- Date: 07-02-2015
- Related to: Goalball
After their heart breaking loss from two years ago, Great Britain made up for it by winning the 2015 IBSA Goalball European Championships Men C in a very closely fought final over reigning champions, Russia. So close was the match, it was decided in extra time after both teams had the lead at different moments.
The day begun with the conclusion of the round robin. Russia and Bulgaria started the proceedings. Russia just needed a draw to confirm their place at the top after the round robin. Bulgaria on the other hand no longer had a chance of making the semifinals but this did not deter them from being out there to win. They gave everything to Russia to end on a good note but just lost the match with one goal 9-8.
Next up was Portugal and Great Britain. A match that would influence the final standings. Great Britain was out for revenge after their loss to Portugal in the semifinals of the C Championships two years ago. At the pause Great Britain was just ahead 3-2. However, in the second half Portugal made four unanswered goals and took the match 6-3.
Next up was the battle for fourth place between Greece and Italy. Greece needed to win this with a good margin but unfortunately for them this did not happen. Italy took it instead quite comfortably 8-2 and booked their semifinal place.
The semifinals were now set, Russia v Italy and Great Britain v Portugal.
The Russians and Italians were the first to take centre stage. The two teams couldn’t be split after the first stanza and it was 2-2 at the break. Not long after the start of the second half, Russia scored and then saved a penalty for Russia to go up 3-2. The Italians were not about to give up though and made it quickly 3-3. As the match started to near the end, Russia stepped it up and made it 6-3. Italy tried to stage a comeback with a couple of quick goals but Russia kept their nose in front with more goals and with two minutes to go it was 7-5. Russia was able to make one final goal and the end score was 8-5. Therefore Russia continues their yo-yo between European B and C division and next year will be back at the B championships.
We were very lucky on the final day because often you are not privileged to so many good matches on finals day but this time we were spoiled. Portugal and Great Britain, the second semifinal was also a very exciting match. At the half way point Great Britain was ahead 2-1. However, that was also the case when the two played earlier that day and in that instance the score turned around. This time though, Great Britain did score in the second half. They scored early in the second half to take the lead 3-1. Portugal knew from experience that they could beat Great Britain and therefore were not about to give up. The scored once with 7 minutes to go and again with 5 to go and it was game on, 3-3. After being in this situation before against Portugal, Great Britain was not about to give up their lead or their ticket to the B Championships. They scored two more goals in the next few minutes and held on, 5-3. This puts Great Britain back into the B division for the first time since 2010.
All that was left now was the medal matches. First up was the bronze play off between Italy and Portugal. As we know though, they were playing for a lot more than a medal; they were playing for that final spot at next year’s IBSA Goalball European Championships Men B. Both teams had dropped down from last year’s B Championships and were keen to get there again.
The bronze medal match was an action packed match. Within five minutes Portugal was leading 4-2. Coming into the break, Portugal still had their noses in front 5-4. Portugal used those three minutes to set their tactics and it worked. Two more goals early in the second half and they extended their lead to 7-4. After this there was no stopping the Portuguese roll and they went on to take the match comfortably. This puts Portugal back in the European B division for the second time.
This left us with one match to enjoy, the gold medal match between Russia and Great Britain. A match that we hope will be tense and of quality and this match delivered. Great Britain came out firing and within three minutes they were leading 2-0. A further two minutes and it was Russia’s turn to score. Not long after this a long ball penalty was given against Great Britain and the Russians could convert and it is now 2-2. The momentum had swung in the favour of the defending champions and with two to go in the first half Russia is leading for the first time 3-2. Before the half is over Great Britain equalized but Russia responds with another goal and they go into the break with the lead 4-3.
Many followers of goalball know that a goal is often scored after a break in play. Well Great Britain had the first throw of the second half and they made that throw count with a fine goal, 4-4. Just less than 12 minutes to go and the match was equal. It seems that the momentum had swung again. Great Britain found a hole on the post and make it 5-4. With 7 minutes to go, Russia takes a time out and the plan worked. They came back and scored a goal and things are level again. For the next seven minutes neither team is able to score. Time outs were taken, balls came close to crossing the line and teams were giving it their all but no one could score.
After 24 minutes of play the two teams could not be separated and the match had to go into golden goal extra time. Great Britain was the first to make it through their opponent’s defense and they are the 2015 IBSA Goalball European Champions for Men C.
Russia however did not walk away empty handed. Along with their ticket to next year’s B Championships they also had the highest goal scorer amongst their ranks, Sergej with 23 goals.
Another major regional championship is done. One that the organisers can be highly proud of. We at IBSA Goalball would once again like to show our great appreciation to the organisers in Sweden. They hosted this tournament even though they were not eligible to compete and they did a fine job at it. The team in Malmö can be very proud of themselves and this is just another chapter in their rich history of fine goalball events. Thank you FIFH Malmö. Also a big thank you to all referees, officials and volunteers who took the time out to be part of this successful event.