ECB2009: Open Race in European B-pool Championships ahead

Category: - published 2009-08-11 by EFAF

With a match between Spain and Italy on August 16 the B-pool European Championships 2009 will commence at Wolfsberg in the Austrian province of Carinthia. The two South-European sides challenge the host nation's bid for the tournament title in the preliminary rounds, while Denmark and the Czech Republic will battle out the second spot for the final scheduled for August 22 in a series of two games. The winner of the B-pool earns a spot in the A-pool for next year's European Championships at Frankfurt/Germany.

Since 2003 the European Championships for national teams are organised using the system of the three pools A to C and in a four-year-cycle. Winners of the C- and B-pool tournaments promote to the next level, while the last-placed team from pools A and B are relegated to the respective lower level. Until 2001 a qualification round was played in advance of every European Championship, quite often leading teams with too much difference in the level of play against each other. This system was abandoned by EFAF in the interest of those nations willing to run a continuous national team program, but not for the purpose of playing only one single game and being eliminated with one defeat. Under the current system each national team competing in one of the pools with just one travel trip (or the effort of hosting the event) will have a set of three competition games to prepare for, which in a lot of member federations of EFAF sparked the initial interest in building up a national team program or continuing to do so.

Still theoretically even any team starting out in the C-pool has the chance to be the European champion at the end of that very cycle. Theoretically? Well, Austria currently is proving, that indeed this could work out. After winning the last C-pool championship ahead of Norway and Switzerland the team just promoted to the B-pool. Nonetheless, not only considering home field advantage, the Austrians are considered the favorite team by a lot of the experts. Rick Rhoades, head coach of the Austrian team, is cautious, however: „There are no underdogs. One single defeat, and our dream most likely will be over.“

The Austrian dream of course is the qualification for the European Championships 2010 at Frankfurt. It would mark the first time since the inaugural European Championships in 1983, that Austria would make it into the final tournament. Other than being qualified as the host nation, which led to a third-place finish in 1995 for Austria. Considered the special rivalry with Germany, European Champion of 2001 and four-time finalist, the Austrians especially would love to make it to Frankfurt, where they would meet Germany in group play, possibly playing the opening game against the Germans at the city's Commerzbank Arena, one of the most modern sports venues not only in Germany.

But first they have to get there and should be aware of a few pitfalls along the road. Like the Austrians, who again fielded this year's Eurobowl champion, two of the opponents gathering at Wolfsberg bring on merits out of 2009 EFAF club competitions. Prague from the the Czech Republic won the EFAF Cup, Reggio Emilia from Italy triumphed in the Challenge Cup. Of course results of club competition play do not tell too much about the quality of the national team programs, much less because the top club teams in Europe have some American players on the roster, who of course are not permitted in national teams. But the impressive performances by the Czech team in this year's EFAF cup and the fact, that a second strong club team resides in the Czech capital, leads to the assumption that Daniel Lesko, head coach of the Czech national team, could have had an advantage of a lot of joint practices with his team. Considering the long-term experience in forming national teams at Italy and to some extent in Spain and Denmark as well, all to be certain of, is that the B-pool European Championships at Wolfsberg should be a very open race and fun to watch.

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