The Israeli men’s and women’s national flag football teams have high hopes for the World Championships that will be played September 8-11 in Miami, Florida.
The Israeli men finished in sixth place and the women ninth in the 2014 World Championships, played in Grosseto, Italy. Both Israeli teams finished fourth in last year’s European Championships, which were played in Madrid, Spain.
The original Bahamas venue was deemed unsuitable for this year’s tournament by the International Federation of Flag Football. IFAF announced recently that the new venue will be Brian Piccolo Park in Hollywood, Florida.
The schedule will undergo some rebooting after the move to Miami, and it’s not certain if all 28 teams that are registered will still be attending. The Israeli men are currently slated to play in Group B, in a 16-team tournament. That would mean seven games in the opening round, with the top four finishers advancing to the quarterfinals.
The top team in Israel’s group is Team USA, which is the reigning world champion and defeated Israel in the quarterfinals of the 2014 tournament.
The other top teams scheduled to appear in Israel’s group are Austria, which ranks eighth in the world and second in Europe; Germany, which is third in Europe; and Panama, which is seventh in the world.
Other teams in Group B include Japan and New Zealand.
Top teams in Group A include Mexico, which is ranked second in the world; Canada, ranked fourth in the world; Denmark, which is fifth in the world and first in Europe; and Italy, which is third in the world.
Lower ranking teams in Group A are Great Britain, Guatemala, South Korea and Kuwait.
The Israeli women play in Group A, in a 12-team tournament. There are six teams in Israel’s group, and Israel must finish among the top four in order to advance to the quarterfinals.
The top teams in Israel’s group are Austria, which is ranked third in the world and first in Europe; and Mexico, which is fourth in the world. Israel must also face Denmark and a team from the Americas, which will be the second-place finisher in a tournament involving Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
The teams in Group B include Canada, ranked first in the world; Team USA, ranked second in the world; Germany, ranked fifth in the world; Japan; and the winner of the Americas tournament.
AFI President Steve Leibowitz said the late move in venue is causing major logistical problems for teams around the world, but for Israel there is a bright side. “Israel has a lot of friends in Miami,” said Leibowitz, “and we are hopeful that some fans will come out to cheer us on.”
Regarding Israel’s chances of winning its first world championship medal, Leibowitz said, “The men and women have the talent to be on the podium. It’s just a question of whether we have the mental and physical toughness.”
Israel has some of the best flag football players in the world. At the 2014 World Championships, Dani Eastman was chosen MVP in the men’s tournament, while Yael Freedman was MVP of the women’s tournament. Quarterback Shana Sprung, meanwhile, was MVP of the 2015 women’s European Championships.
The women are coached by Yonah Mishaan and the men by Yossi Fuchs. The Israeli women are sponsored by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; the men are sponsored by New York businessman Ira Kleinman.
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