Sweden aims to defend the title at EC 2010

Category: European Championship - published 2010-06-25 by

Five years ago on the evening of July 30, it was an all blue-and-yellow celebration that ended the last European Championships in American Football. With a 16-7 win over Germany the hosts from Sweden not only did take home their first ever EC title. The Swedish also became the first team to score a touchdown against a German team, that for two years had held off all opponents from its endzone for five games in a row before that Malmö evening and had won the gold medal at the Duisburg World Games in the process just two weeks before against Sweden. An exciting EC final this has been, decided in the last quarter, when Germany was eagerly trying to get the ball out of the hands of the Swedish running backs, but Kim Taalbi escaped the German defenders and rushed for the decisive 80 yard touchdown.

So the Swedish team now enters the upcoming European Championships at Frankfurt, where the hosting role is switched between the two finalists of 2005, as the top seeded team. That might give them a slight advantage in the preliminaries, as Sweden will have to overcome the fourth- and fifth-seeded teams from Great Britain and France, while No. 2 Germany will not only face No. 3 Finland in another game of their everlasting EC rivalry but will have to deal with Austria as well, which especially for the Germans might be a more difficult task than Austria's seeding as No. 6 implies.

When it comes to rivalries between neighbouring countries, of course Sweden has its own tale to tell. Before the Tre Kronor team got its shot at the Germans in the final of 2005, they themselves had to overcome Finland in the semifinal two days before (the final tournament only featured four teams and was played on a single weekend). And indeed they denied their archrival and five-time European champion the qualification for the final game for only the second time in EC history. Which was kind of an effort, as in the ten years before Finland had just lost one game in the yearly friendly series between the two nations and in the EC semifinal game took a lead into the last quarter, before giving up the 19-23 score four minutes before the end.

It seems as if currently Sweden holds a slight edge in their Scandinavian rivalry. Last year's traditional Octobre game against Finland saw another Swedish victory, when Noghor Jemide provided the two first-half touchdown rushes that helped Sweden to a 14-0 win. While Kim Taalbi, the hero of the EC final game 2005, still was part of that team, of course a lot of new faces will be present on the roster of the team that will try to defend the five-year-old title at Germany. In 2008, then-19-year-old Sebastian Thune was inducted as quarterback, in the 2009 game against Finland already Anders Hermodsson shared playing time with him, another young quarterback, who led the Swedish junior national team in the European Junior Championships 2008.

Which explains that the road to a possible second European title is no straight one for the team. In 2008 Sweden fell to Germany 0-45 in a friendly game at Stuttgart. However, it has to be noted that at the time of the game in Octobre the German season had just ended, while in Scandinavia the offseason starts a lot earlier. If both teams should make it to the final at Frankfurt on July 31 players surely will be at their peak fitness level on both sides. But even the way into the final may provide some obstacles for the reigning champion. In a three-team preliminary group one loss may be crucial, and the Swedish team was reminded of that last summer, when they participated in the „Tri-Nations“ tournament at Great Britain. After beating Australia by a score of 34-0 Sweden in its first ever game against Great Britain struggled from the first play of the game and was surprised by the Brits, handing them a stunning 31-7 loss.

So the Swedish team will be warned that everything is possible, when the top six nations gather at Germany from July 24 to July 31. Never before in European Championship history the triumph in the final game and the relegation to the B-pool for the loser of the fifth-place game were that close to each other for all of the contestants, although it is the first time six teams compete in the final stages of the European Championship. The Swedish team is scheduled to have two more camps in preparation for EC 2010 in July, the last one immediately before traveling to Germany.

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