The 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball European Championships Group A are set to get underway in Rostock, Germany, on Tuesday (8 October), featuring the region’s best teams.
Ten men’s and 10 women’s teams from 15 countries will go for titles, with the added bonus of Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games slots for those teams not already qualified.
The competition will be shown live on the IBSA YouTube channel and IBSA Goalball Facebook.
The schedule and results can be found at http://em-rostock2019.de/schedule.html
as well as ticket information.
For some teams it is their last chance to qualify for the Paralympics while others enter more relaxed.
In the men’s hosts Germany are expected to put on a good show for their home crowds.
The team secured silver, and a Tokyo 2020 berth, at the 2018 IBSA Goalball World Championships. Their line-up remains unchanged since that performance. Michael Feistle, Oliver Hörauf, Felix Rogge and Thomas Steiger as well as local hero Reno Tiede and Stefan Hawranke are Germany’s super six.
Head Coach Johannes Gunther said: “We are proud of our results since Rio 2016 [Paralympics]. Compared to other nations in Europe our team and especially our starting three is very young, so we can say that we are stronger than 2018.
“Most teams in Europe have only one or two scorers in their team. In our team we have four-five players who are able to score some goals in a Championship game.”
The group are also aiming to improve on their silver medal from the last Euros in Pajulahti, Finland, in 2017.
Germany are in Group B with Worlds and defending European bronze medallists Belgium.
The Belgians are aiming for their first ever Paralympic podium performance in Tokyo.
Rostock 2019 will be an important part of that evolution. Brother Tom and Bruno Vanhove will be key elements of their campaign once again.
Also in Group B are Czech Republic, a team determined to make the most of the competition. They just missed out on the final at the 2019 International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA, in July, a qualification tournament for Tokyo, losing out to eventual silver medallists Turkey.
Rounding off the group are 2011 champions Finland and Spain.
Germany will take on Spain in the opening match of Rostock 2019 on Tuesday at 18.30 CEST.
Group A features reigning Paralympic and European champions Lithuania who are on the march after a successful 2019 season. The team topped the podium at the 2019 International Qualifier, returning to form just in time following a fourth place finish at the Worlds. Mantas Panovas spearheaded their efforts as the Top Scorer and returns to the court in Rostock.
Turkey were the side who lost out to the Lithuanians in Fort Wayne, but it was their first defeat having sailed through the group and knock-out stages unbeaten.
Ukraine will also be making their opponents nervous in Group A.
The side won gold at the 2018 Group B Euros and subsequently impressed over the summer, making it into the quarter-finals at Fort Wayne 2019.
Sweden are still searching for their ticket to Tokyo and will be trying to put a difficult qualification period behind them. But the team have a storied history of four Paralympic medals to their name and a huge amount of experience in their side. This includes Paralympians Fatmir Seremeti and Stefan Gahne. They also finished fourth in 2017.
Completing Group A are Greece.
Headlining Group X are world and European champions Russia, who will make their Paralympic debut in 2020.
The team have also finished on the podium at every single Euros since 2011. They will benefit from the presence of many of their experienced players, including Irina Arestova who was the second top scorer at the 2018 Worlds.
Russia will meet Greece, Denmark, Ukraine and Finland during the group stages.
Like their male teammates, Ukraine won the Euros Group B in 2018 in convincing fashion. They overcame Finland in the final to achieve an unbeaten record.
Greece are aiming for the first podium finish at this level since 2005 and to qualify for their first Paralympics since they hosted in 2004.
Finland have an impressive record that includes four golds and will be hoping for a return to their glory days. That is also true for 2011 champions Denmark.
The German women feature in a tough draw in Pool Y. Stefanie Behrens, Annkathrin Denker, Charlotte Hartz and Pia Knaute will represent the hosts.
Paralympic champions and Worlds silver medallists Turkey will try to avenge a second place finish from 2017 to Russia if they get out of their group. Helping them will be Sevda Altunoluk who left the 2018 Worlds as the Top Scorer across the men’s and women’s competition with 46 goals.
2017 bronze medallists Israel will also be very tough to beat with a series of players able to deliver incredibly high-powered and technical attacks.
These include the best attacker from Fort Wayne 2019, Lihi Ben David, who was a key part of her team’s third place finish in the USA.
Great Britain have one clear goal in mind after what they consider to be one of their most successful Paralympic qualifying campaigns in history. This included a fifth-place finish in July.
They are pinning their hopes on Georgina Bullen, Antonia Bunyan, Kali Holder, Sarah Leiter and Amelia Robertson.
Coach Aaron Ford said: “We’re all aware of what is at stake, and there’s an awe-inspiring determination to make it happen. Whatever the outcome in Rostock, this qualifying campaign has been a real statement of intent for Great British goalball. We already have a young squad and the competition for places from the brilliant players emerging from the talent pathway has been the fiercest that I have ever seen.”
The Netherlands round off pool Y and will open their Championships against Germany on 8 October at 20.00 CEST.
The 2019 IBSA Goalball European Championships Group A begin with three days of group games between 8-10 October. The quarter-finals for both men’s and women’s take place on 11 October followed by the semi-finals on 12 October.
The medal games conclude competition on Sunday 13 October.
Games will take place in two venues: The Rostock Stadthalle and OSPA Arena with Stadthalle staging the finals.
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