St. Gallen, Switzerland, May 5, 2018- World Number Two Finland became the first-team to book their place in the gold medal final line-up of the 2018 IFF U19 Women’s Floorball World Championship A-Division, after a composed performance in St. Gallen was enough to see off a stubborn Czech Republic, who will return to court on Sunday themselves to fight for the bronze medal against Poland. Group A winners Sweden eased aside the Poles in their semi-final in the evening game, to set up a meeting with their local rivals for the grand prize.
Meanwhile, hosts Switzerland wrapped up fifth place with victory over Norway in the afternoon to end their campaign on a high, whilst Germany secured seventh place and A-Division survival in dramatic fashion, thanks to a breathtaking late comeback in a thriller against Slovakia, the latter relegated to the B-Division for the 2020 edition of these championships.
A-Division 7th place/relegation playoff (10:00 CET): Germany U19 5:4 Slovakia U19
With survival in the A-Division at stake in this opening match-up, it was bound to be a tense and dramatic affair before a ball was hit on court. But this encounter served up an absolute classic that scarcely anyone in attendance or watching online would have anticipated, a tempestuous thriller of a tie swinging one way and then the other before the Germans snatched two goals in the last five minutes to pull a win from the fire and preserve their A-Division status, condemning the Slovaks to the B-Division in 2020.
The match couldn’t have started better for the Germans, their clinical streak up front aided by the heroics of Julia Bran in goal as strikes from Jana Baccus, Julia Diesener and MVP Winona Jurgens had Germany cruising at 3:0 after 25 minutes. A 33rd minute strike by Klara Grossova sowed a seed of doubt in German minds going into the final third, and after the break, their lead disintegrated before them in a horror ten minutes, Michaela Zikavska, capitalising on lacklustre defending to hit a ten minute hat-trick and stun the Germans. The Slovaks, having looked down and out were on the cusp of safety with ten minutes left. But one final twist was to come. Germany took advantage of an extra player advantage, Julia Diesener restoring parity with just under five minutes remaining, then under a minute later, they got the winner. Slovak goalkeeper Kristina Hlavata made a hash of what looked a simple save, and Anna-Lena Best pounced on the error, squaring for Winona Jurgens to tap in and score to propel Germany to safety and send the bench, and the travelling support into raptures, and they held on for a stunning 5:4 victory.
“We can’t believe it”, MVP Winona Jurgens said afterwards. “We played really well and put in our best performance yet for the fans, who were amazing all game”.
“We started well, then I think we made mistakes to let them back in. Then once we were behind we were nervous. But we didn’t give up, fought to the end and got our reward”.
The match was Head Coach Jaroslav Marks’ final game in charge of Slovakia, and their crestfallen MVP Adriana Bahnova was disappointed that they couldn’t hold onto the win for him.
“We’re devastated, we really wanted this win for him in his last match”, she said in an emotional interview.
“It’s hard to take after fighting so hard to get back into the game, but that’s the fighting spirit we have to show to get back up to the A-Division in 2020. We have a lot of good young players and we’ll come back fighting for sure. But for now, of course we’re all hurting”.
A-Division Semi-Final 1 (13:00 CET): Finland U19 4:1 Czech Republic U19
It didn’t quite yield as pulsating an encounter as the first game of the day, but it did showcase the type of composed and professional performance that often wins competitions such as this, Finland remaining disciplined in defence and converting their key chances as they ran out 4:1 winners over Czech Republic, who can take pride in an encouraging performance and go into their Bronze Medal match full of confidence. Finland will be fighting for the grand prize, however, set on their way in this match by Milja Saarikoski’s opening strike after 13 minutes, before Iina Latvala added a timely second goal three minutes before the end of the second period to relieve intense Czech pressure, goalkeeper Elsi Kangasharju summoned to intervene on 39 occasions. She was finally beaten a short way into the final third as Eliska Jureckova struck to give the Czechs hope, but the Finnish cushion was enough to keep them at arms’ length, Finnish MVP Taru Nordman knocking the stuffing out of the stubborn Czechs before a late fourth was added by Maura Paajanen for a flattering final score.
“We’re so happy that we’re in the final!”, a beaming Nordman said after the match. “We know we’ll have to be even better than we were today if we want to win it, but we’ve gotten better with every game and are full of confidence. I think we can definitely come out here again and win it!”
“We’re disappointed of course”, said Czech MVP Lucie Cholinska. “But we have to put this disappointment behind us. Our aim here was a podium finish and we have a chance of achieving that tomorrow. We’re going to come back here and give it everything we have to win”.
A-Division 5th place match (16:00 CET): Switzerland U19 8:2 Norway U19
A crowd of 954 spectators turned out for the host-nation’s final outing at these championships, and the vast majority went home happy after the hosts put in an impressive closing performance to oust Norway and end the campaign on a high. The 8:2 score-line didn’t give the visitors just credit for their endeavours, the balance of play largely even but the Norwegians were continually frustrated by the guile and artistry of Swiss goalkeeper Livia Werz, who pulled off a total of 23 saves to restrict Norway to just two goals throughout the hour. An Andrea Wildermuth hat-trick gave the hosts lift off in the first period, a 4:0 Swiss lead established by the first interval, before Selma Bergmann, Annique Meyer and Wildermuth added further strikes to answer Rikke Ingebrigtsli Hansen’s and Nora Benedicte Norheim’s consolation goals. There was even time for Wildermuth to notch another goal in the final set, the difference between the fortune of both in front of goal simply the two goalkeepers.
“She (Livia Werz) was awesome for us today”, Swiss MVP Luana Rensch told the cameras after the match. “We wanted to put on a show for those fans out there today after a disappointing campaign and we did that”.
“We’ve got a lot of positives to take into future games and future competitions from this result. The fact we were ahead by one or two goals early on really helped us settle the nerves, which has been a problem for us in earlier games playing in front of a home crowd. But everything went for us today and we’re really happy. I’m confident we’ll do far better in 2020 though!”.
A-Division Semi-Final 2 (19:00 CET): Sweden U19 10:2 Poland U19
World Number One Sweden took to court in the last semi-final of the day in St. Gallen, and they put in a typically scintillating and stylish performance to power their way into Sunday’s final and a date with the Finns. It was 5:0 in favour of the Swedes against Poland by the first interval, Jonna Stenvall (two), Frida Swahn, Moa Gustafsson, and MVP Lisa Carlsson (penalty shot) with the goals, before Poland snuck a consolation goal back through Zemfira Zakojan in the second period. A further double from Swahn along with Gustafsson and Ellen Backstedt strikes saw the score go 9:1 in favour of Sweden by the start of the final third of the match, Zuzanna Krzystyniak adding another consolation for Poland before Gustafsson had the last word to take Sweden into double figures. A stylish performance typical of their demeanour here throughout the competition, and they can go into the final with full confidence, but know that it will not be easy street against their biggest rivals, who have negotiated closer games to reach the same stage.
“We’re so happy that we’re in the final and believe that Finland is the best opponent we could ask for”, MVP Lisa Carlsson said after the match. “We haven’t just been winning these games without really hitting our stride, we’ve had to work hard for these victories and having such a good crowd behind us really helps. It’s going to be a derby final and we’re all looking forward to it”.
Meanwhile, Poland will face a date with the Czech Republic with the bronze and a podium finish in their sights, and their MVP, Roksana Polanska, is confident they can shrug off the disappointment of semi-final defeat and give their all.
“We did our best and worked hard so we’re not disappointed in our performance”, she explained. “We were nervous and I guess slightly afraid of Sweden given their stature in the game, so today was all about the performance rather than the result. We still have a shot at a medal and our playing a big rival of our own in the Czech Republic. It’s a game we believe we can win and we’ll be ready when the time comes tomorrow”.
U19WFC 05.05.2018 GER - SVK
U19WFC 05.05.2018 FIN - CZE
U19WFC 05.05.2018 SUI - NOR
U19WFC 05.05.2018 SWE - POL