Goalball success for Czechs and USA
Date: January 22, 2014
Last weekend the goalball family came together to kick off the run of tournaments leading up to the 2014 IBSA Goalball World Championships. The World Championships will take place in Espoo, Finland, so it is only fitting that the first preparation tournament is taking place in the same country.
The Pajulahti Games is an annual multi-sport tournament. Goalball is one of the feature sports. Six male and female teams from three continents competed in this year’s tournament. Competing men’s teams included the host nation and Paralympic champions, Finland, along with European Champions and current World Champions, Lithuania. Other nations featuring on the mens side were Russia, Sweden, Algeria and Czech Republic.
The quality of women’s teams attending the tournament was even higher than those from their male counterparts. All six nations have also qualified for the World Championships. Host nation Finland was joined by the European Champions Russia, champions of the America’s USA as well as Turkey, Israel and Sweden.
The tournament begun with a replay of the quarter final from the European Championships between Lithuania and Finland. Despite Finland taking an early lead of 5-1, the Lithuanians chipped back goal by goal to eventually take out the match.
The Finns put this loss down to too many mistakes:
“Can’t be too satisfied. We did too many mistakes in defence”, said Petri Posio from Team Finland.
“Lithuania is a tough opponent though.” he added.
Lithuania however is a team that can sometimes be plagued with inconsistency. Though they can be forgiven for this over the past weekend. They are currently going through the selection process for the team that will go to Espoo and this means that they are not always sending their strongest team to tournaments.
After defeating Finland and Russia, the Lithuanians fell to Sweden 5-6. This was due to an under estimation of the Swedish ability:
“Maybe we didn’t quite except Sweden would be so strong in their defence”, said Lithuanian coach Karolis Levickis.
One team that was consistent throughout the round robin was the African champions, Algeria. They only suffered one narrow loss and that was to Lithuania 4-5.
Which teams would make the semi-finals was not decided until the very end of the round robin. Finland needed a win against Sweden in their final match and they were able to pull this off 6-3.
“Apparently it takes time for us to get started”, laughed Erkki Miinala whose goals were too much for the Swedes.
The good form at the end of the round robin was carried into the semi-finals. The Finns took on the top team from the round robin, Algeria, and were able to get past them 5-3.
Unfortunately the other semi-final was not so close. Czech Republic took this comfortably 12-3 over Lithuania.
This left Czech Republic to take on Finland in the final. The Czechs seem to be a problem for the Finns at the moment. Each time they have played recently the Czechs come repeatedly on top. This was also the case last weekend. The final score was 8-5.
“They seem to have a little advantage on us mentally. We stumbled in the beginning of the final and you really can’t let the Czechs get the
lead. Their nerves are made from iron”, said Erkki Miinala, the best Finnish player in the final.
On the women’s side, Israel showed that they are a team that continues to grow and develop. They arrived in Finland with only three players but despite this were able to play very well throughout the round robin. Their coach puts this down to their good defence:
“In Israel we are playing with boys. We train very hard and more than 50 percent of our training is defence”, explained Raz Shoham
Israel ended up second in the round robin due to a 1 all draw with the USA. When asked why they were there with only three players, Shoham explained:
“One of our strongest players has had some motivation problems and don’t want to play goalball at the moment. Two of our players are very young so they had to stay in school and couldn’t make it here”.
The Finnish women were unable to perform as well as their male colleagues. They also ended the round robin strongly but it was too late for them:
“It’s a shame because our players really stepped up their game compared to yesterday (Friday)”, said Finnish coach Heikki Juvonen.
Despite this result the Finnish ladies are staying optimistic and understand that this was only one part to their build up to the World Championships:
“We have a very good team spirit and we are all concentrating on the 2014 World Championships in our home soil”, said team member Natalie Ball.
At the end of the round robin, standings didn’t count for much as both of the higher ranked teams lost their semi-final. USA beat Israel 5–2 and Russia defeated Turkey 3–2.
The title ended up going in the direction of the USA. They showed some top defence and the Russians were unable to get past this wall.
“That’s how we are: strong in defence. We lost our opening game 6–9 to Turkey but that definitely isn’t the way we play”, said Jen Armbruster from Team USA.
This was a dream start for the USA as they start their journey to the world championships. Many of the teams they played last weekend they will have to play again during the pool stage in Espoo:
“We got Turkey and Russia which were here in Pajulahti in same pool with us as well as the Paralympic gold medallist Japan. It’s a tough group and our first aim is to be in top four to get to the quarter finals”, Armbruster said.
Please read below for the full results and highest goal scorers.
Czech Republic-Algeria 2-8
Finland-Czech Republic 8-13
Czech Republic Russia 10-0
Sweden-Czech Republic 3-12
Lithuania-Czech Republic 6-11
Standings after Round Robin
2) Czech Republic
Czech Republic-Lithuania 12-3
Places 5-6: Sweden-Russia 11-1
Bronze match: Algeria-Lithuania 5-7
Gold match: Finland-Czech Republic 5-8
1) Czech Republic
1) Jan Bosek, Czech Republic 43
2) Mohamed Mokrane, Algeria 41
3) Jarno Mattila, Finland 19
3) Erkki Miinala, Finland 19
5) Fatmir Seremeti, Sweden 17
5) Arturas Jonikaitis, Lithuania 17
Standings after Round Robin
Places 5-6: Finland-Sweden 6-7 penalties
Bronze match: Turkey-Israel 1-3
Gold match: USA-Russia 2-0
1) Ori Mizrachi, Israel 18
2) Katja Heikkinen, Finland 16
3) Amanda Dennis, USA 15
3) Asya Miller, USA 15
5) Anna Shevchenko, Russia 14
6) Sevda Altunoluk, Turkey 13