The 2019 European Championships kicked off today at Wimbledon Park in London with nine games taking place across the day. The opening day was played with the carnival format with all games being played with 20-minute halves.
This tournament is AFL Europe’s premier 18-a-side competition, and it took some teams a little while to adapt to the different field size and numbers on the ground compared to the 9-a-side format which is more common across Europe.
However, once the teams blew some of the cobwebs out of their system, the football was thrilling, with every team played two games each.
In the women’s draw, the three teams competing played each other once today as the Great Britain Swans look to retain their title from 2016. For the Irish Banshees, they are looking to make it two from two at major AFL Europe tournaments this year after claiming the Euro Cup back in June, while the German Eagles are looking to close the gap between the top three sides and after a strong Euro Cup where they claimed bronze, they will be quietly confident of causing an upset with plenty still left to play for.
The first match saw a rematch of the Euro Cup Grand Final as the Great Britain Swans took on the Irish Banshees and it was the Banshees who dominated from the first bounce. With fast ball and clean ball movement into their forward 50, they made the most of their opportunities in the first half., kicking eight goals from 10 scoring shots. The Swans battled hard but just couldn’t match the Irish. The second half was a tighter contest, but the Swans couldn’t close the gap as the Banshees ran out winners by 70 points.
Following that, it was time for the Eagles to play their first game as they played the Swans. After the result in the opening match, this games final score could prove to be pivotal to the final standings ahead of Saturday’s Grand Final. In a back and forth match, with both defences standing strong in windy conditions, it was the Eagles who made the most of their chances to record a seven point victory that may be crucial to the final standings.
To close out the day, the Banshees were back in action against the German Eagles, and the Irish continued their form from their opening game. The German’s, however, made the Banshees work hard for the win, but a couple of changes by the German coaching staff at half time, they couldn’t prevent a strong Irish side from eventually winning by 57 points.
Over in Pool A of the men’s, the Irish Warriors, Danish Vikings and German Eagles battled it out on day 1 to determine who would reach tomorrow’s semi-finals matches. Following their silver medal at the Euro Cup, the Warriors would have been keen to get on the field, and they did just that with their opening match against the German Eagles who, just like their female counterparts, are looking to take a step closer to the main contenders in AFL Europe.
This match started off at a high intensity, but after that, the Irish Warriors gained full control of the match, as their midfield and forward line were too strong for the Eagles. Germany fought hard to reduce the Warriors impact, but couldn’t convert their on the scoreboard, and when the final siren sounded, the Warriors had opened their European Championships with an impressive 70 point win.
Next up in Pool A, it was time to see the Vikings take to the field in an AFL Europe tournament for the first time this year, as they took on the Warriors. After a big win in the first game, the Irish were hoping to carry that momentum into this match, however, this game saw the Vikings dominate as they restricted the dangerous Irish team to just two behind. The Vikings were too fast and efficient with their ball movement for their opponents, on their way to a 26 point win to start their tournament.
To finish off the day in Pool A, the Eagles returned to the ground as they battled against the Vikings, with the Eagles needing to win to make the semi finals. The first half was a battle between the two half back lines, as both team struggled to get a clean entry into their forward thanks to some impressive defence from both teams. However, the class and experience of Denmark shone through in the second half as they ran out winners by 24 points winners in the end.
First up in Pool B were the reigning premiers, the Great Britain Bulldogs, who are keen to retain their title. They took on the French Coqs who have had a successful year, having beaten the Australian Spirit in the ANZAC Cup before finishing 4th at the Euro Cup, just falling short in a thrilling 3rd Place Match against Germany.
In a match that saw two traditional rivals battle against each other, it was the Great Britain Bulldogs who gained the upper hand in Pool B. The first half was a tough contest, with neither team able to gain real control of the game in the midfield, but the class of the Bulldogs started to shine through in the second half as they fought their way to 32 point win against a valiant French side.
The next game saw the Croatian Knights get their tournament underway against the Bulldogs, and in an extremely physical match, both teams were at it from the start. The Knights had a number of chances early but couldn’t convert, allowing the Bulldogs to gain control and eventually run away with the game as they won by 19 points to finish the top of Pool B.
Closing out the opening day on pitch one, the Coqs played against the Knights in a key battle to determine who would reach the semi-finals tomorrow. This was one of the tightest matches of the day, and it was in the balance until the final couple of minutes as both teams fought for that crucial semi final position. When the final siren sounded, the reactions of the Croatian players told the story, as they secured a 13 point victory.