The 2018 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball World Championships, the biggest competition on the sport's calendar, will get underway in Malmö, Sweden, on Sunday (3 June).
A total of 28 teams - 16 men's and 12 women's - will compete for coveted titles. The Championships also offer a chance to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
A livestream and results will be available at www.wcg18.se
between 3-8 June.
Rights free pictures, highlights and footage will be available on request from [email protected]
The USA are the defending women's champions and Paralympic bronze medallists from Rio 2016. They have reached eight World Championships podiums including four wins, putting them at the top of the all-time medals table.
Lisa Czechowski returns to the squad alongside Asya Miller, the top scorer from the 2016 Paralympics, Amanda Dennis and Eliana Mason. Bryana Stubbert makes her World Championships debut.
"With the support of a residential training program, the team is feeling more prepared than ever before,” Czechowski said. “We have spent countless hours practicing, studying film, weight training, and cross training to prepare for these World Championships. Team USA is excited to compete and hungry to defend our title as world champions!"
Turkey are also a dominant force in the women's as the reigning Paralympic champions and bronze medallists from the 2014 Worlds in Espoo, Finland.
Russia are the returning silver medallists whilst Tokyo 2020 hosts Japan are hoping to improve on their best ever finish from four years ago when they ended in fourth place.
In the men's Lithuania are aiming for their third title having missed the hat-trick in 2014. They left with bronze but re-grouped in time for Rio 2016 where they went unbeaten on their way to gold.
Player Artūras Jonikaitis said: "We are excited to go to the World Championships and show our best and we of course hope for the medal, because we have to defend the Paralympic first place. Every team has problems with the team spirit sometimes, but as the World Championship is approaching, our positive spirit is growing every day and we are looking forward to show our best.
“It will be my first World Championships and now I feel I have enough experience and I am well prepared to compete at such a high level. I wish us lions all the best, a good fight and to never give up!"
Brazil are the defending men's champions and are relying on the experience of a group of players who helped them to bronze at their home Paralympics nearly two years ago.
Five of the six players return to the squad including Leomon Mora, Josemarcio Sousa, Romario Marques, Alex de Melo and Jose Roberto Oliveira. André Claudio Botelho Dantas rounds off the selection.
Hosts Sweden are hoping that their home support will carry them to the top of the podium for the second time. The 2002 world champions just missed out on a Paralympic medal in Rio when they lost 6-5 in overtime to Brazil in the bronze medal match.
The line-up remains broadly unchanged from then and will be led once again by team captain Fatmir Seremeti. Stefan Gahne, Nils Posse and Mikael Akerberg also return after Rio.
“We are trying to prepare ourselves mentally for our seventh player, that is of course our supporters, Seremeti said. “Everyone wants to come and see us play but they also want us to win and have success at the home venues so of course it’s a mental challenge to be able to comprehend that. Many of our players have been around for a long time and have been playing at major international Championships so they know what’s coming.”
Seremeti also had a message to potential spectators with tickets still available to purchase at www.wcg18.se:
“Take a chance and see high performance athletes doing amazing things with a ball without their vision. You don’t get to see that very often. You don’t get to see so many really great athletes at the same time in the same venue. Now we have men’s and women’s in the same venue, there are so many really great athletes to see. It’s a fast-paced, technical sport for visually impaired people, you just can’t miss that.”
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.