Team Italy, or “Blue Team” as they are also known, will take the field this Saturday to face Switzerland in the 2nd annual “New Year’s Bowl” exhibition/friendly between these two countries in Pero (outside of Milan), Italy.
Both countries have qualified to play in the IFAF Europe 2016 Qualifying Tournament later this year but both head coaches, Davide Giuliano (Italy) and Chris Winter (Switzerland) see this as the ideal way to kick the year off.
Both teams will be missing some key starters and will use this opportunity to try up and coming players in various positions.
Team Switzerland head coach Chris Winter will turn to Marcel Niklaus at quarterback if he is 100% healthy. Niklaus has been the most consistent of the three quarterbacks. The other two are Steven Mueller and Tim Liechti. However Niklaus suffered a broken arm in the key victory over Slovakia so this will be a game-time decision.
The regular starter of the Swiss team, Dea Baumann, is playing college football for the Fullerton College Hornets in California.
The offensive line performed well against both Holland and Slovakia. Veteran guard Daniel Shachar will lead a unit missing a couple of players but will try to establish the run game.
The defense will be missing starters both in the front seven and in the secondary but Winter sees this as a great opportunity to test players who were hurt in the fall games or who did not see much action. Although coach Winter realizes this is purely an exhibition game, he is taking it seriously.
“I want us to play well whether we win or lose. Italy is a big play team and will test our secondary so the key is ball possession. As long as we have the ball we keep their offense off the field.”
Italy lost an exhibition game against Serbia in September 34-31. Since then Italian head coach Davide Giuliano has held three training camps and has his sights set on the qualifying tournament later this year. He likes the idea of having an annual kickoff game every year against Switzerland. This will be his third game as head coach of Team Italy and he will be fielding a third group of quarterbacks.
Tommaso Monardi from the Parma Panthers is still the team’s leader and is solid. He knows the system well and will start. But Guiliano has a great backup in young Alessio Cavallini who has made great strides.
Nevertheless, Italy faces the same situation as Switzerland and will be missing three of five offensive line starters, two wideouts and a number of players on defense.
However, Giuliano would like to win this game even if it is purely a friendly.
“This will be a tougher contest than last January’s. We know we will have to play our best because things are getting very serious now that 2016 is finally upon us.”