Less than one month. Less. Than. One. Month!!!! Big Bowl XII is just around the corner and we couldn’t be more stoked. The banner event of European Flag Football, Big Bowl is 48 hours of sun, beer, camaraderie, and of course, non-stop football excellence. Over the last few years, we have seen an explosion in the number of high-quality tournaments popping up across Europe. The biggest reason? People can’t get enough of Big Bowl and want to replicate it any way they can. But as the esteemed poet Marshall Mathers once said, “They might just be the next best thing, but not quite ME!” Give the Walldorf Wanderers a ton of credit because they have set a truly global tournament standard.
This year’s tournament again features 63 teams after the expansion of the ladies’ tournament last year. Twelve countries, eleven European and the USA, are represented and the field is stacked with talent. While two-time winners MassFlag will not be back to defend their title, the tournament is still deeper than ever and may be the most wide-open to date. We can’t wait to get started so we had to write another preview of this year’s edition of Big Bowl. Just like last year, we will focus on top contenders and our UK compatriots. One interesting development to note: while we had to speculate on the playoff bracket last year, Walldorf have outlined all the match-ups ahead of time this year. As such, we will also do a small playoff preview/outlook for each group as well.
Walldorf Wanderers (Germany)
Aarhus Frogs (Denmark)
Kaizen Flag (Spain)
Coventry Cougars (UK)
Nackenheim Knights (Germany)
NuOla Waves (UK)
Oh weird. The host team of a Flag Football tournament ended up with a relatively weak group? What are the chances??!! With all the work it takes to make this event, we will give Walldorf a pass on making their group straightforward (for them at least). However, we are a bit disappointed as given their recent international form, they certainly don’t need an easy start.
The Wanderers’ year hit a low point at last year’s Big Bowl when stud QB Benjamin Klever was injured in the final group game. They were soundly beaten in the first playoff game but still managed a solid 11th place inish. From there, Walldorf have been on a tear. They captured the titles at Pink Bowl and Flagging New Year III and finished second at Denmark’s Sportmonda Bowl. Before all this, they had a strong Champions Bowl, finishing 4th in a stacked field. And oh by the way, they won the German national championship again. While Klever’s tremendous form coming back from injury has certainly been a catalyst, don’t overlook the acquisition of Jerome Saxon from the Lalo Greyhounds. Adding the German international defensive captain has added some much-needed athleticism to Walldorf’s back-end to complement the juggernaut that is their offense.
Ok so the rest of the group should just pack it in right? Not so fast. The race for second in Group A is WIDE OPEN. The Aarhus Frogs recently took the Leisure Division at the same Sportmonda Bowl and while toiling in the Danish league, are no strangers to elite competition. Kaizen Flag may have a few players past their athletic primes but have plenty of tricks up their sleeves. They’ve pushed more fancied teams hard in previous tournaments and were a couple plays from a second-place group finish last year.
We’ve written at length about the Coventry Cougars and how good they can be at their best. Yes we don’t need to remind you that this one time they beat the Copenhagen Barbarians at Big Bowl XI. Unfortunately, rather than push on from that impressive performance last year, they fell a bit flat in the league and underwhelmed this year at FNY. We genuinely believe they are the second most talented team in this group and possibly the fastest. If they can demonstrate mental toughness to match their talent, they could push through to the playoffs for the first time. But we’ll believe it when we see it.
Finally – I believe the NuOla Waves can fly. I believe they can touch the sky. Think about it every night and day. NuOla’s uniforms will blow you away…
We gave Walldorf plenty of grief for making their group easier than most. However, their potential Sweet 16 opponent will be no cupcake as they will likely face either the London Ex Pads or Novo Mesto Knights. Match-up wise, they’d probably rather face the Knights but either team could give Walldorf major issues on defense. If they can win that game, then they should have smooth sailing to the semi-final at least. Whoever is the second place team from this group will be a clear underdog against either the Knights or Ex Pads and should be happy with a trip to the top bracket on Sunday.