Finland off to a flyer at Lahti 2021
Date: June 3, 2021
Finland impressed on the opening day of the 2021 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball European Championships B with a 100 per cent win record at home in Lahti on Thursday (3 June).
The Finnish women got their campaign underway with a seven goal victory over Hungary without reply. Five of Finland’s goals came in the first half as team veteran Susanna Halme got her team off the mark just 15 seconds in.
Halme scored a further three times and was joined on the scoreboard by Iida Kauppila and Krista Krista Leppänen with three goals between them.
Finland reached their second win of the day against Poland, 4-1. This time Kauppila was the leading goal-scorer with two.
Elsewhere in the group Denmark expertly crafted a 10 goal lead over Poland, ending the game just a few seconds early. Anja Christensen starred in the Danish attack, reaching double figures with 10 goals.
Paris 2024 Paralympics hosts France grabbed three points in their opening game against Spain. A comfortable 9-2 victory with goals from Audrey Belkhir, Gwendoline Matos and Loise Rondepierre eased the French into the tournament.
With a win each under their belts, Denmark and France faced each other in the final clash of the day.
Denmark built a strong lead in the first half, securing five goals, and adding a further four after the break. France struggled to penetrate the Danish defence, only finding their way past three times.
Christensen was once again the key player for the Danes, scoring all but one of their nine goals.
Spain did however get a win on the board against Hungary, with all of their five goals coming after the first whistle. Maider Santesteban lead the scoring with a goal each for Sara Alvarez and Sonia Lopez. Only came one in reply from the Hungarians.
Great Britain impress in the men’s, Sweden struggle
Great Britain end day one as the only team with a 100 per cent win record in the men’s, with convincing victories over Sweden and Montenegro.
They took on a battle-weary Sweden in their opening match, and were first off the mark. But the Swedes replied with a speedy effort from Fatmir Seremeti to equal the score.
A penalty by Dan Roper gave Great Britain the lead before the Brits extended the gap by a further four goals. Sweden did manage to bobble the ball over the line for one more, but the half ended with Great Britain looking in control with a 6-2 scoreline.
After Great Britain added two more, Sweden hauled one back six minutes into the second half. Another two were added but Great Britain proved unstoppable with a 13-5 victory overall. An impressive 11 of those belonged to Roper.
The British had to respond to a Montenegro team on the march in their next match. Losing 6-4 at half-time, Great Britain regrouped in the break to come out fighting. Montenegro registered another score but Roper came to the rescue, twice finding his way past the defence to bring his team within one goal of level. He then saved a penalty to keep Great Britain in the game and squeaked the ball past the defence of Montenegro once again to bring the score to 7-7.
Roper delivered the deciding blow in the dying moments of the game with a goal that just squeaked over the line. Final score: 8-7 to Great Britain.
Italy claimed an impressive scalp in the men’s with a stunning 12-2 mercy win over former Paralympic medallists Sweden. By the end of the first half Italy were seven goals up with just one coming for Sweden. The Italian defence was almost impenetrable, as attempt after attempt was pushed wide or tipped over the net. With 50 seconds left on the clock the Italians bagged their 12th goal courtesy of Christian Mair to end the game early. Emanuele Nicolò also scored six goals for the winners.
A really close match between Portugal and Russia in the men’s ended 6-4 to Russia. Ivan Antonenko scored half of Russia’s goals whilst João Mota de Sousa was the top scorer for Portugal.
Portugal did however emerge the victors from a second tough tie, this time against Romania. It was all to play for at the break with the score at 2-2. Into the second half Portugal found their groove and bagged another four goals. Mota de Sousa was one of two Portuguese heroes, sharing the goals equally with Fábio Oliveira.
Greece chalked a convincing victory in the opening men’s game of the tournament with a 10-0 win over Romania. All of Greece’s goals came in the first half. Athanasios Chatzipantou was the star striker, netting nine goals overall including the 10th point to secure the mercy win.
The Greeks went onto play their second game of the day against Israel, registering a remarkable 6-6 draw. There was nothing to separate the two sides and this time Chatzipandou’s silky skills were not enough to edge ahead. He found the back of the net three times as did teammate Grigorios Tatsis.
Michael Ruzin led the scoring for Israel with five successful shots.
Israel then ground out a win against Russia in a match filled with tension. They were leading 4-2 at the break and scored first in the second half. Russia replied to bring themselves back to within two goals again but Israel always had an answer, netting a further two strikes.
Russia kept the pressure on with a goal from Alexey Sokolov with the seconds ticking down but it came too late and the game finished 7-4 to Israel.
Poland v Montenegro delivered a 7-9 win for Montenegro. Marko and Nikola Nikolic more or less shared all of Montenegro’s goals with five and four, respectively. Marcin Czerwinski was Poland’s most valuable player.
But Poland regrouped and a few hours later overcame Italy in a stunning comeback; scoring 11 goals in a second half rout. Italy were leading 5-4 at the break but their defence, which had been their strength, crumbled with just over four minutes left on the clock.
Poland scored two goals in quick succession to turn the game in their favour and take a 10-8 lead. The goals then just kept flying into the Italian net as the Polish peppered the back of the goal with another five successful hits.
Czerwinski starred in attack as he had done against Montenegro, with eight of Poland’s goals.
The 2021 IBSA Goalball European Championships B continue on Friday (4 June) with one more day of group play ahead of the knock-out stages on Saturday (5 June). The medal matches will take place on Sunday (6 June).
Men’s and women’s teams from across Europe are in Lahti in the search for promotion to the A Pool.