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U19 WFC 2018 A-Division: Final day – 06.05.2018

Czechs bag bronze and seal return to podium with defeat of Poland and Sweden “är guld” as they make history with perfect hat-trick of consecutive world titles.

Tomas Martinik’s Czech Republic U19 side accomplished their mission of returning to the podium at the 2018 IFF U19 Women’s Floorball World Championships, coming from behind to oust Poland and take home the A-Division Bronze Medal.

Sweden were crowned champions of the IFF U19 Women’s Floorball World Championships for the sixth time, after overcoming an early deficit to humble bitter rivals Finland and seal an unprecedented third consecutive gold medal. It is also the third straight tournament where this fixture has been contested in the final, with runners-up Finland coming up short against their old rivals once again.

A-Division Bronze 12:00 (CET): Poland U19 1:3 Czech Republic U19

In one of the lowest scoring games of the championships, which epitomised the sheer nerve-jangling and competitive nature of the match, the Czechs had to rise to the ultimate test of being frustrated before going behind and having to pull the game back into their grasp amidst the tension all over the St. Gallen venue, but it was a test they rose to when the chips were down, sparking wild celebrations from players, management, and fans alike, both on the Czech bench and in the stands at the full-time klaxon.

The first period set the tone for the thrilling encounter, the Czechs unable to capitalise on their early chances with a Barbora Huskova snapshot cannoning off the bar before a combination of the post and Polish goalkeeper Patrycja Bernacka thwarting Lucie Cholinska in the Czech attack. Poland looked a danger on the break themselves, however, and fired two efforts just wide in the closing stages of a goalless opening period. With Poland finishing the set strongly, beginning to show more endeavour in their play, they started the second set in a similar vein, and within three minutes of the restart, they were ahead against the overall balance of play. Weronika Gradzka got the better of her marker and fed Martyna Sumislawka, who bundled home to put Poland in sight of a medal in their first last-four appearance since 2008.

Staring down the barrel of an unthinkable podium miss for the second World Championships running, the Czechs had to respond, and as urgency in their play increased they finally found a way to breach the Polish rearguard three minutes after going behind, Lenka Faltusova the grateful recipient of Lucie Rezacova’s lay-off as she fired in to restore parity. From there, the Czechs sensed a winner, and they boxed Poland in for relentless spells, but were unable to find a way through despite a numerical player advantage,  Poland giving away four minutes’ worth of penalty dismissals, Bernacka a behemoth in the Polish goal, at one point pulling out a stunning double save to keep the scores level. Yet, two minutes before the final interval, the Czechs were gifted a goal, goalkeeper Bernacka unable to hold onto a shot from distance, and after spilling the ball, the Polish defence couldn’t clear their lines and Krristyna Otcovska pounced, feeding Nikol Pekarkova who rifled in to turn the game around and give the Czechs the lead going into the final interval.

Poland were then forced to play the risky game and come at the Czechs, but now in the ascendency, they weren’t about to give up the lead, and even saw out a nervy couple of minutes a player light thanks to Vendula Berankova serving a two minute penalty sit-out. Shortly after returning to full strength with just two minutes left, they started the party early, Barbora Sedlackova taking aim, her strike from distance taking a deflection and sneaking into the bottom corner beyond the sprawling fingertips of Bernacka to make it 3:1 and put the game beyond Poland. The Czech support was in fine voice over the closing stages, the biggest roar coming at the full-time klaxon as players and management inundated the court. Mission accomplished, and the Czechs can now look to the next step, whilst Poland leave with their heads held high after a fine campaign of their own.

“I can’t describe my emotions right now”, Czech MVP Vendula Berankova said after the match. “We came here looking for a medal and we got what we wanted, we went out there and gave it our all today, we’re elated”.

“It was a close game won by the fine details today, and I think we were just that little bit more clinical in front of goal once we were given the kick of the Polish girls going ahead. We’re so happy now and we’ll enjoy the moment but we can look forward to a positive future. There are some good young players yet to come here and hopefully there’ll be plenty more moments like this to come”.

A-Division Final 15:00 (CET): Sweden U19 7:2 Finland U19

Free scoring Sweden had scored 66 goals en route to the final, conceding a mere six, and they had not fallen behind at any time, but they did so on the big occasion which raised the eyebrows of all in attendance. Milja Saarikoski fed Julia Woivalin, who tapped home inside the third minute to put Finland in front and stun the Swedes early on.

The early concession served only as a wake-up call to Sweden as they upped their early intensity in search of an equaliser, but were left frustrated by Finland’s last gasp defending. But with all the craft, quality and industry of Sweden for creating goals, their pressure yielded its reward before too long, Cajsa Elm receiving Madeleine Karlsson’s pass and finishing coolly to restore parity. The spell that followed was the tightest of the final, both rivals enjoying a premium of chances, but Finland gave Sweden the lift they needed to go on by gifting them a penalty shot right before the break, which Frida Swahn duly accepted, emphatically firing in beyond a helpless Elsi Kangasharju to go ahead.

Sweden were in no need of a gift, and it gave them the lift they needed to find another gear, Lisa Svarfvar sent clear down the right just after the break and she fired in for 3:1, before Jasmiina Jarvinen halved the deficit for Finland shortly after in what proved mere temporary respite. MVP Ellen Backstedt added a double to propel Sweden to 5:2, before the excellent Frida Swahn fired in her second and Wilma Johansson confounded Finland’s final misery with a seventh 12 minutes from time.

The full-time klaxon sparked celebrations on the Swedish bench and in the crowd, as they became the first team to be crowned champions three times in a row, the Number One seed continuing to amass more milestones and write history, and this latest title may be one of their most impressive at U19 level to date.

“It’s an amazing feeling”, elated MVP Ellen Backstedt said after the game. “I didn’t know that this meant we were the first team to win three in a row! But it just feels great to bring another title back to Sweden”

“Yes, we have come here and beaten many teams well, but it isn’t just a case of winning titles being business as usual, we have to work hard and be at our best to be as successful as we are, and we’ll carry on doing so”.

Original articles: wfc2018.ch
Matches, Highlights, Interviews: IFF YouTube Channel 1
Photos: IFF Flickr