Team Sweden’s offense sputtered at times but caught fire when it needed to defeat France 7-0 and advance to the finals of the IFAF 2019 U19 European Championships.
This is the second time in the history of this tournament that Sweden has reached the final.
Both defenses played lights out football making the offenses work for every yard.
Sweden kept the vaunted French running attack neutralized much of the game. France reached the Swedish red zone twice but squandered their chances with penalties and miscues. In fact, France was flagged 13 times for 128 yards. Each time they had a semblance of a scoring chance, a penalty would take them out of range. Or an interception.
Swedish quarterback Victor Ekberg threw for only 73 yards but he took charge on the only scoring drive of the game and got his team out of trouble late in the game when they badly needed it. He scored the only touchdown of the game while rushing for 43 yards himself. Running back Victor Cimrell was a workhorse for Sweden with 15 carries for 43 yards. Wide receiver Alexander Nesic had one reception for 52 yards which almost broke the game wide open.
For France, quarterback quarterback Matheo Collomb threw for only 29 yards but rushed for 59 yards while Cyril Laib had five carries for 24 yards.
In other words this was a defensive battle.
The Swedish defense was ferocious led by defensive tackle Sebastian Nilsson who had a game-best seven tackles and Max Forsback, defensive MVP who had five. But the story of the game was how well the Swedish front seven seemed to be able to predict exactly how each French play would unfold.
In the first quarter, neither team could make any headway until Swedish wide receiver Victor Wikstrom gathered in a pass from Ekberg and immediately heaved it downfield to a streaking Nesic who was hauled down 52 yards later at the French 15 yard line. Sweden looked poised to score the game’s first touchdown. But a fumble on the next play snuffed out that scoring chance.
The second quarter saw more of the same with neither team giving any ground.
Sweden opened the third quarter looking like their halftime adjustments were working. Ekberg marched his team 64 yards in seven plays, hitting his receivers and then taking charge himself carrying the ball twice at the end, the last time a nine yard scamper to score the game’s lone touchdown.
Collomb seemed to answer, driving France down to the Swedish 19, carrying the ball twice himself, once on a 33 yard run. But a fumble by Elias El Kharti ended that drive.
France had another golden opportunity late in the third, as Gabin Leux returned a punt 30 yards to Sweden’s 32 yard line. But after reaching the 14, an illegal block pulled them back out of scoring range and a punt into the end zone for a touchback gave Sweden the ball at the 20. Three plays later Clement picked off an errant Ekberg pass but on the ensuing French possession Collomb was intercepted at the Swedish four.
That was as close as either team would come after that. Swedish defensive back Victor Garcia Blomback picked off a Collomb pass on the Swedish 15 yard with less than 30 seconds left to snuff out France’s last chance for a score and the Swedes began celebrating.
Swedish head coach Sebastian Brinkenfeldt:
“They showed that effort counts and I’m really proud of them today.”
Sweden will now face Team Austria in the gold medal final on Sunday, August 4.