Game recap: France 41, Sweden 0

By Todd Bell

France’s option offense rolled up 285 yards on the ground and four touchdowns, while the French defense forced six Sweden turnovers en route to a 41-0 win in the opening consolation round game Tuesdayat the IFAF Under-19 World Championship at Burger Stadium in Austin, Texas.

The French finished with 303 yards in total offense and a 15-minute advantage in time of possession.

“I thought we were much better prepared in all aspects of the game today – offense, defense and special teams,” French head coach Olivier Moret said. “I thought it was really important to show our true level, and I think we did today. We had something to prove.”

France set an IFAF Under-19 World Championship record with three interceptions and tied a record with three forced fumbles. Defensively, the No. 7 seed limited Sweden to a just 98 yards in total offense on 34 plays. Sticking with what worked, France ran the ball on 46 of its 53 offensive plays.

Click here for the box score

Playing into a steady 15 mph wind in the first quarter, France opened the game with a 14-play drive that ate 7:15 of clock and covered 80 yards – 73 on the ground. The French, clad in blue jerseys and blue pants, capped their march downfield with a 10-yard scoring run by running back Nicolas Khandar for a 7-0 lead.

Sweden showed promise on its first possession, moving the ball to the France 24 but failed to score when kicker Linus Carlbom’s 41-yard field goal attempt was wide left.

“It felt like every time we did nine things right, the 10th thing went wrong, and it was the 10th thing that really hurt us,” Sweden head coach Mats Hagsten said.

France wasted little time on its next drive, moving 76 yards in three plays with 72 coming on a run by Asnnel Robo to the Sweden 1-yard line. Khandar went the final yard to score his second touchdown of the night to earn France a 14-0 edge with 11:15 remaining in the second quarter.

The French defense found the end zone on Sweden’s third drive when defensive lineman Mamoudou Sy stepped in front of a pass from Sweden’s Kevin Dillman and returned it 14 yards for a score and a 21-0 lead with 3:43 left in the first half.

“Our defense did a really, really, really good job, probably better than the offense,” French quarterback Mathias Soler said. “Every time they were on the field, Sweden did nothing. They made a lot of amazing plays today.”

Christopher Guillen entered the game at quarterback on Sweden’s next drive and was promptly intercepted by defensive back Enzo Rosani, who returned the ball to the Sweden 28-yard line with 1:50 left in the half. French kicker Jacques Bessot put a 38-yard field goal attempt over the crossbar by a coat of paint three plays later to give France a 24-0 lead at the break. Bessot’s kick tied for the third-longest field goal in IFAF Under-19 World Championship history.

Sweden’s woes continued at the start of the second half as it failed to cover France’s opening kickoff. Defensive back Antoine My fell on the ball for the French at Sweden’s 30-yard line. French running back Talharn Fevre found the end zone from two yards out six plays later, boosting the French lead to 31-0 midway through the third quarter.

Maxime Venot-Petit intercepted Dillman on Sweden’s next series to set France up at Sweden’s 31. Six plays later, Fevre scored from seven yards out for a 38-0 France lead.

France scored the game’s final points midway through the fourth quarter when Bessot’s field goal try for 39 yards was good for a 41-0 advantage. The kick placed Bessot in the record books again for the second-longest in tournament history (Lirim Hajrullahu, Canada, 42, twice in 2009).

Quarterback Soler earned MVP honors for France as he deftly directed France’s option attack to its first 31 points.

Defensive tackle David Strobel was named Sweden’s player of the game, finishing with six tackles and 1 1/2 sacks.

“We prepared for (Soler) yesterday all day long, reading our keys,” Strobel said. “We knew what he would be doing, but it’s hard when we have to do it so many times.”

“We knew Mathias was half running back, half quarterback, which is why we made the switch to the triple option system this year,” Moret said. “He did a good job reading his keys and making decisions today.”

France will face the winner of tonight’s American Samoa-Panama game for fifth place on July 6 at 8 p.m. CT. Sweden will face the loser of tonight’s second game at 5 p.m. CT on July 6 for seventh place.