By Ashara Peiris
Predictions1. Deurne Dodos
2. Paris Frog
3. Oxford Quidlings
4. Quidditch Hussars
In Group D we have one of the most competitive in the entire group stages, with many of the teams having the chance to win their group and make a deep tournament run. The level of competition within this group, with two of the most feared teams in Europe making an appearance, should produce some excellent quidditch, and make it one of the most closely observed groups, as the team to top this group will certainly be a force to be reckoned with.
Paris Frog is the name in this group that should make the greatest impression: its status as the winner of the French Cup 2014 and one of only three teams to ever beat the Radcliffe Chimeras (former British Quidditch Cup [BQC] and defending European Quidditch Cup [EQC] champions) makes it a team to watch out for. Paris Frog’s biggest strengths are its intense physicality and the high level of athleticism of its players, and it follows a strict and rigorous conditioning program to ensure this level of fitness. Its style of play is perfectly embodied by quaffle players Hamza Beida and Harry Cabo, who are able to charge through a bludgerless defence with complete ease. To succeed at EQC, Paris Frog will have to ensure that it does not over rely on these attributes as its offence is still largely comprised of a primarily hero ball style of game play, which, in the presence of elite beaters, may prove its undoing.
On the other hand, the Deurne Dodos (runners-up at the recent Benelux Cup, after losing 60-90* in an incredibly intense game against their rivals the Brussels Qwaffles) are very different to Paris Frog, with an excellent passing game backed by strong beaters, particularly on defence. Whilst they are able to use their chasers such as Seppe de Wit, considered by many to be one of the top chasers in Europe, and captain Louis Lermytte to drive through defences, they will be hoping to use their much more modern, pass-heavy style to win. However, if the Dodos find themselves frustrated and falling behind, we may see a repeat of the Benelux Cup, with the Dodos receiving a number of cards. If, however, they have learnt from their mistakes and play a clean game, they may come out of EQC with a medal; losing in the Benelux final will undoubtedly motivate them to perform at an even higher level at EQC, with anything less than a semifinal finish likely going to be a disappointment. Both Paris Frog and the Deurne Dodos have an unfortunate habit of attracting cards from the refs, and in both cases their tempers may become their undoing. One of the most interesting matches in this group will be when these two teams collide, as the outcome may be determined by which team keeps a better handle on its temper.
Although Paris Frog and the Deurne Dodos are perhaps the better-known teams in this group, you cannot dismiss the Oxford Quidlings. Oxford University Quidditch Club’s second team, the Quidlings are mainly comprised of newer players, but have recently been bolstered by a number of former Radcliffe Chimeras including Dale King-Evans, James Burnett, and Emily Hayes. Many of their newer players have excelled too thanks to their excellent training, such as Sarah Melville and Claire Evans. Melville is best known for making the SWIM catch that gave the Quidlings the qualifying spot at EQC, and Evans is an integral part of their beating lineup. As for how they will match up in the group, the Quidlings have a less defined style than other teams and are clear underdogs compared to Paris Frog and the Deurne Dodos, but under Jack Lennard’s able leadership, the Quidlings will be hoping to pull off some upsets. Whilst their chasing will likely be weaker than these two teams, their beater game may well be the strongest in the group, due to a significant number of very able beaters with excellent tactical knowledge.
Lastly we have the the Quidditch Hussars, Poland’s only representative at EQC. Whilst not much is known about this team, it is likely that the Hussars will be able to gain a lot of knowledge and valuable experience. They are, however, only bringing seven players to EQC, which could become a significant concern the later in the day when the players are likely exhuasted. The Hussars are not without talent, with chaser and seeker Alek Hibner being an incredibly fast quaffle carrier. If the other teams in the group become cocky, they may find themselves conceding slightly more often than expected and may also find themselves unable to catch the final snitch due to being thoroughly outpaced. The Hussars’ goals for the tournament will mostly be just to develop their players by facing teams at an international standard; however, if they are able to reach the later rounds of the consolation bracket, I’m sure that they will be able to take comfort from this.
Overall I expect that the Deurne Dodos, Paris Frog, and Oxford Quidlings will convincingly beat Quidditch Hussars. The remaining matches, however, are much more difficult to call. I believe that the Dodos’ superior beater game and seamless passing on offence will be enough to flummox the defence and offence of Paris Frog and the Quidlings, although both games will be in snitch range. Similarly, Frog may narrowly edge out the Quidlings. These close games will likely allow all three of these teams through into the winners bracket, where I expect the Dodos to make a run deep into the semifinal and with Frog and the Quidlings falling in the quarterfinals and Round of 16 respectively.
Paris Frog - Deurne Dodos: close Dodos win
Paris Frog - Oxford Quidlings: close Frog win
Paris Frog - Quidditch Hussars: large Frog win
Deurne Dodos - Oxford Quidlings: close Dodos win
Deurne Dodos - Quidditch Hussars: large Dodos win
Oxford Quidlings - Quidditch Hussars: large Quidlings win
Deurne Dodos (3-0) - Semifinal of Winners Bracket
Paris Frog (2-1) - Quarterfinal of Winners Bracket
Oxford Quidlings (1-2) - Round of 16 of Winners Bracket
Quidditch Hussars (0-3) - Quarter-Final of Losers Bracket
By Abby Whiteley
Predictions1. Keele Squirrels
2. Brussels Qwaffles
3. Nantes Quidditch
4. Unisport-Zentrum Darmstadt
2. Crookshanks Lyon
3. Vienna Vanguards
4. Black Forest Bowtruckles
Group E is one of surprising pedigree; every team within it occupies a well-respected position relative to their nation of origin. The Keele Squirrels came third at the British Quidditch Cup after holding eventual tournament winners Southampton Quidditch Club 1 within snitch range for the majority of their match, and the Brussels Qwaffles won the Benelux Cup after beating tournament favourites the Deurne Dodos. Nantes Quidditch came fourth at La Coupe de France after ceding the bronze medal to worthy opponents Crookshanks Lyon (a team that gave the Paris Titans, one of the most terrifying teams in Europe, a run for their money at the Tournoi International de la Violette), and Unisport-Zentrum Darmstadt are the German champions. There is quality throughout this group, and it should prove one of the most interesting as no team can be easily dismissed.
After a good deal of reflection, I think that the Keele Squirrels will take the top space in this group. Their beating is of a stellar quality, with Bex Mclaughlin, Connor Simpson, and Alice Nightingale constituting one of the most accurate and comprehensive beater lineups in the UK. They have proven that they can thrive under pressure, and the muscle in their quaffle game in the form of Chris Scholes-Lawrence and Tom Tugulu will put opposing quaffle lineups on the back foot. Whilst the Brussels Qwaffles have some players able to stand up to Keele's beater lineup, with players such as Damien Leclaire, they do not have the same depth in their squad as can be found in Keele’s chasers and keepers. Marc Bourgeois is a great keeper but he cannot hold the fort alone, and Keele has the variety in its quaffle carriers, with Ben Morton, Ollie Hymers, and John Benest alongside Lawrence and Tugulu, to unpick the Qwaffles’ defence. The absence of Nicola Grosjean and Caroline and Laura Mailleux will hit the Qwaffles the hardest in this game, although Jana Meers will be able to bring experience to the chaser lineup. Nantes Quidditch have some fantastic talent in Fabien Butcher (Nantes’ primary keeper) and David Chenard (beater), but lacks the cohesion overall that will be needed to threaten Keele. That said, Nantes and Brussels could stand to be an interesting matchup. Some of Nantes’ strongest chasers Camille Vallois and Ronan Nicolas will find a hard challenge in Tanghi Burlion and Nathan Wilputte, and the match will be a tight one. However, with their recent defeat of the Dodos in their minds, the Qwaffles will be able to rally together when given a close game, and will ultimately take that win.
Harsh as it may sound, it seems unlikely that a fairly new team from a developing country will challenge Keele for the top spot, and Darmstadt is likely to struggle in most of its games. Evidence from the German national tournament indicates that it has a fantastic instinct for positioning, but its beaters simply lack the knowledge and finesse to stand up to more challenging teams; it has a tendency to make risky and unnecessary beats, and this will be punished severely by the teams Darmstadt will encounter here. This, alongside the fact that this squad consists of only 12 players, means that it will encounter problems against the more experienced teams. However, Turkey has proved to us before that youth is no indication of power, and therefore German quidditch may come out fighting and surprise us all.
The one match I would really recommend people to watch in this pool is the Brussels Qwaffles vs. Darmstadt. The Brussels Qwaffles are one of the oldest teams in Europe, and therefore a must-see for anyone looking for important European teams to acquaint themselves with, and Darmstadt will be able to showcase the talent which Germany has to offer. Germany remains a mystery to the international community, and what better way to further your understanding of this nation than to watch the best at work?
Keele – Qwaffles - Keele eventually pull away
Keele – Nantes - Comfortable Keele win
Keele – Darmstadt - Comfortable Keele win
Qwaffles – Nantes - Narrow Qwaffles win
Qwaffles – Darmstadt - Comfortable Qwaffles win
Nantes – Darmstadt - Comfortable Nantes win
By Alex Harrison
Predictions:1. Falmouth Falcons
2. Crookshanks Lyon
3. Vienna Vanguards
4. Black Forest Bowtruckles
Group B is simultaneously easy and difficult to call. I am pretty sure the Falmouth Falcons and Crookshanks Lyon will occupy the top two slots and the Vienna Vanguards and Black Forest Bowtruckles the bottom two, but calling it further than that is a thorny question.
The Falmouth Falcons have exploded onto the UK quidditch scene this season, overcoming their isolated location to emerge as real contenders. Their seventh place finish at the British Quidditch Cup was fair, with only a desperately unlucky disallowed snitch catch against the Loughborough Longshots denying them a berth in the semifinals. Seeker/beater Alex Brown and chaser Nathan Jones are arguably their standout players, but the Falcons' true strength is their tightly integrated team play, and their game relies primarily on technique, skill, and teamwork rather than hero runs and sheer physicality.
Crookshanks Lyon, meanwhile, are looking to consolidate their position as the third-best team in France after the two Paris juggernauts. Lyon finished third at the French Quidditch Cup, and I would expect them to build on their qualification with a solid showing at the European Quidditch Cup (EQC). They should have little difficulty in taking down the Vanguards and Bowtruckles. Falmouth, however, will be a different proposition, and the Falcons' experience and complete squad will probably see them top the group—but either way, I would expect to see Lyon make it to the winners' bracket with ease.
Quidditch east of the Rhine is currently a bit of a mystery. The Vienna Vanguards are apparently taking a full 21 to EQC, which is hugely impressive given that they constitute the entirety of Austrian quidditch, and that's the main reason I think they will manage a third-place finish in the group. The Black Forest Bowtruckles are as shadowy as their name suggests, but a very strong showing in the German Quidditch Cup with only seven players on their squad suggests that they will be no pushovers. I doubt they will have the experience or depth to upset either the Falcons or Lyon, but there is every chance they could beat the Vanguards. If their game had been the first of the day, the Bowtruckles' small squad might have let them settle quicker than the Vanguards and grab the win, but as it is at the end of the day the Vanguards are more likely to have found their rhythm by then. Both these teams will be hoping to make their mark on European quidditch at EQC, knowing that this will be the first impression of German and Austrian (Teutonic?) quidditch on the world at large, and I expect strong performances even if they go down to the more experienced British and French teams.
Falmouth – Lyon: narrow Falmouth win
Falmouth – Vienna: solid Falmouth win
Falmouth – Bowtruckles: solid Falmouth win
Lyon – Vienna: solid Lyon win
Lyon – Bowtruckles: solid Lyon win
Vienna – Bowtruckles: narrow Vienna win