Will There Be A New Champion?
Beginning June 25th, 26 teams across eight pools will battle it out, single round robin style, for their chance at the 20th Women's Softball European Championship. Pools were announced this week and it looks like the distrbution is set for another Italy-Netherlands final. Italy and the Netherlands have dominated the competition since it began in 1979. Italy has 10 titles and 18 medals. Between them, they have never let another country have the win.
Based on last season’s performances heading into the tournament the Netherlands, coming out of Pool G, are the strong favorite. In 2016, they took fourth place in the world championship and are currently ranked 8th worldwide, but first in Europe, by the WBSC. Over the life of the tournament they are tied for medals with 18, including 9 gold.
Teams are divided into eight pools with the winner in each guaranteed a spot in the quarterfinals. All the teams coming in second across the pools will play a wild card round for their spot in the quarterfinals. Competing for their place in the quarterfinal from Pool G are France and new-comers Lithuania.
Fans of the tournament will, no doubt, be keeping a close eye on Pool A where Italy is the clear favorite. At the moment Italy is ranked 12th worldwide in the WBSC rankings and second for European teams. Greece (19th) is a liable wild card contender.
This year, coming out of Pool H, the Czech Republic, who have 8 tournament medals of their own, will be reaching for gold. The team is ranked 13th worldwide and 3rd in Europe. If Veronika Peckova, one of the strongest pitchers in Europe, is healthy for the event their chances are good.
Great Britain (14th), Germany (38th), Russia (28th) and Spain (38th) are expected to round out the quarterfinal qualifiers from first round play. The biannual competition will be held in Bollate, Italy, just outside of Milan.