SAJL.fi Tournament Preview

The Finnish NGB, SAJL, have shared their IFAF Womens European Championships 2019 Tournament Preview on SAJL.fi, detailing Head Coach Mika Eloranta’s thoughts on Finland’s chances of defending their 2015 title, and how the withdrawal of Spain and Russia might have impacted the tournament.

Our Finnish isn’t really up to scratch, so we’ve tried our best with google translate here:

Finland Seek to defend the European Title

The second women’s European Championship in the history of the sport will be played in Leeds, UK from 12th to 18th August, 2019. The championships will be attended by reigning European champions, Finland, host country Great Britain, as well as contenders Austria and Sweden.

The teams are coming into the tournament seeded, based on previous performances. Following an impressive outing at the 2017 World Championship, hosts Great Britain are currently seeded 1st, followed by defending champions Finland. Austria are third seeds, with Sweden coming in as the lowest seed, but having proved themselves a dangerous opponent.

Initially, Spain and Russia were coming to the races, but the absence of these teams does not, according to Sweden Women’s Head Coach Mika Eloranta.

“That said, the absence of Spain and Russia is unlikely to change the order of the medal teams. In my opinion, the Russian national team is strongly built around the Valkyries in the Women’s Maple League, and I do not yet believe in the Spanish level enough to compete for medals.”

One major change, however, with a four-team tournament will be a switch away from groups, to a round-robin format tournament, where each country plays each other once.

Coach Eloranta himself is a member of the SAJL Hall of Fame and lifted a European Championship of his own, as a player, back in 1995.

On Monday, August 12, Finland will face Austria in the opening match of the tournament. Finland has previously faced Austria in both the 2010 World Championships and the 2015 European Championships and has comfortably won both times.

“Though their Men’s, Under 19’s and Flag rosters have found huge success recently, in the Women’s game Austria are not yet seen as one of the favourites to contest the title, and so this represents a good first opponent for us.”

shared Coach Eloranta.

“There are only a handful of teams established so far in Austria, which naturally limits the number of players available to the Austrian national team.

However, in the wider Austrian football scene the level of knowledge and resources of the Federation are impressive, so the team should not be underestimated. The team had a small number of players in the 2015 Spanish European Championships, but still finished fourth in the tournament.”

In the second round on Wednesday, August 14, Finland will meet Sweden. Since 2008, the strengths of the teams that have met each year have been steadily coming closer together, although Finland has won all the matches.

As Coach Eloranta noted,

“Last year’s Finland-Sweden match showed that the Swedish women’s game is rapidly improving. In the autumn national game, Sweden saw a new, talented quarterback, who was happy to air the ball out, and so they have proven themselves very capable of putting up scores.

That said, I do not think that Sweden will be able to reach the Finnish level in all aspects of the game, but Sweden will by no means be an easy opponent.”

On the last day of action, 17 August, the two favourites for the title, Finland and Great Britain, will meet. T

he teams met for the first time in the final of the 2015 European Championships, which Finland by a significant margin.

However, when the teams met for a second clash at the 2017 Women’s World Cup in Canada, Great Britain edged a narrow victory – 27-21.

Coach Eloranta noted the Brits are definitely a key opponent, especially due to having the benefits of having a home crowd at their backs:

“The British have home-field advantage and are able to prepare for the tournament in familiar landscapes.

The team has speed on both offense and defense, so it’s always going to be a tough team to fully contain.

In the previous encounter at the World Cup, I feel like we dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, but we need to improve on stopping their big, breakout plays. It we can do that, Finland are in a good position.”

 

📷 Salla Lahti

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