With European Quidditch Cup (EQC) 2017 rapidly approaching, the Quidditch Post takes a look at each of the teams competing in this year’s tournament.
By Nick de Leu
Since reaching the final in last year’s EQC with a roster of only 14 players, Antwerp A (formerly known as Deurne Dodos) have managed to not only keep the band together, but they have also added a whole new section. In Mechelen, Belgium, close to their hometown Antwerp, Belgium, they will bring a full roster of 21.
New recruits like chasers Noa Sangulin and Jonas Versmissen are different types to Antwerp’s core players and expand their tactical options. Beater Jan Dubois, promoted from the B squad, impressed in this year’s Valentine’s Cup final. And in chaser Nathan Wilputte, formerly of the Brussels Qwaffles, Antwerp bagged one of their rival’s star players. They reinforce an already impressive unit built around chaser Seppe De Wit, Team World captain/utility player Louis Lermytte, and the excellent beater pairing of Elisabeth Reyniers and Faust Eeckhout. That newfound squad depth has allowed them to remain unchallenged in Belgium. Even international encounters proved no match; they had comfortable victories over Rheinos Bonn and Ruhr Phoenix Bochum in February, and they steamrolled over a host of British teams (including a 180*-10 victory against fellow group team Brizzlebears) at October’s Battle Royale.
However, Antwerp is not flawless. Several key players have sustained injuries, hampering their EQC preparations. It remains to be seen how seamlessly Eeckhout slots back into the lineup after half a year abroad. And at Battle Royale, the newly formed Velociraptors managed a group win and an overtime defeat against Antwerp, who had been playing together for far longer. Antwerp depend heavily on tactical awareness and fluid passing to cope with intensely physical games. The team will hope to rely on its chemistry and hometown advantage to rise even higher than last year’s second place finish.
By Ajantha Abey
The Brizzlebears come into a group that is nearly identical to their 2016 group, but as a very differently placed team. Unseeded last year, and with no hopes or dreams of possibly taking on the then-Dodos and Frog, this year, the Bears come in as second seeds, fresh off the back of their impressive BQC finals showing. Since their narrow victory over Frog, catching up from behind, and narrow overtime loss to the Dodos last year, the Bears have gone from strength to strength.
Under the coaching of Josh Blannin, the Bears have started playing a compact hoop zone defence, a tactic that suits them well, given the shot blocking skills of Tom Ower, Dominic Ayre, and Viral Patel, as well as the Bears’ strength in tight defensive beatings with players like Jodie Mee and Emma Isle. Aaron Brett-Miller, joining the ranks of Matthew Nugent and Alistair Goodwin, also presents a huge beating threat that the team has become much more adept at utilising. The team’s tackling has also improved across the board, especially with the addition of Abby Whiteley. She, as well as other new Bears such as Samantha Frohlich, Florian Messemer, and George Whiting, more than fill the gaps left by departing players. While some may claim that the Bears are not a real threat since they do not have any TeamUK players, the Brizzlebears make up for it with a team cohesion and spirit others can only dream of, coupled with an incredible depth and consistency of talent. They’ll have their work cut out for them, but topping the group is not out of the question for the team that has repeatedly shown us that anything is possible if you bury your hopes and dreams, and get to work. The Bears will be keen to prove that last year was no fluke and that they are truly a top-tier team in Europe.
By Fraser Posford
While they remain the No. 2 team in France, Paris Frog’s stock in Europe as a whole has fallen considerably. Frog were once one of the major forces in Europe thanks to a highly physical quaffle game that allowed them to outmuscle most opponents, including Titans Paris in the Coupe de France 2014 final. However, the likes of utility player Harry-Olivier Cabo and Antoine Luppi have since moved on, and as shown by Frog’s performance at last year’s EQC, many teams have caught up with and overtaken them. Facing Antwerp and the Brizzlebears once more in group play, the Parisians find themselves as underdogs for an upper bracket berth for Day Two.
Nevertheless, this Frog side is still a competitive one and shouldn’t be underestimated by their group rivals. Keeper Cédric Chillan remains a major driving force behind the team and is one that is difficult to stop. French international chaser Lenny Vincent is also a major attacking threat with a mixture of speed and strength in his game, while Julia Portocarrero uses great pitch awareness and support play to her advantage. Belferroum siblings Abderahim and Amel will be key to the Frog beater lineup, their great tactical awareness allowing them to create problems for many of Europe’s elite. Besides a lack of depth in their roster, Paris Frog are likely to struggle in the seeker department with no proven option in the yellow headband.
By Kinga Robutka
After last year’s surprising defeat at Polish Cup, the Warsaw Mermaids, the current Polish champions, came back to the top this January. They breezed through almost all of their matches in the Polish EQC-qualifier, only slightly inconvenienced by the Kraków Dragons, in a 230*-100 victory, showing off both praise-worthy physicality and major improvement in tactical play.
The team relies on quick breaks to the wings in quaffle play and reliable bludger players who know very well what their chasers need to score hoops. Aleksander Gęściak gave a stellar performance in the Polish Cup with his fantastic quick runs to the opponents’ hoops. However, the whole team deserves commendation, as the key to the team’s performance is how well they know and work with each other, thanks to their solid training. The team is bringing a strong roster of 20 people, consisting mostly of experienced players who played at EQC last year and a few who represented Team Poland in World Cup 2016 and European Games 2015. Marian Dziubiak and Kiril Kravchuk will also coach Team Poland in preparation for European Games this year. One of the drawbacks that needs to be pointed out is how male-heavy their roster is; the team should pay attention to giving their female players the pitch time and recognition they have truly earned. Ultimately, the prognosis is not good for the Mermaids, as they will assuredly be outmatched by the formidable teams in their group.
After last year’s triumph and this year’s BQC run, any funeral that the Bears might be planning would be premature. Although topping title contenders Antwerp A is a long shot, the Bears are solidly favored to advance to the upper bracket, with a second-place showing likely. Antwerp will strive to top last year’s runners-up performance, but with a difficult group yet again and the formation of a new British super-team in the Velociraptors QC, a semifinal berth seems more likely. Still, the Belgian side must and should consider themselves one of a handful of true title contenders, and with some lucky breaks in the bracket, could find themselves back in the finals. The Paris Frog are doomed for a tough draw and although they will be looking for revenge after failing to qualify for the upper bracket last year, they find themselves facing improved Belgian and English squads who knocked them off last year. A tough-luck third-place pool finish and a deep lower bracket run seems to be in their future. Sympathy is due to the lone Polish squad in attendance as despite being a veteran squad, the Warsaw Mermaids have no chance to win a game within their pool. If they could manage such a feat it would likely go down as the greatest upset in the history of the sport.