Team Austria reaches IFAF European Championship title game with convincing victory over Italy

Austria will take on Finland for the 2023 IFAF European Championships crown in men’s tackle football in October after beating Italy 24-14 in Innsbruck.

Finland were 33-14 victors over Sweden on Saturday in the other semifinal.

Italian quarterback Luke Zahradka threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns in his team’s loss, while Austrian running backs Florian Wegan, with 15 carries for 72 yards, and Tobias Bonatti who rushed 10 times for 45 yards and a touchdown, carried the load for the hosts. Italy will now face Sweden for the bronze medal.

Austria opened a 14-point first quarter lead over Italy after Bonatti pounded up the middle for a touchdown on the ground and Yannick Mayr went in motion to take a handoff from quarterback Alexander Thury and race untouched into the end zone. Amo Schwartz tagged on both points after.

Italy should have given themselves a lifeline as Ryan Minniti intercepted Thury and raced down the left sideline to the Austrian 15-yard line, but had the ball stripped from his grasp by Mayr and Thury recovered his own error.

Austria edged further ahead with a Schwartz field goal then Italy put together their best drive of the half as Zahradka utilized the talents of receiver Jordan Bouah and running back Michael Gentili to move steadily downfield. The quarterback stayed calm under pressure to find tight end Tommaso Finadri wide open in the end zone and Luciano Giuliani’s PAT reduced the deficit to 10 points at the break.

Italy again might have bounced back, this time after a blocked field goal that was returned into Austrian territory, but Gentili fumbled on the end of a powerful run. A second Italian fumble was punished by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Thury to Florian Bierbaumer and the hosts led 24-14.

Austria were caught napping and celebrating victory on the sidelines as a 61-yard consolation touchdown pass saw Bouah streak down the left sideline as he broke a tackle 40 yards from pay dirt to score.

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