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EFL quarterfinal spots at stake

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Across the continent Eurobowl dreams might blossom on the first weekend of May: In all four groups of the preliminaries the last game will decide, who will join reigning Eurobowl champion Titol Raiders, the Graz Giants, the Porvoo Butchers and Flash de La Courneuve in the quarterfinals. The action starts on Saturday evening with games at the German and Serbian capitals of Berlin and Belgrade, on Sunday the EFL prelimiaries of 2010 will conclude at Valencia and Vienna.

Up to four teams from Austria may 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 already secured their spot in this year's quarterfinals when they reached the semifinals of 2009, Danube Dragons and Vienna Vikings seem set to follow in their footsteps. Noteworthy 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, when Swedish champion Stockholm Mean Machines visit Berlin's Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Park on May 1. The winner of the game will advance to a quarterfinal game at Porvoo (Finland). For Berlin the EFL clash is the home opener of the season, for the Mean Machines it even is the first game of the season, as their home game against Prague had to be cancelled due to the interruption in European air travel after the Iceland volcano eruption. Luckily, after Berlin already had beaten Prague, this will have no real impact on the final standings of the group - the Berlin-Stockholm winner takes it all anyway. But the outcome of their decisive game may again be influenced by a factor, known to Germans and Swedes alike, when it comes to EFL: As Germans and Scandinavians start their national seasons later than most of the other European countries, big efforts are needed especially in the preliminaries, when fine-tuning within the teams may not have reached the level later on used to win national titles. What has been kind of a excuse for lacking success in EFL in the past, will not be valid this year - as 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.

The Austrian sides of Vienna Vikings and Danube Dragons hold the advantage for winning divisions 3 and 4. Danube already beat Thonon by 50-21, but still will need to win at Belgrade against the Blue Dragons. Only a margin of a Danube loss of more than three points would help Thonon into the quarterfinals. Otherwise Danube would go on to face the Graz Giants in an all-Austrian quarterfinal on May 15. The Vienna Vikings will need a win against the Badalona Dracs to earn their trip to Paris in the quarterfinals. The surprise Austrian champion of 2009 is determined to get back onto the road of success after a heavy 22-50 loss in last week's Austrian league game at Tirol. After that wake-up call the team will certainly not underrate the seriousness of the EFL challenge.

A few hours before the Vienna game kicks off Tirol will already know, who will visit Innsbruck for the Raiders EFL premiere of 2010 in the quarterfinals. And there could be another Austrian-French matchup in the making, as the Elancourt Templiers, after beating three-time Eurobowl champions Bergamo Lions, will now need to pull out the victory out of Valencia. The Firebats lost their own game at Bergamo, minimizing Spanish hopes that one of the contenders may advance to the EFL quarterfinals.

Also in focus on the first weekend of May are three games in the EFAF Cup preliminaries. Swiss champion Calanda Broncos has the chance to secure a semifinal spot by winning at home against the Kragujevac Wild Boars. Up to now Calanda is unbeaten in its five games of 2010 in EFAF Cup and national league play. EFAF Cup semifinals may bring up a rematch of last year's Swiss championship game, if the Zurich Renegades could win their preliminary group. Zurich starts off its EFAF Cup play with a home game against the L'Hospitalet Pioners on Saturday. On Sunday Dutch and British champions Amsterdam Crusaders and London Blitz face each other to complete the EFAF Cup bouquet for the weekend.

European Federation of American Football