Canada, Mexico capture IFAF Flag Worlds

The world's premier flag football players from thirteen countries and three continents gathered this past week in St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec, to compete in the biannual International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Flag Football World Championships. Both Israel's women's and men's national teams had qualified for the event and they had some success, finishing fifth and seventh overall, respectively. After a hard-fought weekend for football supremacy, host Canada's men's team and the women from Mexico were crowned champions, both fully deserving of the title after displaying a combination of skill, determination and athleticism rarely seen on the fields of international amateur sports. Trailing 12-0 early in the finals to Canada, the Mexican women got a much-needed momentum change by forcing a safety before halftime. The second half belonged to Mexico, who won a second world title, having also triumphed in 2004. The team scored four touchdowns in the frame and only allowed Canada to reach the end zone once more before sealing the 27-18 win with a late interception. The men's championship game was just as exciting and competitive, pitting two evenly matched squads in Denmark and Canada against each other. The first half ended in a scoreless tie and was marked by numerous defensive gems from both teams to prevent either one from putting points on the board. The second half continued to be a defensive battle until, with less than ten minutes remaining, Canada broke the 6-6 tie with the decisive championship-winning touchdown for a 12-6 victory. The women's and men's bronze games both featured France vs the United States, with France winning both contests. The men's game was dominated by an explosive French team that led by 32 points at halftime and eventually triumphed 45-0. The women's bronze match was a closer affair, with France mounting a game-winning drive in the last minute to walk away with a 19-13 victory. As for the Israelis, the women had a tough first day of the tournament on Friday. After beating the Austrian team handily in their opener, they dropped their remaining five preliminary games (Canada, France, Mexico, Japan, USA) to fall out of medal contention. The extreme heat combined with the fact that they had to play six games in five hours to compensate for not being able to play on Shabbat. But the team was making no excuses. "We should have taken at least four of those games," exclaimed frustrated defensive back and back-up quarterback Yael Freedman. "We just missed on a couple of key possessions and couldn't turn it around in time. Don't worry, we'll be back." After a restful Shabbat, the women came out with a renewed vigor on Sunday morning in the relegation round, crushing the Japanese 35-0 and defeating the Austrians once again to claim fifth place overall. The men's national team, playing shorthanded and undermanned with only nine players on the roster, lost their first two matches on Friday to the US and Denmark. Led by swashbuckling QB Kenneth Zwiebel, they stormed back in the afternoon, however, winning their final three round-robin games against Japan, Austria and Sweden to finish the day 3-2 and qualify for the quarterfinals. In the quarters, the Israeli men fell to France in a tough battle before also losing a heartbreaker in OT to the Italians. They managed to regroup to beat Japan convincingly in their final game to finish seventh overall.