IFAF WWC: Team USA comes from behind to defeat Finland and advance to 4th straight gold medal final

Team USA scored 21 unanswered second half points to defeat the upstart Finnish team 28-10 in Vantaa, Finland and advance to the 2022 IFAF Women’s World Championship gold medal final for the fourth straight time.

The Finns did not make the game easy for a United States squad accustomed to crushing their opponents.

The defending European champion Finland went into halftime with a 10-7 lead, sending a shockwave through the women’s football world. However, Team USA kept their composure and came through in typical fashion in the second half to remain undefeated on the world stage.

Finland drew first blood when Laura Pekkarinen kicked a 35 yard field goal with 3:10 left in the first quarter. Team USA running back Dajah Scott put the USA on top when she ran the ball in from 15 yards out. Alaina Lange booted the extra point to make it 7-3 in favor of the defending champions. With 4:23 left in the second quarter, game one MVP Tytti Kuusinen put Finland back in the lead by scoring from the nine yard line. Pekkarinen kicked the extra point, and that was all of the scoring for the first half. Team Finland held a stunning 10-7 lead.

Team USA QB Brittany Bushman #8 threw for 189 yards Photo: Tero Turunen

Team USA came out of the locker room ready to reassert their historic dominance and scored three straight touchdowns. Scott scored on the first possession of the second half, running the ball in from 15 yards out. After Lange added the PAT, the Americans were back in front 14-10. Then late in the third quarter, Scott capped another drive with a touchdown, pounding the ball in from the five yard line to give the USA a 21-10 lead. Running back Adriana Gutierrez capped the scoring with a one yard run with just over two minutes left in the game to make the final score 28-10.

Brittany Bushman played the entire game at quarterback for the United States and went 20-35 for 189 yards but  also threw two interceptions. Scott led the American rushers with 71 yards on 17 carries, with three touchdowns, and Gutierrez added 18 yards on six carries with one scoring run. Wide receiver Angela Baker caught six passes for 35 yards. Krishna Lee and Stephanie Pascual hauled in four passes apiece.

Team USA linebacker Carla Odom had 6 tackles. Shanice Cole and Danielle Fournier had sacks. Eight defenders, including Quineshia Leonard, Cole, Fournier, Chante Bonds, Satoria Bell, Eshombi Singleton, Sheena Reed, and Angie Wells had tackles for losses.

For Finland, Kuusinen rushed for 48 yards on 10 carries, and Mari Jääskelä carried 11 times for 37 yards. Team Finland quarterback Emilia Räty was not able to get untracked and completed only 3 of 9 passes for 2 yards.

The Finnish defense did a good job of containing the American running game, especially in the first half, and linebacker Essi Saastamoinen had 11.5 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for losses. Defensive back Oona Tuomi had 7.5 tackles, and defensive back Hanna Ropanen added seven. They had less success against the pass, but defensive back Anni Pajunen and linebacker Janika Nikander had interceptions.

Team Finland RB Tytti Kuusinen #34 was outstanding Photo: Tero Turunen.

Scott earned the Game MVP for Team USA and she was joined by Saastamoinen who earned the award for Team Finland.

Mika Eloranta, HC of Team Finland, was very happy after the game:

“Oh my God. Awesome game. We were leading at halftime. We never scored on Team USA in two previous world championship games. Football has gone so forward here in Finland, so I’m so proud of the whole team.”

Team USA HC Callie Brownson congratulated her opponents.

“First off I want to tip my hat to Team Finland. Just an incredibly tough and fantastic team. I’m just so proud of how far football has come from an international perspective. You guys have so much to be proud of, and we’re proud of you too.”

On her team’s performance, she added:

“We came out a little flat, but I was extremely proud of what we did at halftime to make the adjustments that we needed to, and get back into the headspace, and to play USA football.”

This game was the closest margin of victory that the USA has ever had in international competition, and it was the first time that the Americans had been behind in a game. Perhaps some of Finland’s advance is due to their having better competition from Sweden and Great Britain in Europe. They also benefit from having a core of players, including Kuusinen, Janna-Jemina Seiles, and defensive back Jonna Tuovinen on their team who have gained valuable championship game experience in the United States.

Team USA will play Team Great Britain in the gold medal game on Sunday at 19:30 local time. Team Finland faces Team Canada in the bronze medal match at 16:30.

Russ Crawford is an Associate Professor of History at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH. He has published three books: Women’s American Football: Breaking Barriers On and Off the Field (2022), Le Football: The History of American Football in