Facing the Dutch Lions on Friday, it’s time to look at another of Great Britain’s potential opponents, the Czech Republic.
The Czechs booked their place in the tournament with a nervy win over Team Poland in October 2015. Quarterback Jan Dundáček, of the Prague Black Panthers, was the undoubted star, rushing for 162 yards and scoring both of their touchdowns, giving them a 14-7 lead, and defensive linemen Matěj Večes, teammate of Dundáček at the Panthers, was disruptive all day.
In the end, a game kept close by turnovers from Dundáček came down to a controversial ending. With Tomasz Dziedzic seemingly hauling in a 34 yard touchdown, it looked like Poland had tied the game with 40 seconds remaining, but the referees ruled that he didn’t have complete control of the pass before landing and fumbling it away, and the Czechs held on for the victory.
Much like Britball, club success in the Czech Republic is focused entirely on the capital city. Since the league’s inception in 1994, the Czech Bowl has been won only once by a team from outside of Prague when the Ostrava Steelers won it all in 1997.
The Prague Black Panthers have won the last four bowl games, and have won sixteen titles in total since ’94. They won their last in controversial circumstances, something which seems to be a recurring theme amongst games involving the Czechs. Seeing as the NFL themselves weighed in on it, you may have already seen the mind-blowing ending to the title game.
Up 10-9 with time expired, Matt Silva, quarterback of the Prague Lions heaved a last gasp pass down the field. Quarterback Jan Dundáček, seemingly playing on the prevent defence picked off the ball (fun fact: he also moonlights as a wide receiver when playing in the Austrian leagues). After some backwards movement, he was downed in his own end zone.
The Lions were adamant he had ran back into the end zone and was tackled, and that the ruling should be a safety, giving the Lions an 11-10 victory. However, the officials deemed momentum had carried him into his end zone and awarded a touchback. Two of the officials ending up resigning, so make of that what you will.
American Football International’s world rankings don’t see their match against the Netherlands much of a competition, with the Czech Republic ranking 27th in the world, 9 places below the Netherlands. However, the last time these two teams met, in 2014, the Czech Republic defeated the Netherlands 12-6 in a contest dominated by defence.
As you can imagine, the vast majority of the squad is drawn from the champion Prague Black Panthers who boast 25 members of the 45 man squad but they can also draw from some of Europe’s top teams such as O-Linemen Bernard Praum of the Nice Dauphins and Josef Fuksa of the #1 ranked Swarco Raiders Tirol.
Britballers make their presence felt amongst the Czechs too, with Leos Mikulka, a DB for the Coventry Jets, making the roster, and should start.
Much like the guys on the field, the Prague Black Panthers’ influence off the field is massive. Daniel Lesko of the Panthers heads up the coaches, and aside from a couple of Americans and one from the Pardubice Stallions, the other six coaches all belong to the Panthers too.
They come into the tournament as #3 seeds behind Italy and Great Britain, and have the playmakers to win games, especially on offence, and a team full of players sharpened from playing in leagues full of professional players. However, even their star players have vulnerabilities. Quarterback Dundáček is an injury doubt, and is prone to throwing the odd pick, and by all accounts is far more dangerous on the run than he is when throwing. Much of the result could hinge on the Dutch Lions ability to make the most of the opportunities they’re offered by the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic play the Netherlands at 3pm on Friday 16th September at Sixways Stadium, Worcester.