WFC at Helsinki is about to start this week. I will try to write preview about teams and competition based on the matches that I have seen, and also info that I’ve heard. Of course most of this stuff is pure speculation, and we will see in WFC what will actually happen.
Focus is on four big ones: Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and of course Czech Republic. I haven’t been able to watch all the matches of these teams (EFT 2021 in Plzen), but most of them. I will go country by country in the order of last WFC 2018 final standings.
Home games for Finland, which means they will do absolutely everything to win it. It has been a huge goal for lots of players and coaches in recent years. It will also be farewell story to some older national team players.
They have very experienced team with most of the players also in Prague 2018. Two first lineups are probably the same with first one Classic-line (Salin-Salo-Johansson-Lamminen-Savonen) and second one, which they created to Prague 2018 games (Kotilainen-Pylsy-Lastikka-Leikkanen-Kivilehto).
Third lineup is new and little bit adjustable regarding on opponents. Almost half a year (and also only lineup for whole EFT) was R.Kainulainen-J.Kainulainen-Hautaniemi. They will probably play as a lineup with Väänänen-Stenfors under them. Other option might be more defensive line with Heikkilä and Sikkinen (who are playing in same line with Lastikka in Classic). Jonne Junkkarinen is the reserve defender.
Goalkeepers are even a bit concern in Finland this time. Eero Kosonen has been number one for many years, but he couldn’t find a club for this season and right now isn’t playing floorball. So Toriseva will be number one and Kaltiainen second choice keeper. Toriseva has won several Finnish trophies, but in international level hasn’t yet tested or succeed in big games. So lots to show in there.
Finland have had injury concerns before WFC with Krister Savonen still injured and haven’t played a sigle match after head injury in October (also missing from final camp) and Kotilainen, Pylsy missing EFT. Nico Salo have also had some issues. So, they haven’t been able to play even once with full squad of players nominated to Helsinki.
My analyze of Finland team is, that it is made to win games right here and now, but there are question marks around the injuries and goalkeepers. Especially, if Savonen is injured, it might mix up Finnish lineups. Classic player with Nico Salo as a defender and Lastikka as a center last season finals, that might be a solution, but it’s not optimal, because players aren’t at their best in those places. We will see.
Also there are 11 players from Classic, which can be advantage or disadvantage, regarding on how do other players in the squad feel that. Because three of the coaching staff are also from Classic.
Process and playing
I wouldn’t look too closely on the results of EFT when it comes to Finland. Of course they tried to win the games, but bigger meaning of the matches for the coaches was the info. Info from the own players and opponents. There were lots of players who didn’t end up in final squad playing and it I think there were also lots of tension from competition-situation. Some players looked tired and not at their best. I believe it’s because of the stress of competition from places. Six EFT-players were eventually left out and replaced so quite big change from there to WFC.
Petteri Nykky and his staff is the most experienced in this stage and they know that it is necessary to be at your best in the semi final and final. Everything what happen before that should support that goal: finding the right players and all the info from opponents that is possible. Training match results and game plans before those games aren’t in higher pecking order than getting ready to finals. Scouting is something that they are very good at. Four-time world champion Juha Jäntti in coaching staff will provide info on every opponent player and playing style.
As a playing style Finland doesn’t focus on innovating things when Nykky is the coach. They want tight defence and a humble team that is mentally and psysically well prepared. Players have a lot responsibility from the game, especially attacking. It can be advantage if everyone is fit, but if they will have to change a lot of lineups, it can also be disadvantage. Finland has always so good players, that they will hope that key scorers (Johansson, Lastikka, Kotilainen) will rise up the occasion and make the goals needed. And all of the team will defend and play smart with the ball so they won’t lose the matches easily.
I believe Finland is still the favorite to win the gold. But it needs the goalkeepers to succeed and also that they have the best players fit.
Sweden is in a little bit crisis in floorball. They always feel that they are the best in floorball (Swedish mentality), but in recent years it haven’t been actually like that at all. Finland has won two last men WFC:s and Czech republic last two U19 golds. Also Finland girls U19 won the gold in Sweden home games. So there is little to show that Sweden is currently dominating the international floorball.
I believe that Swedish team will be very hungry for success for those reasons and will be also very motivated and more humble that Swedish teams usually are. If they are not, they won’t win it also this time.
Sweden has formed two very good attacking lineups: “Falun-line” with Galante-Carlström, Johansson, Samuelsson and Enström included and “Storvreta-line” with Nilsson-Sjögren-Nilsberth-Gustafsson-Ahren. Quality of these lineups is obvious and they can score against any opponent. Third lineup is more defensive, and they can also press the opponents sometimes when first two lineups are saving energy to attack.
Goalkeepers are Parsjo-Tegner and Hedlund, from whom Parsjo-Tegner might be first choice while entering the second WFC and played against Finland in Plzen and also won the match.
In generally Sweden are dependent in their key players to succeed. Kim Nilsson and Galante are dangerous, but it was also to be seen in Eerikkilä when these guys were missing: Finland took two easy victories. But they are in, so Sweden will be good in competition.
Of course team might need Alexander Rudd’s quality and ability to create goals, but for the team it can be also disadvantage: Rudd isn’t actually the most discipline player, although entertaining.
Process and playing
Sweden double head-coach system with Brottmann and Norden is interesting. It also raises questions: if things go badly, are the two still working like a unit or if they have disagreements? Interesting and very Swedish way to try this kind of system.
Sweden will play mostly areal defence and are very good in counters. They can also keep the ball for a long time and have lots of scorers in first two lineups. After Hill’s third year, where they tried to create playing style by principles, they have got back to basic Swedish set-play style. That creates nice goals, but it is also easier to scout.
I’m mostly thinking, that if Sweden is losing the match, can they stay disclipine? Last time they didn’t, but some players player their own game in the final. I feel that there are strong personalities in the team and first timers as a coaches in this level, so it can also be explotions in the team during the WFC if everything isn’t going according their plan.
Sweden will go to the final, but Finland (if all players are fit) will be more humble and better prepared, so no gold to Sweden, again.
Switzerland has pretty much the same team as last time. Not so much new players in and with same coaches. They were really close to beat Sweden in semi final last time (in one of the most entertaining matches I’ve seen). But after that the games they’ve been playing hasn’t been so good. Especially EFT was really poor performance from them, even thought they managed to beat Czech republic.
I think the main focus of Swiss are in next year with World Games coming in the summer and home competition in 2022. It will be at least in some form affecting in their mindset of this competition.
Almost same team as last time in Prague, which was three years ago. It can be advantage, so that players know each other and playing style, but other question is: where are the new players? In three years normally national teams can bring in new talents who have grow in that level, but no new key/interesting players included this time.
Switzerland is lacking attacking quality compared to especially Finland and Sweden. Jan Zaugg and Manuel Maurer plus evergreen Patrick Mendelin can score goals, but is there enough players who can create scoring opportunities for them? Based on EFT Maurer is paired with Dan Hartmann (who played also as a defender) and Zaugg and Mendelin are with Cristoph Meier. Third lineup included skillful Braillard as a center and Bischofberger as defender, so in my eyes they tried to create three lineups that can cope opponents. In WFC it can be also that they will try to put two good and third more defensive lineup.
Pascal Meier is experience goalkeeper and was selected as the best goalkeeper in last WFC.
Process and playing
David Jansson has done exceptional work in Swiss team. From all of top-four countries he has developed a best growing process in previous years with finnish assistant coach Esa Jussila. Switzerland is a hard working team as always and lacking a little bit ball skills compared to other top four countries, but they are playing together and defending good, which makes them stronger and hard to beat. Still, last EFT and also previous tournament (where they lost to Czech republic) raised question marks. Against FIN and SWE they weren’t even close. Of course they faced both teams after opponent lost previous match, so not an easiest time to play against.
They will try to defend hard and also during Janssons time they have been focusing on attacking. Problem is, that they are pretty predictable, because lack of creative players. So coach has a big role in the game, maybe the biggest from top 4 countries.
My prediction is that they are in the bronze match again, and it will be even match with Czech republic.
Czech team are in middle of generation change. Some part of it is probably wanted by coaches and some is not, because so many experience players denying to play under current head coach or are not ready to rethink or develope their game in to international level. Advantage is that new generation of players have been used to win. There is already seven players included in last two U19-championship winning teams, so they will bring fresh wind of success to the more experience ones.
This team is still quite a mystery before WFC. But definetily an interesting one: how will the young guns handle pressure and new situation in mens level. It is to be seen.
As already told, Czech has a young team with lots of talent but not so much of experience.
Goalkeepers are advantage in my eyes compared to other top four countries. Lukas Bauer played an excellent EFT and is giving his team opportunity to win if he can keep same level also in Helsinki.
Lineups are probably formed around three young talented centers: Langer, Sindler and Forman, who all are born in 2000-2002, and have very bright future in front of them in they continue developing, but all of them are still really young. Langer was in the squad already in last WCF and is really exceptional, also physichally good player who is ready to shine and lead also in international level. And he is still 19 years old during competition, imagine that!
Around Langer will be Rypar this time as an attacker and Simek/Benes on other side. Nemecek and Vitovec have been playing together now few years in national team.
With Sindler is probably Delong, who should be one of key scorers and captain Ondrusek. Jiri Bauer’s injury is mixing up a little bit (he has been playing under this lineup) but maybe with Besta will be Benes?
Third lineup is interesting: there might be even four players from Brno U19 championships around Forman: Havlas, Hemerka, Punchochar included. Kisugite brings experience to younger ones. Other option is to go with little more experience lineup with Gruber and Krbec. But it is to be seen. Probably young guys will play together at least in some of matches.
Process and playing
Kettunen era has been quite stormy with two times assistant coach changes, some of experience players missing and mixed up results.
But the playing-process is quite clear. Team will focus on defending with and without the ball and try to score on counters and special situations. Team has developed so that they are more patient with the ball, defence is organized and they are trying to be very hard to beat. Problems start when opponents are winning the game, it is not going to be easy to win top four country if they score first.
Mentality can be either strength or weakness. If Czech team is flying with confidence, they will be very hard team to beat. Start of the matches will be crucial and also handlind difficult situations and pressure.
This WFC isn’t the last dance of this team but only the beginning for a young team. I see Czech team in a way that there shouldn’t be much pressure on succeeding but only a possibilities of doing so. If they can set the mental side right and start the matches well, there are possibilities. If I’m realistic, bronze would be very good achievement this time. But on the other hand, semi final is still just a one match and pressure is on other teams…
Other countries than top four will focus mostly on quarter final match. That is their final. Latvia lost against Finland U23-team twice in their last matches before WFC, but they have few very good players playing in Finland (Krumins and Ragovskis). They will defend and counter as most of the lower part-teams, but also can keep the ball and Finnish coaches Riihimäki and Varis are trying to organize also playing with the ball. Especially defending with the ball.
Denmark has a great big goalkeeper Mike Trolle, with who they are living or dying. And some of the players play in Sweden, so they can collect one good more attacking lineup.
Norway had lots of problems before the competition while first some of key players were denied to come to national team because they didn’t go to physical tests, and also coaches almost resigned. But they finally solved problems and now Ketil Kronberg is leading his team to (maybe) his last WFC. As my aged guy, he is still in good shape and always entertaining to watch.
Germany I have to say, that I don’t know too much about them. Watched some of their match in last WFC, but it was three years ago, so just have to wait and see for the first match what is there to come.
Soon it will start, and gladly it is this time in my home town Helsinki, so I can watch all of the matches live. Looking forward to celebration of floorball and seeing lots of familiar faces around the world together! In this COVID-era it hasn’t been possible, so hopefully competition will be entertaining and bring some light to everyone life who are involved to this great sport!
Autor: Michal Dannhofer