Team France edged Serbia 13-7 this past weekend in the IFAF 2020 European Championship final qualifying game of Group A in front of a crowd of 5,000 at Lille M‚tropole stadium in Villeneuve-d’Ascqto advance to the Final Four round.
With the win, France joins Italy, Sweden and Finland to decide who will be European champion in 2020.
If you like offense, it was not pretty.
The powerful French offense did not score a point and managed just three first downs all game while the defense scored both touchdowns, one on an interception and the other on a fumble recovery.
In fact, Serbia outgained the French national team on the ground rushing for 124 yards compared to a paltry 43 for France.
France did not advance out of their own end until late in the fourth quarter other than on the second half kickoff return.
Still, Team France came out on top on this day thanks to a stellar defense and the ballhawking skills of defensive back Adel Bafdile who had three interceptions, one for a touchdown.
French quarterback Sullivan Silvero completed 5 of 15 passes for 72 yards while running back Stephen Yepmo rushed for only 19 yards on 12 carries. Jeff Alexandre had three catches for 34 yards and Andrew James two for 38. Bafdile returned one of his three interceptions for 64 yards and a touchdown early in the game while defensive lineman Dorian Pin recovered a fumble and returned it 16 yards for France’s other touchdown.
For Serbia, quarterback David Hanomihl-Lukić threw for a mere 17 yards and was picked off three times. Mihailo Josovic led all rushers with 75 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
France struck first when Bafdile picked off a Hanomihl-Lukić pass on the game’s first series and returned it 64 yards. Alexandre kicked the extra point and the French went out in front 7-0.
With neither team able to move the ball after that, it wasn’t until late in the second quarter that Serbia was able to respond. Hanomihl-Lukić drove his team 44 yards in eight plays with Josovic powering his way into the end zone from the two yard line to tie the game up at 7-7.
And that’s how it stayed with both defenses playing lights out football until the eight minute mark of the fourth quarter when Hanomihl-Lukić was brought down on his own 16 yard line and lost control of the ball. Pin scooped the ball up and rumbled into the end zone to give France a 13-7 lead they would not relinquish.
And excellent kickoff return by Goran Zec giving Serbia the ball on France’s 35 yard line did not help. The Serbian offense stalled. On Serbia’s next possession, Bafdile intercepted Hanomihl-Lukić at the 11 yard line. The French offense marched to their own 42 yard line and punted but Serbia’s returner fumbled the ball on his own 18. Although France could not capitalize, missing a field goal, Bafdile picked off another pass to end the day for Team Serbia.
Silvero kneed out the game and the French celebrated a return to the IFAF European semifinals.