LIVESTREAM & PREVIEW: Russia and Norway Tangle In Qualifier

Team Russia takes on Norway Saturday at Tzarskoe Selo Stadium, near St Petersburg, in a crucial qualifying game for the 2016 IFAF Group B tournament. The winner will earn one of the last berths available.

The Russian national team has only played a total of four games in the last four years including a 7-0 loss to Poland a month ago. A large crowd is expected for this game as the Team Russia organization and the Russian American football website, First and Goal  have promoted it heavily.

Russia’s passing game struggled versus Poland as the three quarterbacks combined for only eight completions on 16 attempts for 82 yards in the wet conditions. Coach Vasily Dobryakov, the Russian head coach, will keep only two quarterbacks on the roster  for this game. Anton Bagautdinov from the champion St. Petersburg Griffins who was decent against Poland may get the start althouhg Igor Chernolutsky from the Moscow Patriots, a physically powerful signal caller, also a threat as a runner may well have a chance to start too. He was unable to travel to Poland a month ago.

Thus, Russia will go in this key game with its two best passing quarterbacks and open a gap on the roster for another active player, wide receiver Viktor But, a key major element of the Russian offense. His connection with his quarterback from the Patriots, Chernolutsky, will be important to the Russian offense.

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Russia’s offense had a tough day against Poland

Russia’s defense played well in the game against Poland. The old adage that  “offense fills stadium, defense wins championship” could be well suited in Russia’s case. The Russian coaching staff learned a great deal from the Polish game and the players should be well motivated as they are playing an international game in the cultural capital of Russia.

Norway has a longer and deeper history in American football and as a result could be a favorite. Norwegian head coach Jørgen Benestad-Johansen had an opportunity to test his team in a game with the Luther College Norse Nation, a Div. III school from Iowa, earlier this year. Although they lost the game 45-0 it gave Benestad-Johansen an idea on where his team stands.

Eivind Brekke will likely get the nod at quarterback. The Eidsvoll 1814s quarterback reads well, has an excellent arm and can use his legs. Relying on the “flexbone” package as they did against Luther College, Norway will turn to Lorenzo Proctor (Oslo Vikings) at running back. Norway’s receiving corps will have a better day against Team Russia with Arne August Skovseth Sogaard (Eidsvoll 1814s) Marlon Wayne Hylton and Nicolai Nørstrud (Nidaros Domers) at the starting positions. They kept to a short passing game against Luther College  but expect them to open up more in this game.

The Norwegian defense expects more production from linebackers Tron Christian Enersen (Vålerenga Trolls) and Thor Campe (Oslo Vikings) to stop the Russian running game. The defensive line led by Leo Krafft (Eidsvoll 1814s) will have to assert itself more than against Luther. However, Norway’s secondary struggled in that spring game and will need versatile Simon Bruset (Lura Bulls) to help them up their level of play.

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Norway versus the Luther College Norsemen Photo: Max Emanuelson

Having said all this, it would seem that Russia and Norway have similar styles. In other words, this will not be a high scoring game and it could be decided by big plays.

One of these two teams will reach the IFAF 2016 group B tournament which means not only a chance to win Group B  but also to move up to Group A. And also an opportunity to boost the popularity of the game in Russia and Norway.

The game is being streamed live here.  Kickoff, 2 PM (7 AM EDT)

With excerpts and information from the Norwegian website Amerikansk Fotball.

Michael is the current QB coach for the Yaroslavl Rebels, in Russia. He has been Involved in football since 1995 and he has also completed many courses at Sports Management Worldwide. He is a specialist in mental and motivational training. Michael