European Championships Curling Day 5

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

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


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