Team Finland’s eminent mentor, Mikko Koikkalainen, is set on seeking retribution when his squad confronts Sweden on August 5 in the semifinals of the 2023 International Federation of American Football European Championship tournament.
In the past, Sweden thwarted Finland’s aspirations to enter the final during their encounter in IFAF competition. Two years ago, in the 2021 IFAF European Championship semifinal, Sweden emerged victorious with a 22-14 win after initially trailing 14-0 in the opening quarter. Ultimately, they succumbed to Italy in the final showdown.
The triumphant team from this game will then advance to face either the defending champions, Team Italy, or Austria in the European Championship final later this year.
Coach Koikkalainen possesses a pair of quarterbacks at his disposal, led by Rasmus Laalo, the signal caller for Helsinki Wolverines, likely to take the helm. Laalo’s passing prowess this year has amounted to 1,107 yards and four touchdowns, and he is supported by the seasoned Miro Kadmiry. The running back position boasts four of the Maple League’s top 10 running backs, including Tom Suoste from Wasa Royals, standing as the third leading rusher, along with Ville Hämäläinen (Helsinki Roosters), Yusufa Lehtinin (Roosters), and Micky Kyei (Porvoon Butchers), listed as a wide receiver but ranking as the seventh leading rusher.
Defensively, the Crocodiles’ adept defensive back, the fourth leading tackler in Finland, fortifies a formidable secondary, while linebacker Veikka Lehtonen (Kuopio Steelers) serves as a linchpin for the front seven.
One intriguing facet of Finland’s national team lies in the presence of four sets of brothers on the roster. Linebacker Veikka Lehtonen and running back Tuukka Lehtonen both showcase their talents for the Kuopio Steelers, while wide receivers Janne and Joel Särkelä hail from the Seinäjoki Crocodiles. Additionally, defensive back Elmeri Laalo, joining the Vienna Vikings in the ELF, accompanies his brother, quarterback Rasmus Laalo, and the Vehkomäki brothers, Samuli and Santtu, who play offensive line and wide receiver, respectively, thereby rounding out this quartet of siblings on Team Finland.
Tuukka Lehtonen has represented Finland on 36 occasions, while Veikka will be earning his 25th cap with the Finnish national team.
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