Respective men’s and women’s champions Brazil and the USA can sleep sound in their beds on Sunday (3 June) after winning their opening matches at the 2018 IBSA Goalball World Championships.
In the men’s Brazil opened the scoring in their group B tie with the USA with a goal from Josemarcio Silva da Sousa. They went on to sink three more goals into the corners of the USA net in the first half.
The Brazilian’s overlapping defence proved too hard for the USA to crack until Grej Pesjacka managed a bounce over to regain some ground.
A tense opening few minutes in the first half was finally broken by Brazil with an impressive shot through the legs from Alex de Melo Sousa. The USA claimed one back shortly after with another goal for Pesjacka.
A mistake by de Melo Sousa handed Team USA a penalty but they failed to capitalise after a confident block from Jose Roberto Ferreira.
A further two goals from Brazil in the second half saw them finish 7-2 up.
“With the USA it’s always a strong game, the defence must be very concentrated, all the players must be very focused during the game,” de Melo Sousa said. “We always focus at the beginning of every game on the defence and we try to adjust during the game the goals that we have.
“Our main goal is to qualify for Tokyo 2020. And of course be the world champions again.”
In the women’s defending title holders the USA sit at the top of group D on goal difference following their 7-1 win over Greece.
Lisa Czechowski said: “It feels awesome. Both teams played really well, we split up some really good defence as expected. Our team is feeling really strong and energetic and ready to go.”
On the men’s side, a nervy performance from hosts Sweden saw a shock 8-8 draw against debutants Argentina in group A.
Whilst Sweden opened the scoring just a few seconds after the first whistle, Argentina levelled the score minutes later. That trading of blows between the two teams was to be a theme of the match.
Sweden enjoyed a two goal lead at the end of the first half but that was whittled away by Argentina. They finally managed to take the lead with just a couple of minutes left on the clock.
Sweden then levelled with only 18 seconds left on the clock courtesy of captain Fatmir Seremeti.
“Of course, it’s the first game of the tournament so we were a bit nervous. We have a lot more to give than that. Of course we are a bit disappointed about the 2 point loss, but one point is one point. The Argentina team, we’ve never played against them before so it’s ok.”
Alejandro Almada was the top scorer for Argentina with seven goals.
There were a total of 18 games on the opening day of competition in Malmö.
Men group A
A couple of close matches saw Belgium take the lead at the top of their group.
In their first match they just edged China 7-6. They then beat Paralympic champions Lithuania 8-5.
Earlier in the day, Lithuania had to stage a comeback in their opening match against Algeria.
Mantas Panovas was their hero, first levelling the score at 3-3 and going on to give them a two goal lead. Panovas then stepped up once again close to the end of the game to score the winning goal after the Algerians had managed to equalise.
Ekrem Gundogdu was the top scorer for the Turkish men in their win against Australia with five goals. The final score was 7-8 to Turkey. In their second game of the day, Turkey had a close battle with China emerging as the victors by just one goal (13-12).
Men - group B
Germany are top of the group after day one, registering two wins against Canada (11-3) and the USA.
A thrilling encounter between them and 2014 bronze medallists the USA saw the Germans emerge on top (13-7). A high scoring game, Oliver Hoerauf was Germany’s top net-finder with six goals.
Japan are second in the group, triumphing against Czech Republic to win by 11 goals to nine. They then took on Canada, beating them 11-6.
Iran are third on goal difference having reached double figures in their match against Egypt, claiming three points.
Women – group C
Yilmaz Reyhan opened the scoring for Paralympic champions Turkey in a match that saw them post an 11-1 victory over hosts Sweden. Sevda Altunoluk followed her teammates lead, finding the back of her opponent’s net five times across the match.
Gulsah Duzgun was especially pleased with the win after some time away from the court: “It was a really exciting game because I haven’t played for one-and-a-half years after the Paralympics because I had a baby.
“We started really good and hopefully we will finish like that, and we won’t lose any games here and we will be champions.”
Turkey are top of group C after the first day. Russia are second after an 8-1 win over Israel.
Japan broke a long 1-1 tie with Australia thanks to a goal late in the second half of their opening game. The shot from Rie Urata just rolled over the line out of the reach of the Australian defence to give the Tokyo 2020 hosts the final edge.
“I feel really happy for a faster game, so we are really happy. In some parts we had a good game and in some cases not,” team captain Yuki Temme said.
Speaking about Japan’s aims for the Championships overall, Temme simply said: “The gold medal.”
Women – group D
Four successive goals for Ana Carolina Custodio saw Brazil secure three points over China with a 6-4 win.
Canada dominated their maiden match-up against Algeria, winning 9-4 to put them second in group D.
The group stages of the 2018 IBSA Goalball World Championships will take place from 3-7 June. The quarterfinals will get underway on 7 June before the medal matches on 8 June.
Matches will be played across two venues on the same complex - the Baltiska Hallen and Baltiska träningshallen. The medallists from both the men's and women's will qualify for Tokyo 2020.
A livestream and results are available at www.wcg18.se
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