Sweden vs Italy: Two veteran QBs go head to head

Today, Sunday, October 31, Sweden and Italy will square off in the IFAF European Championship gold medal game in Malmö, Sweden.

Leading the charge for the two national teams will be a pair of veteran signal callers. For Sweden, it will be long-time American-Swedish quarterback, Philip Juhlin, while for Italy, American-Italian quarterback Luke Zahradka will be behind center.

Juhlin has made a name for himself in Sweden as a successful dual-passport quarterback who can win championships. He has demonstrated this not only with the Carlstad Crusaders, leading them to Swedish titles in 2017 and 2018, but also as a national team quarterback in 2016 and 2017. He has played for multiple teams in Sweden since 2012 and knows those around him well. Not only does this make for a great leader but also a quarterback who can perform on the big stage.

COVID-19 has put strain on the Swedish league over the past two years. But even as the 29-year-old signed for the division two side, Tyresö Royal Crowns, he still managed to rack up 13 passing TDs in just the six games he played – being taken out towards the end of the game often.

On the other side of the ball will be Milano Seamen’s American-Italian quarterback, Luke Zahradka. Despite Zahradka being one of the premier passers in Europe, the start may come as a surprise to some as himself and the Seamen were beaten three times this year – once for the Italian Bowl – by the Parma Panthers. The Parma Panthers starting quarterback was Reilly Hennessey, who also holds American-Italian citizenship. The young quarterback lit the Italian league on fire this season and then went to the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns for the German Bowl (which he ultimately lost). 

Despite this slight head scratcher, it is by no means a bad situation to be in; like having to choose between Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. Zahradka has proven himself multiple times on the national stage and put on a show in Italy this year with the Seamen, throwing 27 touchdown passes and averaging 239 yards per game. His time spent in Italy will have undoubtedly influenced the decision to start him. As a bulk of the national team is made up of Seamen players, the time needed for the offense to gel will be remarkably shorter with Zahradka at the helm.

The Italian season was long and arduous with high level football being played throughout. This will surely give the Italians an edge. Although the Swedish league has played significantly fewer games, they do benefit from playing two national team contests over the past few months against Finland, giving them some much needed bonding time. How this will play out in the game is anyone’s guess, but it will most certainly make for an entertaining final.

Watch the game live here. Team Italy @ Team Sweden, Sunday, October 31, 12:00 CET (12 noon, 7 am ET).


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.