The 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football American Championships will get underway in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Tuesday (4 June) with six teams vying for the title.
Hosts Brazil, defending champions Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru will compete, with the winning team also qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
A full match schedule is available here.
A livestream will be shown at IBSA Blind Football’s Facebook page.
The competition is likely to be highlighted by a meeting between Brazil and Argentina, adding another chapter to the sport’s great rivalry. The two teams will open the tournament at 10am local time on Tuesday.
In 2017 Argentina delivered a blow to Brazil by winning the trophy in Santiago de Chile, Chile, after a 2-1 win on penalties.
Then at the 2018 IBSA Blind Football World Championships in Madrid, Spain, both teams were once again at the top of their game and faced each other in the final. However this time it was Brazil who left victorious.
One of Brazil’s most respected players, Ricardinho Alves, was a key part of his team’s success last year.
“Our first game is against Argentina, which will be a great game; a classic. Argentina is a team that is always very difficult to face,” said Ricardinho, who left Spain as the top goalscorer with 10 goals. “While there is a lot of rivalry, of course there is also a lot of respect, which will make it a special game.
“The preparation of the Brazilian team is the same for all competitions, since they are very important and valued by us. But of course playing at home is different, special and with the fans encouraging us is another moment of joy for us. The reaction is always great. There is nothing better than encouraging a sport that has grown every year and has revealed great players. This is our victorious generation and a number of other athletes have yet to emerge.”
Whilst Brazil have already secured their spot for Tokyo 2020 with their world title win, the team will be looking to impress at home.
Colombia will be keen to improve on their performance from the last American Championships where they left with bronze and several other accolades. They also finished sixth at the World Championships in Madrid.
Jhon Gonzalez walked away with Player of the Tournament in 2017 and in 2018 once again played a crucial role in attack.
Chile are preparing to put more than 12 months of preparation into action, hoping to clinch their first top three finish at a regional Championships with an ever-improving side.
“We set an objective for this Cup and will continue training to achieve our objectives one by one,” Victor Hugo Silva Pavez, the team captain, said. “We are a young team willing to assume important commitments for the achievement of our collective goals.”
Chile and Colombia will face each other in their opening game at 2pm on Tuesday.
Mexico missed out on a podium finish last time around when they lost 3-0 to Colombia in the third place play-off. But the side are in the hunt to qualify for their second Paralympics after their debut at Rio 2016.
Peru will be looking to for a good performance as they prepare to host the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games in August.
A match between Mexico and Peru will round-off the opening day of competition on Tuesday from 4:30pm.
The 2019 IBSA Blind Football American Championships will run until 9 June when the final and bronze medal match will be held.
All games will be played at Brazilian Paralympic Training Centre, a purpose built facility in Sao Paulo.