Spain and Germany contest top spot in IFAF Women’s European Championship, Sweden faces oldest foe, Finland

Spain and Germany meet in the IFAF Women’s European Championships on Saturday, both knowing that victory will place them at the top of the standings at the midway point in the 2023/24 tournament as the continent’s only unbeaten team.

Also on Saturday, Sweden takes on rivals and defending champions Finland with both teams looking for their first win of the competition.

The round robin tournament will decide the IFAF European Championship, replacing the single host nation format, with games continuing in April, May, and August of 2024.

Spain vs Germany

Spain and Germany both surprised their opponents in the opening games to set up this weekend’s mouthwatering clash, which kicks off at 6pm local time at the San Iñigo Football Field in Calatayud, in the Province of Zaragoza, within Aragón.

Spain went to Finland in May and coach Manuel Ibáñez’s team shocked the three-time champions with a 12-0 win as Olga Sotillo caught and threw for a touchdown. Sotillo starred for Spain last week at the IFAF European Flag Football Championships where she won a silver medal as Spain lost to Great Britain in the final. Quarterback Monica Rafecas and linebacker Cristina Gomez were also part of that Spanish squad in Limerick, Ireland.

Germany won a thrilling game against Great Britain 23-22 in May to set up this weekend’s top of the table meeting. Head coach Nicole Manthey’s team took a one-point lead into halftime, fought back from being 15 points down in the first half and overcame a six-point fourth quarter deficit to snatch a late victory.

Germany’s roster includes six players who won a bronze medal at the IFAF European Flag Football Championships, having been beaten by Spain in the semifinal: Gina de Gavarelli, Dora Jung, Carina Liebenthal, Ellen Ries, Zoe Song and Mona Stevens. The Berlin Kobra Ladies are the most strongly represented with six players, four players come from the Saarland Lady Canes, Hamburg Amazons, Munich Cowboys Ladies and Stuttgart Scorpions Sisters. In total, the squad is composed of players from 18 women’s teams.

“Spain is a strong opponent, they have a fast flag football-like offense and also have very quick defenders,” said Germany’s Coach Manthey. “After the 12-0 victory against Finland, Spain is on top for a reason. We will face high temperatures we are not used to, so this will be a difficult challenge for us.

“We had to make some roster changes for multiple reasons. An away game is always a lot of work, and the team will meet in Frankfurt to take the plane to Madrid and then we will drive three hours by bus.

“The short time we had to prepare for our new opponent we used to work on the little mistakes we saw against Great Britain and like in the first game, we will leave everything on the field.”

Sweden vs Finland

Sweden takes on Finland at the Bergshamra IP in the Stockholm municipality of Solna hoping to rebound from a 40-0 defeat away to Great Britain back in April and features several new players.

Linebacker Nathalie Hacksell, playing in her second international match, said: “We never got into the football calm that makes us really work together against Great Britain, and a lot of small mistakes had big consequences. Against Finland it can only get better. It is key that we communicate well, that we quickly find our positions on the pitch and that we do not let ourselves be pushed backwards. It is up to us to put pressure on their attack.”

Still smarting from an unexpected home shutout against Spain, Finland head coach Samu Juppo believes that the team will be competitive.

“It’s great to be able to face our familiar opponent Sweden again,” he said. “Last summer’s World Championship was the last meeting and there have been a lot of changes in the squad for both teams since that match.

“We had a very successful preparatory camp last weekend and based on that we were able to select the players for the match. We have a significant number of new players in our squad and injuries at this stage of the season mean a lot when putting a team together. However, I believe that we have a very competitive team. There are eager new players who want to show and experienced players who bring performance confidence.”

Both teams feature players whose focus was on flag football last week in Ireland in DB Hedvig Palocci (Sweden), DB Jenna Hautamaki, WR Kirsti Nirhamo, QB Essi Soderholm, and LB Essi Saastamoinen (all Finland).

IFAF Women’s European Championships 2023/24

(All kickoff times local)

Saturday, April 15

Great Britain 40 Sweden 0

Worcester, England
Sixways Stadium

Saturday, May 27

Finland 0 Spain 12

Vantaa, Finland
Myyrmäen jalkapallostadion

Sunday, May 28

Germany 23 Great Britain 22
Düsseldorf, Germany
Solingen Walder Stadium

Saturday, August 26, 6pm

Spain vs Germany
Calatayud, Spain

San Iñigo Football Field

Saturday, August 26, 1pm

Sweden vs Finland
Solna, Sweden
Bergshamra IP

April 12-14, 2024

Spain vs Great Britain

 May 24-26, 2024

Finland vs Germany

Sweden vs Spain

August 16-18, 2024

Germany vs Sweden

Great Britain vs Finland

Michael Preston (@PRMikePreston) is currently working with IFAF in a PR capacity. He recently covered Super Bowl LVII as a member of the NFL PR team as he has done for 20+ years. He has held communications positions with NFL Europe, the North