended their championship run in 2022, with utter dominance. And after a 42–7 victory over the Skorpions Varese in Week 1, Firenze began methodically working their way through opponents. 

Watch live PPV. Firenze Guelfi vs Parma Panthers, July 1 21:00 CET (9 pm, 3 pm EDT).

But just as things started to get going, the Guelfi lost their starting quarterback, young Italian Andrea Fimiani, to injury. American import Jared Gerbino picked up where he left off with deadly precision, but it left the offense without an element of surprise it previously had.

Nevertheless, led by Gerbino, the Guelfi managed to put together a devastating rushing attack that totaled 2,264 yards and 35 touchdowns. To put this in perspective, the next team down in both categories managed just 1,442 yards and 16 touchdowns.

But with Fimiani sidelined for much of the season, the weight of the offense fell squarely on the shoulders of Gerbino which led to an injury to ItalianAmerican late in the season. Luckily for Guelfi, this was just about the time that Fimiani came back into the fold.

However, the offense started to wear out and their production faltered (by Guelfi standards). And it was late in the season that they took on the Parma Panthers with disastrous effect.

The Panthers won the Italian Bowl back in 2021 in an undefeated run but suffered too many injuries and not enough depth to repeat in 2022. So, when the 2023 season began and Parma lost their first game to the Milano Rhinos, it was unexpected, but not shocking.

However, as the games went by, the Panthers started to notch up wins. Their import quarterback Anthony Paoletti began to come into his own as a runner, but more surprising was the emergence of import defensive back Ryan Manniti as their lead rusher on offense.

Minniti quickly turned into the bell cow and was averaging 7.5 yards per carry. These oddly did not convert into touchdowns, but with by far the best defense in the league, they did not need to. The Panthers allowed just 16 touchdowns over the course of the entire season, and most of these were given up at the beginning of the year.

Where they excelled most however was in the run game. Their defense allowed just 450 yards on the ground over eight games, less than half of the next team down. So, when they met the Guelfi in Week 7, it was a match made in heaven for their defensive coordinator. 

The Guelfi were averaging over 300 yards per game on the ground prior to the contest with Parma. However, during the game Firenze managed just 145 yards and a single touchdown and lost their first game of the season 25–7 to the Panthers.

From there the season went as expected with both teams finishing at least relatively convincingly and earning themselves a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Panthers and Guelfi brushed aside the Skorpions and Dolphins Ancona in the semifinals and will now meet in what will be the biggest stage the Italian Bowl has ever appeared on.

Panthers quarterback Anthony Paoletti commented on season and Italian Bowl:

‘As a unit, we have put ourselves in the position to achieve the goal we’ve set out upon since the beginning of the season. I am beyond excited to take the field once again with my Panther family & work towards holding up the championship trophy here in Toledo. BURN THE BOATS!’

Watch live PPV. Firenze Guelfi vs Parma Panthers, July 1 21:00 CET (9 pm, 3 pm EDT).

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.