Finland bowed to Austria in the American football European Championship final
Austria won its first-ever European Championship in American football on their home turf in St. Pölten. The celebrations in the almost full stadium began after the evenly started final ended in favor of the home team, 28-0 (7-0).
Finland’s dream of a sixth European championship was crushed in St. Pölten, Austria, on Saturday evening. The home team withstood the pressure of being the favorite and won the final convincingly with a score of 28-0. Finland managed to keep the game even in the first half, especially thanks to its strong defense. However, the momentum shifted to the home team after Finland failed to score on their well-progressed opening drive at the beginning of the third quarter. The key player in the game was Austria’s MVP, wide receiver Philipp Haun, who caught three touchdowns.
Finland’s offense did not get the desired start. In the first half, Finland only gained 35 yards, and quarterback Miro Kadmiry completed only one of his ten initial passes successfully. Austria’s strong defense effectively covered Kadmiry’s passing options, and the aggressively charging home team’s defensive line did not give enough time for the plays to develop. It is surprising that Finland’s quarterback was sacked only once in the game.
Austria’s standout in defense was the bull-like Thomas Schaffer, who was brought from the Canadian CFL league to compete for the European title. Schaffer, who plays for the Ottawa Redblacks in the current CFL season, has played in six games, collecting two tackles. On Saturday in St. Pölten, he managed to tackle a Finnish player 2.5 times, but his most significant contribution was disrupting Kadmiry’s time, limiting the options for open receivers.
Overall, Finland gained 158 yards in the game. Kadmiry threw the ball 21 times, and only seven of those attempts reached the Finnish players. Austria’s defense intercepted Kadmiry’s pass twice. Kimi Linnainmaa was the leading receiver, gaining 28 yards with one catch. Luukas Eerola recorded 23 yards with two catches. Finland’s best rusher in the game was Karri Pajarinen with 55 yards, 43 of which came from running plays.
Finland’s head coach Mikko Koikkainen commented on the game as follows:
-Austria had big plays in the offense, and we didn’t. We were close a few times, and that could have changed the course of the game. The defense played a great game and kept us in it. The home crowd was as expected, strong, and gave Austria a significant advantage.
Despite the loss, the Finnish defense, praised by Koikkainen, played a good game. Stopping the run was particularly successful. After the first two quarters, Austria was kept in negative yards in terms of running, and throughout the game, they gained only 17 yards on the ground. Finnish players who succeeded in sacking the opposing quarterback were Timi Nuikka, Elmeri Laalo, and Viljo Lempinen. Nuikka and Taavi Aronpää were the most eager tacklers, with both recording five stops.
For many Finnish players, the EM final may have been their last American football game. Although the loss is a significant disappointment after the game, Finland ultimately became the second-best team in the continent in the European Championship games. It’s a remarkable achievement. Koikkainen believes that, in time, the players will appreciate their accomplishment:
-Despite the loss, I am proud of our team. I believe that the medal will start to taste better at some point, even though the loss in the final was disappointing. Thanks to every player who was involved in this project.
Finland still the most successful in Europe
The podium finish marked Finland’s 14th in the history of American football European Championships and the fifth silver medal. It has been 22 years since Finland’s last silver medal, making the achievement of an EM silver far from an everyday occurrence. In the IFAF EM rankings, Finland still maintains its undisputed top position as the best country, and there have been no changes to that for years.
In the EM series bronze-medal match in Gothenburg, Italy defeated Sweden with a score of 26-7.
Stats: Ottelun tilastot
Watch the game YLE Areena
Photos: Jarmo Vehkomäki