Champions League 2018 Tournament Review
Champions League 2018 Tournament Review
The best of the best from throughout the continent made their way to Amsterdam over the weekend to contest the highly acclaimed 4th annual AFL Europe Champions League trophy.
With 24 teams from 14 nations competing in the tournament, this year’s edition of the Champions League featured more talent and more players than any other previous competitions.
Held at the Sportpark de Eendracht with 54 matches across the day to decide the champions across both men’s and women’s divisions, the tournament continued to press it’s claims as one of Australian Footballs premier international spectacles.
Coming into the tournament, the women’s competition seemed from the outside to be very competitive and very open. With three teams making their debut at the Champions League, including a German side competing for the first time as a squad in the Hamburg Dockers, it was a case of expecting the unexpected when it came to the girls side of things.
Group A featured a pool of just three teams including Port Malmo Lynx, Odense Lionesses and the Hamburg Dockers. From the outset, the quality of this pool was on show with Odense picking up their first victory in a tight affair against the Hamburg Dockers. Unfortunately for the German side, they would lose both their pool games to very strong opposition. Port Malmo Lynx showed their superiority and class putting six goals through the Dockers in their first match, before losing a tight affair to Odense by just two points in the final game of the group. As these teams were a part of a pool of three, both the Lynx and the Lionesses made it through to the semi-finals.
Pool B featured the reigning AFL London league champions the Wandsworth Demons, along with young guns the Nottingham Scorpions, Bordeaux Bombers and West Clare Waves. Despite the Demons strong form throughout the tournament, it would be the West Clare Waves that would finish on top of Pool B. Going through the group stages undefeated, the Waves made their intentions clear from the outset with a six goal to nothing victory over the Bordeaux Bombers. The Wandsworth Demons also kicked six goals against the Bombers after putting on a convincing performance against the Scorpions. This set up a showdown to decide who would top Pool B, with the Demons coming up short against a fast, slick and hungry Waves lineup. In the remaining fixture, the Scorpions were able to pick up their first win at a Champions League competition against Bordeaux.
Coming into the semi finals, both women’s matches looked on paper to be quite close affairs. This however would not be the case, with the Wandsworth Demons and West Clare Waves flexing their muscles come finals time. On Pitch 1, the Waves started strongly and didn’t look back with a comfortable 37 point victory over the Lynx. Likewise on Pitch 2, the Demons posted their highest score for the tournament against the Lionesses, on their way to a 39 point win. It was all set for a rematch between the Waves and the Demons in the final.
The final started like you would expect most finals to start. Very close and heavily contested, until the Waves took their game to another level. Punishing the Demons errors, the Waves were able to make the most of their opportunities and eventually ran out 29 point winners. A first win for the West Clare Waves at a Champions League competition, made even sweeter by defeating one of the powerhouses of football in Europe.
The men’s competition at this year’s Champions League featured four groups with great contest and close matches featuring in every group. The West London Wildcats would go into the tournament as favourites, looking for a historic four-peat and Champions League immortality with victory in Amsterdam. They got off to the perfect start, easily accounting for the Bristol Dockers, Zagreb Dockers and ALFA Lions in Group C and conceding just three goals on their way to the semi-finals.
Their London rivals the Wandsworth Demons also got off to a terrific start in Amsterdam. Featuring in the pool of five in Group B including the Sesvete Double Blues, Stockholm Dynamite, Styrian DownUnder Dogs, Winterthur Lions, the Demons went through unbeaten and unscathed to top their respective group. Elsewhere in Group B, the Dynamite, Dogs and Double Blues all pinched wins and valuable experience moving forward in 2018.
The Leeside Lions entered the Sportpark de Eendracht as a serious contender for the Champions League title. Alongside the Copenhagen Barracudas, Oslo Crows and Manchester Mosquitoes in Group D, the Lions made their intentions clear very early with a 58 point win over the Oslo Crows. They then followed this performance up with an 18 point victory against the Barracudas. As their biggest competitor within the group, the Manchester Mosquitoes also won their first two matches. They just beat the Barracudas by a singular goal before finding some form against the Crows in their second match. As predicted, the winner of Manchester and Leeside would make it through to the semi-finals, and it was Leeside who got the job done. In a tight affair, the Lions won by 14 points and booked their place in the last four.
Runners-up from last year’s tournament and the competitions hosts the Amsterdam Devils, entered the 2018 Champions League with a point to prove. In a pool featuring the Greater Glasgow Giants, North West Eagles and Berlin Crocodiles, the Devils would need to overcome some fierce competition to make their way to the finals. It was clear from the early games in this pool that the Crocodiles and the Devils were the two teams vying for the top spot in Group A. The Berlin boys started off strongly with big wins against the Eagles and the Giants. Likewise the Devils easily accounted those opponents to set up a crucial match against the hosts. The Crocodiles vs Devils showdown was a match that had everything. Goals, great marks, fantastic tackles and fierce pressure, created a match that was decided by just one singular kick. In the end, it was Amsterdam who just got over the line against their German opponents by just one goal.
Two massive semi-finals headlined the close nature of the men’s competition at the Champions League in 2018.
On Pitch 1, cross-town rivals the West London Wildcats and the Wandsworth Demons would battle it out in a London derby not to be missed. The Demons tried their hearts out but the Wildcats were just too good. After a reasonably close first half, the Wildcats broke the game open in the second to win by 27 points and make their way to the Grand Final.
On Pitch 2, the Amsterdam Devils looked to make it back to back finals by taking care of the Leeside Lions. Playing in front of a large and loud crowd, the Devils took their fans on a roller-coaster ride. The Lions were brave and fought back on numerous occasions, but it was the Devils who yet again made their way through to the final by just two points. For the second straight game, the Devils had made their way through to the next stage of the tournament by a very bare margin.
For the second time in a row, it would be Amsterdam and West London in the men’s grand final. Although Amsterdam had only just scrapped wins in their previous two games, the Devils started the final in very promising fashion. In a very hotly contested first half, the sides went into the main break at eight points a piece in a low scoring affair. The start of the second half was always going to be vital for Amsterdam to stay in touch with the reigning champions and they tried their best to keep with the talented Wildcats outfit. But with too many stars and too much class, it was the Wildcats who broke away from the Devils in the second half to claim their fourth consecutive Champions League crown by 20 points. An achievement showcasing their superiority as a football club in Europe.
An event such as this is not possible without the support and fantastic efforts of many people throughout the day. A special mention and a big thank you to the umpiring squad who officiated the matches on the day for their outstanding contribution to the sport in Europe.
Once again, our thanks must be said to AFL Netherlands for their superb management of this event in combination with the team at Spark United & Sportpark de Eendracht for hosting us and Drovers Dog for providing extra food and beverage options.
To all the volunteers and pitch managers who work so hard throughout the day and the team managers, we applaud you for your service to the sport and thank you once again for ensuring the day could run as smoothly as possible.
We would also like to acknowledge and the Australian Ambassador to the Netherlands Brett Mason and Tony Pubjie the First Consul of the Australian Embassy to the Netherlands for coming along and supporting this fantastic event by presenting the Champions trophies and the Team of the Tournament jumpers.
To the players and coaches, congratulations on an outstanding tournament played in great spirit both on and off the field.
You all represented your leagues proudly.
Good luck with your 2018 seasons!
Will Taylor – AFL Europe