The final eight teams that will advance to the quarter-finals of the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football World Championships in Madrid, Spain, have been decided following the final group games on Tuesday (12 June).
Hosts Spain, defending champions Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Morocco, China, Colombia and England are all heading through after 24 exhilarating matches played so far.
Spain underwent a tough road to qualification despite topping group A. They just edged a 2-1 defeat over impressive debutants Thailand in the opening game of the tournament on 7 June; and then beat Morocco 3-0.
However, Spain suffered a shock 1-0 defeat in their last group game against Turkey after a goal from Hasan Satay. The second quarter-final spot went down to the wire as Morocco defeated Thailand 3-0 in the last group game to leapfrog the Asian bronze medallists with six points.
Caption: The quarter finals and placement games of the 2018 IBSA Blind Football World Championships
Group B qualification was also a close contest as Colombia took on Iran, winning the match 2-1 to consequently finish second and progress.
Colombia will play title holders Brazil for a semi-final place on Wednesday (12 June).
Colombia’s Fredy Duvian Lopez Morales said: “We are not afraid of the reigning world champions. We know how they play and their strengths and weaknesses from our experience at the Americas Championships in late 2017. We think we can overthrow them for the world title.”
Paralympic champions Brazil left the best impression after bulldozing their way to first place in group D, winning all three games and finishing with a +21 goal difference.
The Brazilians also have the tournament top scorers in Ricardinho Alves with seven goals, closely followed by teammate Gledson on six.
England finished second in the group, securing their quarter-final place after beating Mali 4-0 in their opening match, and then Costa Rica 7-1 on Tuesday.
In the same group, Mali secured their first World Championship win after beating Costa Rica 1-0, with a goal from Mamadou Thiam.
Americas champions Argentina had already secured a spot in the quarter-finals after defeating France 3-0 on Sunday (10 June) to finish first with six points. They will play England on Wednesday.
Asian title holders China topped group C with maximum points after three 1-0 victories against South Korea, Mexico and Russia. European champions Russia finished second in the group with four points, drawing their opening game against Mexico 1-1 and subsequently defeating South Korea 3-0.
China will take on Morocco whilst Russia will face a tough tie with Spain, who will try to make the most of the home advantage.
Spain face Russia at 9am (CET) and China meet Morocco at 11:30am. At 4:30pm, Argentina battle against England; and Brazil take on Colombia in the last quarter-final at 7pm.
Brazil are favourites to retain the title. However, China and England are both strong contenders.
As well as the title, the winners of the sixteen-team tournament will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
In the other placement games, Turkey play France on Thursday at 9am for a chance at 13th place as do South Korea and Costa Rica at 11:30am. The battle for ninth and 10th will be decided after Thailand play Iran at 4:30pm and Mexico v Mail at 7pm.
All the games can be watched live at the official Championships website. Click here to view the full standings in the round-robin group stage.
You can also follow all the exciting action on Facebook at IBSA Blind Football
and Mundial Fútbol Ciegos
, and on Twitter - @IBSAB1Football
Caption: The banner of the 2018 IBSA Blind Football World Championships