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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Japan, France kick off gridiron championship

Staff writer

KAWASAKI — Two-time defending champion Japan will kick off the international American football competition against France as the two nations take on each other on Saturday, the opening day of the 3rd IFAF World Championships at Kawasaki's Todoroki Stadium.

News photo
Japan quarterback Kentaro Namiki (from left to right), France tight end Yoan Schnee, Sweden running back Joakim Holm, South Korea wide receiver Seo Chang Ho, United States QB Adam Austin and Germay defensive tackle Dennis Englebrecht pose for a photo at a news conference on Friday, a day before the start of the 3rd IFAF World Championships in Kawasaki. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

"We're pleased to host this tournament as the defending champion," Japan quarterback Kentaro Namiki said at a news conference. "We have six of American football's elite nations here, (including) the United States, which takes part in the World Championship for the first time. I hope we prove the best competitions ever.

"As for Japan, we've been building the national team and preparing for this tourney for the last four months. We want to achieve the third straight championship."

The World Championship of American football, also called the American Football World Cup, started in Sicily, Italy, in 1999 and the second one took place in Frankfurt in four years later. Japan won both times.

The United States will make its World Championship debut. It also is the first time the United States organized a national team to participate in an international tournament.

"(Playing in the World Championship) means a lot," said U.S. quarterback Adam Austin, who didn't know about this competition halfway through the last U.S. college season. "Japan had played some good football and won the title. We're not expected to be automatically (picked) to win just because we were born in the U.S. We want to get prepared to win every game, each game at a time.

"I think the advantage we have is we've been playing football in our whole lives and dreaming about playing in the NFL. There is something that can be got in football maybe some other guys don't know."

Six countries will take part in the World Championship and they are divided into two groups. Japan, France and Sweden belong to Group 1, while the U.S., South Korea and Germany are in Group 2.

Each team plays two group games in the round-robin format and the winners of each group take on each other in the final on July 15. Second-ranked teams play each other for third place, while the third-ranked squads vie for fifth place on July 14.

One quarter is 12 minutes instead of 15 minutes, the time of normal football periods.

Japan plays the opener against France at 6:10 p.m. on Saturday, in the rematch of the first-round game of the second World Championship in 2003. Japan won 23-6.

"We've been prepared for the game against Japan. We're excited to play Japan for revenge of the 2003 loss," France tight end and former NFL Europa player Yoan Schnee said.

"One of our challenges is stopping Japan's passing attack. They play hard the whole game and every play. It's exciting to play such a team."

Namiki vividly remembers details of that game.

"We were forced a tough game last time we played France," Namiki told reporters. "This French team should be even better because they have some former NFL Europa players in the squad. We've been studying them through watching videos. We want to get focused on the first game against France."

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