December 7, 2011
Although the women’s round-robin section of the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2011 in Moscow has now been concluded, the play-off set-up has yet to be finalised, with tie-breakers still needed to determine final ranking.
In the last round-robin session, table-toppers Sweden kept their unblemished record in fine style, overwhelming Latvia by 14-2 in just six ends. A hit by Swedish fourth player Maria Prytz in the third end contributed five points to the Swedish total – their second five-pointer of the game. Afterwards, Swedish skip Margaretha Sigfridsson said, “we tried to be careful tonight because we wanted to keep up our level of play from the other games. Although we were clear winners in the end it was all down to having a very good first end. Like all of our other victories, we are really happy with our performance - most importantly it gives us a lot of confidence going into the final play-off games”.
Like Sweden, Denmark already knew they were in the top play-off game before they faced Germany, who were looking for a win to force their way directly into the play-offs. However, although German skip Andrea Schöpp hit for two points in the third end to take an early lead, she was too strong with her final draw in the tenth, handing Denmark a 6-4 win and forcing her own team into a tie-breaker. Danish skip Len Nielsen echoed some of Sweden Sigfridssson’s comments when she said, “I think the girls played fine – concentration was a bit off sometimes, but we did what we had to. We just wanted to win. We lost to Andrea twice at the Europeans and the worlds last season, so we really wanted to win this one”.
Sweden and Denmark now face-off in the 1v2 Page play-off with the winner going direct to the final on Saturday and the loser having a second chance to make it to the final through the sole semi-final. Speaking about that, Nielsen said, “I think the pressure is on Sweden, not us. They’re undefeated and a really strong team, so we can just go out there, relax and have fun”.
Before their final game, Scotland knew that they were assured of third place overall and a slot in the 3v4 Page play-off, and they seemed to be well in control of their game against Switzerland when skip Eve Muirhead played a draw-shot for three in the fifth end, for a 5-3 lead. But the tables were turned in the very next end when Switzerland’s fourth player Manuela Siegrist hit for three points and a 6-5 lead. The Scots settled after this and ran out 10-7 winners.
Afterwards, Muirhead said, “we felt relaxed out there. It was one of those games that didn’t really matter, but you wanted it to matter, if you know what I mean”.
The Scots do not yet know who they will face in the Page 3-4 play-off. Having lost to Denmark, Germany go into the fourth-place tie-breaker, where they will face hosts Russia, who beat Norway by 7-4 to rank equal fourth. In this game, Russia’s skip Anna Sidorova put her team in front on the scoreboard for the first time with a draw for two points in the eighth end, and then, when Norway’s Linn Githmark messed up an attempted hit and stick in the tenth, Russia won to keep their medal campaign alive.
Afterwards, Anna Sidorova, Russian skip said, “the result depended not only on us, but also on the outcome of the Germany-Denmark game. That’s why we were looking sometimes at the other sheet. It was nerve-wracking. I had my two last shots to play and I realised my team was happy. I didn’t let myself look at the other sheet but I knew what it meant.” (Tiebreaker Russia-Germany at 1400 local).
The Czech Republic finished their round-robin campaign with an 8-4 win over Italy, a result that saw Italy, Switzerland and the Czechs themselves tied for the sixth, seventh and eight places. These three will now play two-tie-breakers, with Italy and Switzerland facing off first and the loser of that game then playing the Czechs. Whichever team finishes eighth at the end of this process will face a challenge from the eventual B Group winners for the last available European slot at this season’s Ford World Women’s Curling Championship in Canada.
Below these three, Latvia finished ninth and Norway finished tenth and, as a result both are relegated to next year’s B Group to be replaced by this year’s “B” winners and runners-up.
GROUP A WOMEN: Standings after end of Round Robin
1. Sweden 9-0
2. Denmark 8-1
3. Scotland 7-2
4. Russia 5-4
4. Germany 5-4
6. Italy 3-6
6. Switzerland 3-6
6. Czech Republic 3-6
9. Latvia 1-8
10. Norway 1-8
It was also a tense final men’s round-robin session, with almost every game determining which teams would be medal contenders or relegation candidates.
The Czech Republic faced Italy and battled through to win by 7-6 and put themselves into the tie-breaker scenario that would keep their medal hopes alive. They won the game with a steal of two points when Italy’s attempted raised double attempt did not come off. Afterwards, Czech skip Jiri Snitil said, “we are happy with what we’ve done in the last two days. Our object was to qualify for the worlds and we’re safely there”.
The key game to determine the destiny of most of the teams ended up being the Germany – Switzerland encounter. If Germany won, three other teams would have their campaigns ended and if Switzerland won, they, along with Switzerland, would live to fight another day. Playing in his first major Championships, Swiss skip Sven Michel kept his nerve throughout. The game eventually went to an extra end in which Michel boldly produced a heavy hit to blast out a German counter and leave his own stone sitting on the wing to score the one point needed for his win.
After the game, a celebrating Michel said, “we were nervous, but we’re happy. We ha d a good first win today and that gave us the power for this game, but it’s a big compliment to my players. They played really well and they have a good self-confidence. We’re happy with our game and hope we can play well again tomorrow”.
Norway and Denmark was a top of the table battle with the winner going direct to the Page 1-2 game, and the loser having a more difficult route to the final by way of the 3-4 play-off. Norway took an early lead and Denmark were always struggling. Their cause was not helped when skip Rasmus Stjerne came up short with his draw against three Norwegian counters in the fifth end to give Norway a steal of one point. Eventually Denmark could do no more and Norway took another positive step in the defence of their title. Norwegian skip Thomas Ulsrud said, “We’re in the 1-2 play-off and that was the goal. After a rusty start we’ve started to play well, so we’re happy to be there”.
Scotland also faced a must-win situation in their game against Sweden, and came out flying. Skip David Murdoch played a delicately-judged draw in the first end to score three points, after which the Scots never looked back and the teams shook hands in the seventh, with Scotland 9-3 up. An elated skip Murdoch said, “that was an absolutely outstanding performance from the boys. I know that’s the way that we can play, and I’ve always said that if we got into that groove, we could win this thing”.
France beat Latvia by 10-6 to keep their ambition of qualifying for this season’s world championships alive with a raised take-out that scored two in the ninth end and forced Latvia to concede. This result means that France finished ranked eighth overall and they now go on to face a challenge from the eventual B Group winners for the last available European slot at the Men’s World Championship 2012 in Basel.
All this action means that seven of the ten men’s teams involved could still win the European title. (Men’s Tie-break round 1 at 0800 local time. Switzerland v Scotland and Germany v Czech Republic. Men’s Tie-break round 2 at 1400 Local – winners of morning tiebreaks).
GROUP A MEN: Standings after end of Round Robin
1. Sweden 6-3
2. Norway 6-3
3. Denmark 6-3
4. Switzerland 5-4
4. Czech Republic 5-4
4. Germany 5-4
4. Scotland 5-4
8. France 4-5
9. Latvia 2-7
10. Italy 1-8
Extensive televised coverage of the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2011 can be seen by viewers in Europe on Eurosport.
Additional live and on demand coverage will be available via the internet on the Eurosport Player. www.worldcurling.org/ecc2011-tv-and-web-coverage
Highlights of televised games can be seen here: www.youtube.com/user/WorldCurlingTV
All results will be mirrored on the World Curling Federation (WCF) results database: http://results.worldcurling.org/default.aspx
Information about the event can be viewed here www.ecc2011.curlingrussia.com