We are now just under 20 days away from the first Floorball match being played at the 2022 World Games. The next team in our countdown to compete in July in Birmingham, Alabama is Latvia!
The journey to the World Games in 2022 began at 2020 Floorball World Championships in Helsinki last December where the top 5 finishing countries, top AOFC teams and top AMER teams would qualify alongside the hosts UNITED STATES for the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, United States.
Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Swiss were the first to qualify followed by Thailand who beat the Philippines in a tense shootout for 13th place and qualification in Birmingham and Canada which finished 12th and was the highest ranked AMER country. Latvia completed the World Games lineup by beating Norway for 5th place.
Latvia are making their official World Games debut as they did not compete in Wrocław, in 2017. They did, however, compete in the 1997 World Games event in Lahti, Finland, in which floorball was an invitational and therefore unofficial sport, in which they finished 4th. They qualified for the 2022 World Games by finishing 5th at the 2020 World Championships in Helsinki, beating Norway 4-2 for 5th position and thus qualifying for the World Games. They went through the group stage with a draw against Denmark (5-5) and two defeats against the top two nations in the world rankings (11-1 against Sweden and 7-2 against Finland). This put Latvia in the playoff bracket to qualify for the quarter-finals. In their playoff round, they faced fellow World Games opponents Canada, controlling the game to emerge 16-3 winner. The win put Latvia through to the quarter-finals, where they would face a strong Czech side, losing 9-1. Facing Slovakia knowing a win would maintain their chances of qualifying for the World Games, Latvia came out strong and produced a great performance to beat the Slovaks and head into the 5th place playoff against Norway. The 5th place game against Norway was close but a power play goal less than 2 minutes before the end of the 3rd period propelled Latvia to a 4-2 victory. Latvia have been strong at recent World Championships despite their small size as a nation, finishing 5th in 3 of the last 4 Men’s World Championships.
Photo: Juha Kaenmaki
Latvia recently competed in the men’s WFCQ 2022 EUR1 event in Valmiera, Latvia to qualify for the 2022 World Championships in November. This event not only helped the team develop tactics, game plans and team cohesion, but also served as a good barometer to pit them against other strong European teams. Latvia won their group beating Ukraine 22-0, Denmark 7-5 and Iceland 9-3, making them group winners and automatically qualifying for the World Championships as top 3 of their qualifying group. They faced World Championship silver medalists Finland in the EUR1 final losing 5-3 in a tight game. Latvia has shown that they are a strong and solid floorball nation, one of the best in the world that in their time can really push the “top 4” nations.
Expectations for Latvia at these World Games will be mixed due to the high level of skill of the two European teams in their group, Switzerland and Sweden. Their other opponents are Thailand, recent winners of the AOFC qualifier and who will also pose a tough test. Latvia will therefore be aiming for 5th place with a surprise against Switzerland also a possibility, which could propel them to their first ever medal in an international floorball tournament. Find out more about the competition in Birmingham in July here.
Photo: Juhani Jarvenpaa
What will Latvia do at the World Games in Alabama? Only time will tell, but this is an experienced and hungry team looking to upset and even push for the first floorball medal in their history. They hope to create a surprise in the group stage and be at least the most successful team outside the “top 4” of European nations (Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Switzerland). Check out Latvia’s squad roster at the World Games here.
The previous edition in 2017 in Wrocław was won by Sweden, beating Switzerland in the final, 7-5. Finland came in 3rd, followed by the Czech Republic in 4th, the United States in 5th and Poland in 6th.
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