Denmark and Sweden Fight for European Crown

The U19 European Championship will definitely go to Scandinavia, but who will be crowned as champions of Europe and book a ticket to the World Championship.

Photo: Riita Rinta- Tassi

As both teams won their respective game against Finland, Denmark and Sweden will play each other for the European on Friday. Denmark won 35-24 on Wednesday and Sweden, powered by quarterback Michael Cox Jr, who had 248 rushing yards, beat the Finns by 61-30 Thursday.

Finland had no means to stop Cox and the big question for this game will be, if Denmark can find some way to contain the talented and athletic quarterback, while not lose focus on coverage downfield, because he also has a strong and – especially after European standards – a very precise arm.

Swedish size and strength

To protect him, the Swedes have a strong and heavy offensive line, with five guys who are almost 2 meters high and have combined weight of more than 600 kilos. Adding to this heavy offence is the two big Tight Ends Axel Ripa and Robin Jutwreten, who the Swedes often use together in a jumbo-package.

Last time the two teams met was at the Nordic Championship in 2016 where Sweden won a 48-13 victory, build on a run-heavy game plan, where the Swedish quarterback only attempted four passes all game. One of the stars of that game was running back Vilinthon Tengroth, who was sidelined for most of the game against Finland.

If he is ready for tomorrow he will give the Swedish offence an extra dimension and the Danish defenders even more to worry about.

Speed is the key for Denmark

If Denmark shall keep Sweden out of the endzone, finding a way to contain Cox Jr. is important, but to win the game they have to score themselves. And while the Swedes might look bigger and stronger, they lack in speed.

During the game against Finland, the Swedish defense struggled at times to keep pace with the Finnish up-tempo offence, and Denmark has to exploit that weakness.

“On defence we obviously had some problems that we need to correct before tomorrow, because the Danish team will bring some extra speed to the game. They’re quick and agile,” Swedish head coach Andreas Ehrenreich said after the game against Finland.

On the Danish team the Swedes will have to look out for running back #1 Emil Neumann-Pedersen, who ran for more than 150 yards against Finland and wide receivers #82 Thomas Ashworth and #7 Nicholas Kaplan.

The game kicks off at 18.00 at Gentofte Stadium, Ved Stadion 10, 2820 Gentofte. 

Tickets can be purchased at daff.safeticket.dk or in the door. Doors open one hour before kick-off. If you can’t get to Gentofte Stadium don’t worry, all the matches are streamed live on Zibrasport.dk/daff/live/

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Sweden Heavy Favored Against Strong Finns

Can Finland recover from their opening defeat and find a way to stop a Swedish team, that boost two of the most talented players ever to put on the yellow and blue jersey?

Finland lost their opening game in the U19 European Championship tournament against a strong Danish team, but the Finns have a big and strong team, and in the second half of the game against Denmark showed that they can put points on the board.

A year ago in Vantaan Finland won the Nordic Championship against Sweden, but going into Thursdays game Sweden are heavy favorites to win, not only are the team rested, but shortly before the tournament Sweden got a huge boost, when they added Swedish-Jamaican quarterback Michael Cox Jr to their roster.

Cox Jr. is born in Sweden, but grew up in Miami, where he is the starting quarterback on his High School team and has received interest from a number of the best schools in the country, like Florida State, West Virginia and Rutgers.

He is a so-called dual-treat quarterback, which means that he can both run the ball himself and pass it to his teammates. The Finns will have to step up and find a way to stop him, if they want to win.

You can watch his highlights from last season here.

But the Swedish offense has other weapons then Cox. Running back Villy Tengroth from Swedish club Tåby Flyers is almost certain to sign with an American Division I-college, and has already received an offer from University of Massachusetts.

“I’m getting a lot of interest from schools, but UMass is currently my favorite,” Tengroth said according to 247sports.com. “So far I’m loving [UMass], and the idea of going there is even better.”

Swedens Head Coach Andreas Ehrenreich thinks Tengroth is the biggest Swedish talent on the position he has seen in his 25 years in football.

Big and strong

Apart from the two college-bound players, the Swedish Head Coach points to the size of his offensive players as something that will make a difference.

“We have five guys all around two meters, weighing a little over 100 kilos, and two tight ends that give us a sevenman-attack against Finland and Denmark’s four man-defense – both countries play 4-3 defense,” the head coach told amerikanskfotboll.com earlier this month.

Look out for is the Örebro Black Knights duo Isaac Moore (1,98m, 135 kg) and Gustav Rydberg (1,96m, 120 kg) who were both nominated as rookies of the years in the Swedish Super Series.

The Swedes familiarity with each other can also be a strong asset. Many of the Swedish players know each other very well, as more than a dozen of the players attend the same High School, RIG (The National Sports High School) in Uppsala.

Finns focus on own game

Finland has to focus on their own game, head coach Tero Virtanen, said after his team’s loss to Denmark.

“When you lose, you need to clean up your game. It’s not about the opponent, it’s our own game I’m focusing on,” he said. “We don’t know much about Sweden, so we have to focus on ourselves.”

One of the positive things that the Finnish head coach could take with him from the game against Denmark, was strong defensive play from defensive back Mikko Behm, who has two interceptions and linebacker Teemu Hukkanen who had a combined 11 tackles in the game.

The game kicks off at 15.00 at Gentofte Stadium, Ved Stadion 10, 2820 Gentofte. 

Tickets can be purchased at daff.safeticket.dk or in the door. If you can’t get to Gentofte Stadium don’t worry, all the matches are streamed live on Zibrasport.dk/daff/live/

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Denmark seeks revenge against strong Finns

Denmark and Finland open the Under-19 European Championship, when the two teams meet at Gentofte Stadion on Wednesday.

Photo: Riitta Rinta-Tassi

Blue Lions missing strong profiles from 2016

The two head coaches must be very familiar with the opponent, as the two teams have run into each other at several occasions. Last time at the Nordic Championship in 2016, where the eventual winners of the tournament from Finland, won the game 56-14.

The Danish team will seek to revenge that humiliating defeat and keep the chance of booking a world championship-ticket alive.

And the blue lions from Finland will be without some of their big profiles from that game, including quarterback Oscar Drockila who has club duty with his Czech team Ostrava Steelers and running back Karri Pajarinen. So, it is “next man up” for the Finnish head coach.

“We are above all a team,” head coach Tero Virtanen tells salj.fi.  “We play two games virtually every day. That’s why it’s important for us to have 45 players in our hands, each of whom can put the ball in any situation.”

Talented linemen on both sides

The Finnish team will instead be led by quarterback Viljami Rautavuori from Helsinki Wolverines and on defense by the 1,87 meters and 140 kilos heavy defensive lineman Aleksi Olavuo also from Wolverines. Also standing out is the huge offensive lineman Mikko Rajala from Turku Trojans. The 18-year old is 1,92 tall and listed at 145 kilos.

On the other side, the Danish head coach Lars Carlsen, is also missing one of his most talented players. Middle linebacker Magnus Vöge, who is getting ready to play his senior year of high school football in Oklahoma.

The head coach must put his hopes that a talented offensive line spearheaded by Kasper Kaufmann Sørensen from AaB 89ers, can make space for running back Emil Neumann from Søllerød Gold Diggers. Wide Receiver Thomas Ashworth from Søllerød Gold Diggers will have to have a good game, if the hosts shall hope for a win.

The game kicks off at 12.00 at Gentofte Stadium, Ved Stadion 10, 2820 Gentofte. 

Tickets can be purchased at daff.safeticket.dk or in the door. If you can’t get to Gentofte Stadium don’t worry, all the matches are streamed live on Zibrasport.dk/daff/live/

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U19 EC will bring hard fought battles on the gridiron

Photographer: Riitta Rinta-Tassi

Looking at the three teams in this years Under 19 European Championships fans have some exciting games to look forward to. Finland, Sweden and hosts Denmark all look to secure the bragging rights of winning the tournament against their rivals as well as booking a ticket to the Under 19 World Championships.

The ambition of the participants cannot be questioned, so besides hard fought battles on the gridiron, what can fans expect from the three games being played in Gentofte, Denmark?

Keep an eye on the trenches in all three games in these championships, because the offensive and defensive lines look very impressive. Line play can often dictate a game, and all three teams look to come out on top in the battle of the big boys.

‘Boys’ is perhaps not the greatest way to describe the powerhouses spearheading both the respective offenses and defenses as several players from all teams boast superior strength than the average human being, and mix that with the football knowledge and technical ability of the talented young men, we’re in for a treat.

Also, worth noting is the intelligence and experience on both the offensive but in particular the defensive side of the ball on all three teams. Being able to quickly diagnose a play before the snap and adjust to how the offensive play pans out is key to being a good defender, and mix the intelligence with the raw athletic ability on these teams, and you get the basis for spectacular plays on both sides of the ball.

Team Finland

The Finland Blue Lions won last year’s Nordic Championship, which featured the same three teams as this year’s European Championship, which puts a target on their backs, as Sweden and Denmark look for revenge. To keep the challengers at bay Finland relies on their offensive line to pave the way for good rushing yardage as well as a clean pocket and good time for the aerial attack.

Several players play with the seniors despite their young age, and experience is one of the elements that make this offense click. Keep an eye on the offensive line and the likes of Aleksi Olavuo, who won All-Star honors for Massachusetts Eastern Athletic Championship Conference – his high school division.

On the defensive side of the ball human wrecking ball Dennis Ilmelä played a key part of the Helsinki Roosters championship run last year, and he is another of the Finnish players with high school experience from the US. Pass rush from the defensive line and coverage in the secondary by several players with experience from the Maple League – Finland’s best division – make the Blue Lions a tough team to pass against.

Team Sweden

The Swedes boast an athletic squad with pure physical ability that’s hard to match. Averaging 193 centimeters and 123 kilograms the sheer size of the offensive line is closing in on the offensive lines of the NFL and making the unit hard to overlook – both literally and metaphorically. Also noteworthy on the offensive line of Sweden are multiple scholarship offers from division 1 schools in the college ranks of America for multiple players.

Looking at the players trying to take advantage of the work of the big guys up front is quarterback Michael Cox Jr., who has won 8A high school state championships last year for his Miami high school as well as tailback Vilinthon ‘Villy’ Tengroth. Tengroth has the nickname ‘Wheels’, and with a clocked 40-yard dash time of 4.35 seconds that nickname is easy to understand.

Defensively Sweden poses a threat for opposing offenses on all levels of the defense. Athletic ability is in abundance on this side of the ball too, and is evident on both the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs. As a veritable chess piece for defensive coaches Rafael Martín Macarro was originally intended to play safety, but impressed at outside linebacker and will even put his hand down and rush the passer as a defensive end at times – a testament to his versatility.

Team Denmark

The hosts of the tournament are not without chess pieces of their own as one of the profiles for the Danes is running back Emil Neumann. The back is adept at both catching and running the ball well with his combination of speed and power, and his football intelligence makes him a good blocker as well, giving the offensive minds on the sideline flexibility to exploit opposing defenses. Another playmaker to look out for is wide receiver Thomas Ashworth, who has the speed and the experience to pose a threat on any given play.

Blocking for the talented running back is an offensive line headlined by Kasper Kaufmann Sørensen. Sørensen is said to be one of the most physically gifted offensive linemen the team has ever seen with a hallmark of his being his proficiency at the point of attack.

Defensively keep an eye on Mark Voll – the talented safety is a key part of the unbeaten Søllerød Gold Diggers of the best division in Denmark, playing alongside former NFL-player Desmond Cooper. His instincts and experience makes him a very good coverage back with an uncanny ability to read the quarterback. Denmark also has a man on the defensive line who can match the physical play of the opposing offensive lines – Marcus Boesen. He is currently the world record holder in powerlifting, squatting an astonishing 276 kg’s earlier this year setting the World Sub-Junior Record.

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