ESF Congress draws are kind to GB teams

Mon 6 Feb 2017

The annual European Softball Federation Congress took place in Belgrade, Serbia from 2-5 February, and draws made to determine pools for two important Championships coming up this summer were relatively kind to British teams.

For some years now, the ESF has conducted a draw for its largest tournaments, along the lines of football’s World Cup, to place teams that are seeded in tiers into specific groups for first round pool play.  The British Softball Federation has consistently argued against this practice on the grounds that it distorts seedings earned at the previous edition of these competitions, but for now, our arguments have not prevailed.

Holding this kind of draw creates winners and losers, and our teams have been on both sides of this in the past. 

This year, however, draws for the European Women’s Championship, to be played in Bollate, Italy from 25 June to 1 July, and for the European Cadette (Under-16) Girls’ Championship, to be played in Ostrava, Czech Republic from 10-15 July, have given GB relatively benign-looking first round pools to navigate.

The GB Women are going into their tournament as the fifth seed, based on results in 2015, and the GB Under-16s will go into their tournament as the fourth seed.

Twenty-six teams -- a record number -- have signed up for the European Women’s Championship, and 14 teams have entered the European Under-16s Championship, and the draws were based on those numbers.  However, teams can withdraw without penalty up to 1 March, and there is always the chance, if enough teams pull out, that the pools for these tournaments will have to be re-cast.


European Women’s Championship​

For the European Women’s Championship, the 26 teams have been divided into eight initial first round groups.  The winner of each group will progress to the next round, second-place teams will play off against each other to progress to the next round, and the teams placed third or fourth in these initial groups will go to consolation playoffs.

The one rule in the draw is that the host country – in this case Italy – has to be in Pool A.

The GB Women have been drawn in Pool B along with Ukraine, Switzerland and Bulgaria, and the full draw is as follows:

Pool A
Italy
Greece
Israel
Serbia

Pool B
Great Britain
Ukraine
Switzerland
Bulgaria

Pool C
Germany
Slovakia
Ireland

Pool D
Austria
Sweden
Croatia

Pool E
Spain
Slovenia
Belgium

Pool F
Russia
Denmark
Hungary

Pool G
Netherlands
France
Lithuania

Pool H
Czech Republic
Poland
Finland

Great Britain has never lost at a European Championship to any of three countries that have been drawn in their first-round pool.  Head Coach Rachael Watkeys has set the team a goal of winning a medal at this competition and qualifying for the 2018 World Championship in Japan, so GB will hope to go through from Pool B as group winners.


European Cadette (Under-16) Girls’ Championship

The 14 teams that have signed up for the European Cadette Championship have been drawn into four first-round pools, two with four teams and two with three.  The top two teams from each group will go forward to Championship playoffs.

The GB Under-16s, who came fourth in the tournament when it was last played in Sardinia in 2015, have wound up in a three-team group with Croatia and Serbia, and will have high hopes of getting to the playoff stage under the new coaching group of Johanna Malisani, Moe Flett and Joss Thompson.

However, in 2015, 12 teams signed up for this tournament and then six withdrew, so the structure of this tournament or the make-up of the pools could still change.  For the moment, the pools, with the host Czech Republic automatically in Pool A, are as follows:

Pool A
Czech Republic
Germany
Slovakia
France

Pool B
Italy
Belgium
Netherlands
Lithuania

Pool C
Russia
Ukraine
Poland

Pool D
Great Britain
Croatia
Serbia

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