Serious challenges for EFL quarterfinal hosts

Category: EFL - published 2012-05-09 by

EFL and EFAF Cup preliminaries have concluded on the last weekend. The four EFL division champions will now face last year's semifinalists on May 26/27 on the road, the four EFAF Cup group winners will play the semifinals on June 16/17 with home field advantage yet to be determined. The right to host semifinal or final games in both of the pan-European EFAF club competitions is awarded in a standardized bidding process amongst the competing clubs. Both EFAF Cup semifinals will see a clash of French and Danish football power, as the Grenoble Centaures will face the Triangle Razorbacks, based at Veijle, Jutland, and the Amiens Spartiates will take on last year's finalist Sollerod Gold Diggers from the Copenhagen area.

Quarterfinals in the EFL race for the Eurobowl trophy each year are hosted by the semifinalists of the preceding EFL season. So three of the Austrian AFL clubs, including defending Eurobowl champion Tirol Raiders, and the Berlin Adler from the German GFL, the Raiders' opponent in the Eurobowl final of 2011 and their predecessor as Eurobowl winner, will now have three weeks left in preparation on their EFL opponents.

For some of them this might not be good news. While all four home teams in 2011 were victorious (and so for the first time the same four teams reached the semifinals as in the year before) up to then there always have been two road and two home wins in the quarterfinals since this format was introduced. It would be of no surprise if the 2012 quarterfinals would fit into this long-term scheme rather than that of last year.

The quarterfinals will be highlighted by the Vienna Vikings game against German champion Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns. The Vikings have earned the top seed in the EFAF European Top 20 after beating Tirol in an AFL game at home, for decades are known for their special attitude towards teams from north of the Austrian border and therefore were hit hard by their loss in the 2010 Eurobowl final at home against Berlin. Schwäbisch Hall has won its first-ever German championship in an exceptional manner using sheer offensive power, but lost nearly all of their 2011 set of U.S. players. The Unicorns wins over Spanish and Italian champions earned them a trip to Vienna, but to make a real impression on Europe it would take them to be successful there. The Vikings moved the game from their regular home grounds at Hohe Warte to the modern Generali Arena to accommodate increased fan and media interest.

Key notes for the Graz-Calanda and Berlin-London games are revealed by a look at the national championships. London and the Calanda Broncos from Chur (Graubünden, Switzerland) are undisputedly stand-outs of their countries and unbeaten in their national leagues for years. Naturally their focus has nearly exclusively turned towards Eurobowl. Which will be very dangerous for their hosts who recently struggled to keep pace with the top teams in AFL or GFL. Graz, pre-rated to be on quite an even level with Vienna and Tirol before the season started, still needs to justify this evaluation. This week their AFL home game vs. Tirol will show whether the Giants will be in shape. Berlin's season just started, and the Adler only escaped with a quite lucky 17-16 win in their encounter with neighbouring upstarts Berlin Rebels.

So only defending Eurobowl champion Tirol Raiders might be considered a strong favorite in the quarterfinals. The Raiders last week already defeated their upcoming opponent Prague Panthers for a second time (this time by 52-14 at home) in AFL league play 2012. The Panthers, who are coached by former CFL coach Adam Rita, obviously will need to learn very quickly from this loss if they would like to turn things around.

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