The very good news is that both the Israeli Men and Women’s teams have reached Sunday’s quarter-final round of the IFAF’s World Championship of Flag Football. The not so good news is that neither team had an easy time in the qualifying round and each will have a very tough matchup in order to reach the final-four medals round.
The first three days of the tournament are about qualifying and seeding. The women finished in third place in their group with a 2-2 record. The men were 2-3 and finishing with the forth and final qualifying spot. Saturday games for all teams (Except the Sabbath-observing Israelis) are still underway at this writing.
The women opened with two narrow heart stopping victories over Denmark and Brazil. Then came two blowout loses to European Champions Austria and world 4th ranked Mexico.
The men lost to Panama then beat New Zealand, lost to World Champion team USA and European champs Austria and finally beat Japan. Israel needed the win over Japan to qualify. We trailed by 11 points with only 4 minutes left to play. A key David Tover interception gave Israel hope and a td pass from Dani Eastman to Daveed Abelle gave Israel the win with just one second remaining on the clock.
The third place group finish for the women means that they will likely face world number two Team USA in the quarter-finals. Fourth place for the men means they play the top finisher in the other group and at this writing that could still be either world champion Canada, Mexico or European champs Denmark.
Shabbat dinner talk was filled with speculation about who the next opponent would be. Having Saturday off means there is time to allow exhaustion and soreness to heal. No player, man or woman is not aching and bruised. The Shabbat day of rest could not be more welcome.
In a world championship an Israeli team has never reached the semi-finals. Just one very tough win over a higher placed team and we are there. Then would come a game with a chance to advance for the gold or silver. A loss at that stage would still leave a shot at the bronze. A lose in the quart-finals means there are only 5th to 8th place to play for.
The tournament will come to an end tomorrow. Medals are still there for the taking. We have the will, desire and heart to be there but so to 14 other teams. This is the moment to step up and rise above the level we played at until now. The podium is the goal and anything less is a disappointment.
Some prayers from the Holyland could not hurt.