EFAF is followed by IFAF Europe
European Top Four battle for Eurobowl
It is semifinal time in the European Football League - and the top four American Football teams of the continent are preparing for the final stages in this year's run for the Eurobowl trophy. The championship game will be played on June 18/19, two weeks earlier than in recent years. With IFAF World Cup IV ahead from July 8 to July 16, when the eight top national teams from the world will gather in Austria, this year's EFL schedule was adjusted to accomodate the need for extra preparation in the participating countries.
Of course in July Austria and reigning European champion Germany will try to break up what seems to be a US-Japanese dominance at the World Cup on the last occasions. But before that it is time for some of their best players to battle it out in the continental league for club champions. Defending Eurobowl champion Berlin Adler will host the Graz Giants on May 28 (kickoff at 6 p.m. CET), and in an all-Austrian clash the Tyrolean Raiders face their long-time archrival Vienna Vikings at Innsbruck on the same day (8 p.m. CET).
While the four semifinalists are the same as last year, a lot of things have changed. Last year Berlin escaped with a narrow victory from Innsbruck, and head coach Shuan Fatah, quarterback Kyle Callahan and the rest of the team headed on to win a spectacular final game at Vienna. This year Fatah, Callahan and a number of other members of last year's triumphant Adler Eurobowl team will again be on hand at Innsbruck's Tivoli - as Fatah now is in charge for the Raiders and has managed to reunite with some staff and players there.
Berlin suffered a little and started this year's season with two losses in the German Football League. But in recent weeks the team was back on track, featuring a defense as strong as ever in recent years, winning some narrow crucial games in national league play and eliminating reigning Austrian champion Danube Dragons from the EFL competition by a 35-25 win. Even with the Adler's Eurobowl history dating back to their first appearance in 1988, it will be the first time a semifinal is to be played at Berlin. Accordingly the club plans to stage some big event and hopes to crown it with a win to earn the club's third Eurobowl final appearance. Hosting the Graz Giants adds to the excitement at Berlin, because when the club returned to European competition play in 2006 it was Graz that denied the team a trip to the 2006 EFAF Cup playoffs.
Speaking of excitement, the second semifinal game at Innsbruck will certainly fall not short. The Tyrolean Raiders and the Vienna Vikings again will try to answer the question who fields Austria's top team: four-time Eurobowl champion Vikings (2004-2007) or two-time winners Raiders (2008-2009)? In 2005 the Vikings beat the Raiders in an EFL semifinal at Innsbruck, in 2008 the Raiders took revenge in the final game spoiling the Vikings' unbeaten streak of close to five years in European competition. Not to speak of countless games in national league play, where the Vikings won ten national championships since 1994 (three of those against the Raiders), while Tyrol won only two, but both of them in 2004 and 2006 against the Vikings. From this year's Austrian Football League regular season both emerged as the top two teams with a small tie-breaker edge for the Raiders. Despite the fact that the Vikings where able to win the first encounter of the year between the two by 28-24. A replication of that exciting mid-April game, in which the lead switched four times during the second half, should be in the making.
Also on schedule for the same weekend: EFAF Cup seminals will start with France's Thonon Black Panthers hosting the Kragujevac Wild Boars from Serbia. The second semifinal game will be played on June 4, when London Blitz faces the Sollerod Gold Diggers from Denmark.