Last weekend four teams that will be soon heading to the 2014 IBSA Goalball World Championships used the Izola Goalball tournament as further preparation before that major championship.
Finland (Paralympic champions), Spain (European silver medalists), Turkey (Paralympic and European bronze medalists) and the Czech Republic (easily one of the most consistent teams around at the moment) were all in Izola and will soon also be in Espoo.
Finland and Czech Republic were the two seeded teams in Pool B and were joined by Slovenia, Kosovo and Azerbaijan.
The remaining teams of Croatia, Italy and Hungary joined Turkey and Spain in Pool A.
The four teams who are heading to the World Championships were really in top gear and out to show why they were able to qualify for Espoo. This was already apparent after the results of the opening matches. Turkey defeated Hungary 11-1 and Finland followed this with a 12-2 win over Azerbaijan.
Host nation Slovenia did do their best to break the top four but went down fighting 5-6 to the Paralympic champions, Finland.
This wasn’t the only close match. Some of the teams attending this tournament are instead of preparing for Worlds they are preparing for the 2014 IBSA Goalball European Championships B division. One very close score line was between two teams that were doing just this. Italy and Hungary played a very close match but in the end Italy sneaked past Hungary 11-10. Another example was the close match between Croatia and Hungary. With less than two minutes to go Croatia was trailing Hungary by four goals but the Croatians were determined to win and this they did. They fought back and took the match 10-9.
The two pool matches that we were all anticipating were those between the top four. Spain repeated their result from last year’s European championship by defeating Turkey once again. It was close for a long time but in the end Spain one comprehensively 6-0. In the other game between the big four, Czech Republic continued their dominance over Finland winning 9-3.
As perhaps expected, the top four all won their quarter final matches. Spain demolished Kosovo 10-0 within the first five minutes, the Czechs took Croatia apart with a 15-5 win, Finland defeated Italy 12-4 and Turkey had the closest win but still won easily 10-4 over Slovenia.
After many high scoring matches, the semi-final between Finland and Spain was one of defense. In the end Spain were able to break through the Finnish defense twice to make it through to the final with a 2-0 win.
The second semi-final was the most talked about match of the tournament. This match went to golden goal overtime. The Czechs were the first to score. However, in goalball the match is not officially over until the referee has said “game” and given one last whistle. Before these things had happened, the Czech coach and bench players ran on to the court. For this they were given a penalty. Turkey scored and equalized. After this we went back to golden goal. The clock continued to tick down and it seemed that no-one would score and the match would head in to penalties. However with two seconds to go and the last throw of the match the Czechs were able to score again and this time take the match that they had earlier won.
Turkey was able to win the tournament with a win. They overcame Finland 7-5 to take yet another bronze medal.
Prior to beginning the final there was a minute silence for René Howalt who sadly passed away last week. René had been a long serving dedicated goalball official who
Departed us with great memories of him.
The Spanish defense from the semi-final was to the frustration of the Czechs still there in the final. At half time Spain was already leading 3-0. At one time the Czechs got it back to 1-4 for a three goal difference but this was the closest that they would come until the end of the match. The final score was 9-6 to Spain.
To see the full results please visit the official Twitter page of the tournament www.twitter.com/izolaGoalball