Finally – this year we’ll a combined European championships, after all (or the majority of) politics were put aside! The Men’s draw gives us plenty of tasty match-ups to look forward to. Today we’ll start with Group A!
Topping the billing in group A is Austria, who won the Las Rozas edition of the European Championships in Spain. The Austrians come into the tournament riding a wave of momentum after coming 2nd at the Worlds, losing narrowly to the USA team in Panama.
Their domestic league boasts plenty of top quality players to choose from, with the Klosterneuburg Indians and Vienna Constables previously making up the majority of the side. For 2019 we’ve yet to see an official squad-list, but we’d imagine it to be largely unchanged overall.
The strength of the Austrian team for our money is in their defence. This was no more evident than their final loss against USA. It’s odd to point to a defeat, but they held the USA team to 19 points – a team that had just destroyed the Danes. Florian Turetschek made the all-tournament defence at the worlds, as the Indian was part of one of the more fearsome units.
Austria go into this group as the favourites in our eyes, but this group will not be straightforward by any means.
The hosting Israelis have been one of the most consistent teams in Europe for the past decade plus, as their well-drilled offence and defence can take advantage of any lapses from opponents.
The host nation were late in getting their official squad list out, and it looks like they’re bringing their absolute “A” game on home soil. Look out for Dani Eastman, who commands a lot of respect wherever he lines up.
They’ve got the French to contest with for second in the group, who look tougher than ever before.
This French team is full of ballers at every single position. Drawing on players from their kitted leagues, there’s a mix of Flag players too, as Sphinx de Pau send four of their representatives with Les Bleus.
The most recent exploits for the French saw them put in an eye-popping performance at the AFFL Europe’s Elite tournament. Sure, the format obviously differs, but the athletes they mustered should strike fear into the rest of the continent.
They’ve probably got the harshest seeding of any team in attendance, but that’s gotten that a somewhat favourable cross-division game against team Great Britain.
Speaking of the AFFL, it was the Spanish who picked up the unlikely victory at Europe’s Elite, and earned a place at the AFFL finals. The less said about their performance there the better, but that is one heck of a springboard for the European Championships – they finished above the likes of the French, GB and Danish sides.
The squad-list features several players we’ve been at Big Bowl in recent seasons – including members of the Valencia Firebats and the Atlantic Devils. The Madrid Capitals and Barcelona Pagesos also have experience at major European tournaments as they’ve made inroads into the scene.
In truth, the Spanish have a tough task to advance through this group. They might fancy their chances to crack into the top three, but they’ll likely fall just below the athletic French side. Their heightened flag savvy earned them 3rd at the last European Championships in Laz Rozas – the Spanish stop unit will lean on Nayim Mohamed Chaib to keep scores low as the Spanish look to break into the tough top three contest.
Winning the distinction of being the hardest team to find a squad photo of, we have team Sweden! The Swedish come into the Championships off the back of a 4th place finish in Copenhagen last time out. They picked up an impressive scalp against team GB in the opening exchanges, but struggled thereafter. The Swedes have had sides compete at Flagging New Year for experience, and even had tournament MVP Philip Smith in their ranks one season. Philip impressed as a receiver at the tournament, but he’s listed as a QB for this European Championships campaign..
The Uppsala 86ers also have taken part in the UK’s top tournament, and the Swedish national side boasts four players from the reigning Swedish champs. WR Erik Lagerstrom has returned from injury this season, and will look to provide a reliable target for whoever lines up under centre. Missing WR Sundiata Owens is a major blow to their chances however.
The Swedes will likely be battling with Spain to see who finishes bottom of this loaded group.
Austria legitimately look primed for a run at the top prize. The momentum picked up from the Worlds should propel them to a second round-bye as they await their foe in the semi finals.
Given their the hosts, we’ll give Israel second in the group. They have France on day two of the competition, so any surprise factor from France’s squad should be snuffed out by then. That being said, we wouldn’t be shocked in France challenged for second, or even top…
France should be comfortably above Spain and Sweden. Spain will build off their impressive Europe’s Elite showing, and Bronze from Las Rozas into a 4th spot in this tough group. Sweden will finish bottom, but should do well in the placement games.