The Croatian Knights have proven their 9-a-side class by winning the Euro Cup, held in Parabiago (Milan), Italy. The 1 day tournament featured 15 men's sides: Austria, Catalonia, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Wales and the EU Crusaders (additional players from several countries).
In Europe's first women's international Ireland's Women 6.14 (50) defeated Italy's Women 6.4 (40), in hopefully the first of many such matches. A more detailed report can be read here.
Croatia have a strong history in men's 9s but with European Champions (16-a-side) Ireland debuting a strong challenge was on the table. Croatia and Ireland cruised through their pool matches, although uneven team numbers saw Eire's Warriors have to play one more game, before meeting in a semi-final. England looked dominant in their half while the Netherlands were steady in getting though to their semi-final. Then came the upsets.
The Knights defeated Ireland 5.2 (32) to 2.5 (17), a surprisingly comfortable margin. And in the other semi the Netherlands knocked over England 6.0 (36) to 4.8 (32) - can I hear a "bad kicking is bad football"?
On to the grand final and a close battle, concluding with Croatia's Adam Loncar booting a late goal to defeat the Netherlands 6.6 (42) to 5.7 (37). Ireland took their revenge out on England, winning the 3rd place playoff 5.9 (39) to 1.4 (10). Next came Spain then hosts Italy.
One caveat on wins in the previous incarnation, the EU Cup, was that stronger nations like Ireland were not present and England has often been represented by an unofficial side. But not so this time, and while the absolute strength of the squads sent could be debated, there's little doubt that Croatia have shown they really are the team to beat in Europe in the shortened form of the game. Hopefully they can continue to grow the game and become a force in all forms of the sport.
Perhaps just as important as the winners was the achievement of it being staged in one of Europe's newest footy nations, Italy. With the Italians coming on board the game now has a foothold in all European countries west of the old Iron Curtain, except for Portugal and the diminutive Liechtenstein and Monaco (correct us if we've missed someone). Ironically it is one of the furthest east, Croatia, that takes home the 2010 Euro Cup.
All the scores from the tournament can be viewed at The Footy Record and more information is coming through on the Euro Cup website.