Eight teams have arrived in Pattaya, Thailand, for the 2019 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football Asian Championships which get underway on Monday (30 September).
As well as the Asian title, the finalists will secure a place at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The competition will be shown live at IBSA’s YouTube channel.
Defending champions China return to the pitch with a series of players who registered goals during the last edition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2017.
The side triumphed 2-0 over Iran, who less than a year previously had secured silver at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
The top scorer from 2017, Wei Jiansen, is part of the Chinese line-up once again. Meng Liu and Jiabin Zhang, who netted the country’s two goals in the final, are also set to compete.
Iran meanwhile will field their most valuable player from two years ago, Behzad Zadaliasghari. A number of other players remain unchanged from their Paralympic podium performance.
Meysam Shojaeyan, Amir Pourrazavi, Hossein Rajabpour, Ahmadreza Shah Hosseini, Sadegh Rahimighasr and Rasool Baseri all challenged for gold in 2016.
The group draw for the 2019 IBSA Blind Football Asian Championships
Japan enter with the advantage of already having a Paralympic place as the hosts. They are however unlikely to take a relaxed approach to the competition as they continue to look to make their mark on the international stage.
Team captain Ryo Kawamura scored three goals in 2017 and will be back, trying to lead his team onto the podium.
Hosts Thailand finished third at the last Asian Championships. Kittikorn Baodee was the tournament’s second highest scorer with four goals – just one behind China’s Jiansen.
Oman will make their regional debut when they take on Japan in the opening game at 8am local time on Monday.
South Korea, India and Malaysia will also go for the title.
The 2019 IBSA Blind Football Asian Championships run from 30 September – 6 October.
For more information about the event, visit the official website.