The 2012 European Lacrosse Championships are currently being held in Amsterdam, from 20th to 30th June 2012, with 17 men's teams and 12 women's teams taking part in the competitions. All the teams are from Europe, apart from Israel's men's team which is also taking part for some reason.
This year saw another impressive turnout of countries taking part. Compared to the 2008 competition, Belgium and Israel are newcomers, but Denmark, Latvia and Austria are no longer present. The men's competition was split into three groups this time, the first group containing the top 6 teams from 2008 (England, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Finland and Ireland). The second and third groups were more of a mix, with the second group comprising Czech Republic (8th), Scotland (9th), Spain (13th), Switzerland (16th), Italy (18th) and Belgium (new). Wales (7th), Slovakia (12th), Norway (14th), France (17th) and Israel (new) make up the third and final group.
The women's competition was also held in two groups with teams from the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Scotland, Wales, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, Latvia, Austria and Switzerland.
As in previous championships, each team plays each of the other teams in the same division once, and then a series of playoff games gives teams from the other groups the opportunity to enter the semi-final round. In the top division the results of the first group round were:
|England||(5-0, +51)||England 13-6||England 11-7||England 16-6||England 18-2||England 18-4|
|Germany||(4-1, +2)||Germany 12-11 (ET)||Germany 13-10||Germany 9-5||Germany 9-8|
|Ireland||(2-3, +0)||Ireland 12-4||Ireland 8-7 (ET)||Netherlands 11-7|
|Sweden||(2-3, -14)||Sweden 9-8 (ET)||Sweden 13-7|
|Finland||(1-4, -12)||Finland 13-3|
At the end of this group round, England remain unbeaten (as expected) and Germany are close behind. Well done to Finland though for holding both Sweden and Ireland to 7-7 draws at full time, I don't see why that's not counted as a draw in the group phase. I have no idea what happened in the Finland-Netherlands game though, that's incredible.
|Scotland||(5-0, +40)||Scotland 13-12 (ET)||Scotland 11-3||Scotland 8-5||Scotland 16-2||Scotland 14-0|
|Czech||(4-1, +63)||Czech 16-4||Czech 17-5||Czech 18-2||Czech 27-3|
|Switzerland||(3-2, +13)||Switzerland 11-5||Switzerland 13-0||Switzerland 18-4|
|Italy||(2-3, -9)||Italy 12-6||Italy 15-9|
|Spain||(1-4, -47)||Spain 9-7|
The Czechs and the Scots were clearly running away with this group, the Czechs in particular coming up with some ridiculous scorelines. But the Czech-Scotland game, after 11-11 at full time, went the Scots' way bringing them to the top of the table.
|Israel||(4-0, +21)||Israel 14-13||Israel 11-8||Israel 11-3||Israel 13-4|
|Wales||(3-1, +31)||Wales 12-6||Wales 12-3||Wales 17-0|
|Slovakia||(2-2, -7)||Slovakia 10-9||Slovakia 11-10|
|Norway||(1-3, -10)||Norway 11-3|
It really looked like Wales should have been in the second group, instead of newcomers Belgium. Wales finished above Scotland and the Czech Republic last time (and even beat the Netherlands in the 2010 World cup group phase), and none of the other European teams in this third group could offer them any kind of challenge. Yet in their final game, they lost to Israel by one goal, dropping them to second place.
As always, it's not just a knockout competition to find the winner, in these championships it's just as important to establish the rankings for all the teams. A laudable approach. So the teams who have not come top of their group don't go home just yet, they continue amongst themselves.
The lowest-finishing teams then enter a separate playoff round to find out the lower ranks 13 to 17. From the second and third groups, these are then Italy, Spain, Belgium, Norway and France.
Four teams are already safely through to the quarter finals: England and Germany from the first group, Scotland as winners of the second group, and Israel from the third group. The other eight teams enter the playoffs to see who goes through.
Ireland (3rd in group 1) had a comfortable win over Slovakia (3rd in group 3) 15-3 and go through to meet Germany. Sweden beat Switzerland 14-8 and will go to meet Scotland. The other two quarter-final places went to the Netherlands (who squeaked past the Czech Republic 9-8 in overtime) and Finland (who knocked out Wales 10-4).
In the quarter finals, Sweden came back from 11-9 down against Scotland to snatch a dramatic 12-11 victory, while Netherlands pummelled Israel 18-3. Germany suffered from an Irish 8-goal onslaught early on, and couldn't fully recover, losing eventually 15-12. And as expected England had a comfortable win 14-5 over Finland.
Going into the final round then, the teams have been carefully split into different groups, from which the final rankings can be determined:
In the semi-finals, England beat the Netherlands comfortably 14-5, and Ireland overcame Sweden 13-8. So of course that means an England v Ireland final, with Netherlands v Sweden battling for 3rd/4th place.
In the final match, before an excited crowd, England dominated the early play and despite some good attacking work from the Irish, never really looked like losing the match. England's defence was quick to pressure and the midfield worked hard to recover possession. Some of the English penalties were unnecessary though and their 5-man zone was well exploited by the Irish.
Sam Russell, Nick Watson and Lewis Jacobs all had outstanding games, and stalwart goalie Ben McAllister made a string of excellent saves. The final score was England 15, Ireland 5, making the third consecutive European Championship win for England's men's team.
The final rankings for the men's championship are:
The group phase finished with England and Wales dominating their respective groups. Scotland and Germany followed behind, but already lost decisively to the group leaders.
In the quarter-finals, Wales comfortably beat Ireland 20-3 and England embarrassed Sweden 27-0. Meanwhile Scotland beat the Netherlands 17-5 and Germany eventually overcame the Czech Republic 12-11. In the semis, England walloped Germany 20-3, and Wales beat Scotland 7-4.
So, more or less as expected, it ended up with another Wales v England final, with Scotland and Germany fighting for 3rd place.
In the long-awaited final, England scored all the first 10 goals of the game, from 6 different players, dominating the first half hour. The final score was England 11, Wales 5, giving England an emphatic double win in this championship.
The scores and stats are available at pointbench.com (for the men's competition) and pointbench.com (for the women's competition), but unfortunately there are no reports or commentary there. You can try and find your way through englishlacrosse's site to try to find their brief reports of the England games, but there's more flash than content there. (Their links will probably change soon anyway)
These "magazine-style" videos are humorous takes on each day's play, mixing up short snippets of game footage with commentary from the legendary Dave Hallows and some rather more random filler material. Some are considerably longer than they should be, but some are quite entertaining, if you subscribe to Arttu's style of comedy.
It's also obvious from the player interviews, and more than a little disturbing, how many north-American accents there are on several of the European teams. Of course they could be real locals who just got their accents on scholarships and training camps, but you never know...