Austria victorious in the U19 European Championship semifinals, Finland advances to the bronze medal match
The Finnish U19 American football team suffered a 45-12 (17-0) defeat to Austria in the U19 European Championship semifinal played in Vienna on Sunday. Five-time defending champions Austria will advance to the final in September and face Sweden. Finland will compete for the bronze medal against Denmark.
The home team, Austria, was clearly better prepared for the game and constantly forced Finland into unfavorable field positions. The home team showed their dominance from the opening kickoff. An Austrian returner ran the ball to the end zone, but the touchdown was nullified due to an error during the return.
In a pre-game interview, Finland’s head coach, Pekka Lamminsalo, stated that the game would be decided by field positions, and he was proven right. Throughout the entire first half, the Finnish team failed to cross the midfield line, and most offensive possessions started deep in their own territory. In the first two quarters, led by quarterback Jerry Silomaa, the offense mostly relied on running back Henri Kaasinen’s rushes, but the home team prevented the Finns from scoring.
Finland’s defense put pressure on the Austrian offense and allowed only one rushing touchdown by quarterback Michael Szabo in the first half. The halftime score of 17-0 included a defensive interception returned for a touchdown and a successful field goal.
The second half started as a nightmare for Finland. Austria recovered an onside kick and scored a touchdown on the subsequent possession, extending the lead to 24-0. When Finland then fumbled the ball to their opponent on their first offensive play, Austria further increased their lead to 31-0.
Finland managed to score points only in the final quarter. Atte Peltola caught a beautiful pass from Silomaan in the end zone, and on the following possession, running back Aleksi Hirvonen broke free in the middle and ran the ball into the end zone.
Special teams play proved to be Finland’s downfall, as it is difficult to practice such aspects with limited gatherings in national team programs. When measuring the game’s situations in terms of yards gained, Austria’s lead wasn’t as significant as the scoreboard indicated. The host team gained 234 yards on the field, while Finland had 192 yards. Henri Kaasinen, especially in the first half, collected the most yards for the Finns, with 71 net yards on 17 attempts.
Finland’s most effective defensive player was Juho Angervo, with 8.5 tackles. Angervo also recorded one of Finland’s two interceptions. Luka Hietala made 4.5 tackles and sacked the quarterback twice. The second interception was made by Elias Ylitalo.
After the game, Finland’s head coach, Pekka Lamminsalo, acknowledged that Austria had proven to be the best U19 team in Europe but expressed satisfaction with his team’s fight until the end of the game.
The U19 European Championship medals will be decided on September 16-17, 2023
- Check: Austria-Finland stats
- Photo: Jarmo Vehkomäki