EJC 2011: European Junior champion to be crowned at Sevilla

Category: European Championship - published 2011-08-25 by EFAF

The top junior athletes in american football from six countries gather in Sevilla, Spain from August 28 to September 3 for the 9th European Junior Championships for national teams. For a second time in a row Spanish federation AEFA is hosting EFAF's flagship tournament for players aged 16 to 19. In 2008 Germany won the title in a very close final game, deciding a defensive battle with a last-quarter 9-5 victory. Germany and Sweden head the two preliminary groups for this year's tournament with group play scheduled for August 28, August 30 and September 1. The final games will be played on September 3.

A rematch of the 2008 final might be possible, but of course in junior football there are always a lot of changes to be expected. It is three years since the last European Junior Championships were held - and as this is exactly the timespan in which a roster of 16 to 19-year olds has to be completely replaced by the next generation of players, it will be nearly all new faces you will see at Sevilla's La Cartuja and San Pablo grounds. And with EFAF's recent initiatives to enhance the level of junior american football in all countries the gap between the top teams and quick-learning upstarts is closing steadily.

In 2008 already more than one third of the games at the European Junior Championships werde decided ny one touchdown or less and this rate might be even higher this year. Germany will open the tournament against Austria, and like in last year's senior European Championships or the games between clubs from both neighbouring rivals, this will be a very fierce battle, in which the young German team will have to survive a lot of pressure. Three-time European junior champion Germany made it to the finals in seven of the previous eight European Junior Championships, but this will not help at all against the next Austrian team to challenge its German counterparts in the two nations run for the pole position in European American Football. Denmark as the third team in this preliminary group hopes to profit from those two rivals perhaps focussing too much on each other - in 2008 the Danish already shocked long-time Scandinavian powerhouse Finland with a big 46-6 win.

Sweden also will have no easy way to repeat a trip to the Gold medal game. Opening up against Spain on August 28 the „Tre Kronor“ team might still be favoured, but especially the Spanish have invested a lot into youth football in recent years and it is no coincidence at all, the Spanish federation was eager to hold the European Junior Championships at home another time. Spain is out to prove that its struggle to catch up with the elite of European american football is soon to be accomplished. That building up expertise in the development of junior american football is the most promising way to handle this task might be something the Spanish have learned from their neighbours from France, the sixth team in the competition. Two-time European junior champion France (2004 and 2006) has entered this path very successfully. At the 2010 senior championships and again in this year's World Cup France emerged as Europe's number two on senior level, not co-incidentally just half a decade after shining on junior level. France's next generation of players might easily be able to not only repeat their senior foes run past Sweden and Austria in the rankings - it would be not much of a surprise if the „Bleus“ could take their campaign one step further and get a chance to repeat their 2004 and 2006 final game victories against Germany.

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