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/