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EFL quarterfinals ahead
Across the continent Eurobowl dreams blossommed for four teams on the first weekend of May: The winners of the four preliminary groups were determined. Reigning Eurobowl champion Tirol Raiders, the Graz Giants, the Porvoo Butchers and Flash de La Courneuve now are joined by the Berlin Adler, the Vienna Vikings, the Danube Dragons and the Valencia Firebats in the quarterfinals. Quarterfinals are scheduled for May 15, with home field advantage for the four last year's semifinalists.
Four teams from Austria staff the round of the last eight teams. Austrian teams have won the Eurobowl trophy for the last six years in a row, Tirol and Graz secured their spot in this year's quarterfinals when they reached the semifinals of 2009, Danube Dragons and Vienna Vikings now followed in their footsteps. Vienna has a chance to return to the semifinals after falling short last year. Before that the club from the Austrian capital had made it into the top four in Europe from 2001 to 2008. Austrian rival Tirol Raiders would make it to six semifinal births in a row with a home victory on May 15 against Valencia.
The Austrian armada of four teams in the quarterfinals is of note especially in a year, in which the European Championships at Frankfurt will lead arch-rivals Germany and Austria against each other again in a national teams tournament after a long time. In the meantime the Austrians excelled on club level, tying the record mark of six Eurobowl victories, a mark Germany held alone, until Tirol's 2009 triumph put both nations on the same level. Another Austrian or German title would further spark the rivalry before the eagerly awaited EC opener on July 24.
So reigning German champion Berlin Adler is not only playing for its own fate, but carries a special national burden. After eliminating Swedish champion Stockholm Mean Machines the German champion will now spend a visit to Porvoo in Finland. For Berlin the EFL clash with Stockholm was the home opener of the season - as the quarterfinal game now will be for the Porvoo Butchers. As Germans and Scandinavians start their national seasons later than most of the other European countries, big efforts are needed especially in the early stages of EFL, when fine-tuning within the teams may not have reached the level later on used to win national titles. It has been kind of a excuse for lacking success in past EFL seasons, but this year this will not be valid: One team out of Germany/Scandinavia will get the chance to prove itself in the semifinals in June, when the teams should be in full strength.
On the other hand the scheduling guarantees at least one semifinals spot to the Austrians. Danube goes on to face the Graz Giants in an all-Austrian quarterfinal, a rematch of their national league game of April 25, when Graz escaped with a 28-13 victory. However the result misleads a little: After two quick Graz touchdowns both teams for almost the entire game were on even level and the Dragons hope to have their revenge in the upcoming EFL rematch.
The Vienna Vikings take a trip to Paris in the quarterfinals to continue their EFL rivalry with La Courneuve Flash. After Vienna won the 2006 Eurobowl final by a score of 41-9, the French turned things around last year, when they eliminated the Vikings in the quarterfinals at Vienna. A bitter loss for the Vikings, who had been to the semifinals for eight years in a row before. Later on in 2009 the Vikings already surprised as Austrian champion and are determined to get back onto the road of success in EFL as well.
Defending Eurobowl champion Tirol Raiders will host the Valencia Firebats, who needed to win their group game against Elancourt by at least 16 points to stay alive in the competition - and they hit the number quite accurately winning 35-18. The Firebats converted the try for two points after their last touchdown, Elancourt did not - and this pathed the way for the first Spanish team to reach the final stages of the Eurobowl competition since 2004.