Goalball teams jostle as knock-out stages edge closer
Date: August 28, 2021
Men’s and women’s goalball teams are nearing the end of the group stages at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Just two days of pool play remain ahead of quarter-finals on Tuesday.
Men’s defending champions Lithuania continued to struggle, beaten 10-2 by Japan, which leaves them with just one point from three matches and on the brink of elimination.
They face a must-win game against the USA as they look to avoid becoming the second successive reigning champions to fail to make the knockout stages in the following edition, after Finland in 2012.
Number five Mantas Brazauskis insists the pressure will be off in what is effectively a quarter-final on Monday.
“We don’t feel any pressure, we just need to play as if it’s a normal game and concentrate on our defense.”
After a strong second half performance, Turkey claimed their opening victory of the Games as Tuncay Karakaya and Ebubekir Siddik Kara both netted hat-tricks in a 6-3 win over China.
Having lost 6-4 in their previous two matches against Germany and Belgium, this win lifts Turkey off the bottom of group B with one game remaining.
Germany made changes in a bid to bounce back from conceding eleven goals to Ukraine and the move paid off as they beat Belgium 2-0, becoming the first men’s side at Tokyo 2020 to keep a clean sheet.
Felix Rogge was replaced by Thomas Steiger, who is known more for his defensive capabilities than attacking prowess, which he freely admits.
“My nickname is the Minister of Defense as my job is to defend and stop ten goals rather than score any.”
He certainly lived up to his moniker as he played a vital role, impressive considering he was up against Klison Mapreni who had managed ten goals in his previous two matches.
Australia claimed their first win at the Paralympics since 1996 as Meica Horsburg’s four goals helped them to an impressive 4-3 victory over Canada.
In a rematch of their Rio 2016 encounter which the Belles lost 6-0, they hung on despite conceding twice late on, to keep their quarter finals hopes alive.
Emma Reinke scored her sixth and seventh goals of the competition for Canada, but she acknowledged it was a surprising performance.
“It was pretty disappointing, our execution wasn’t great and we weren’t hitting where we needed to hit.
“It’s fair to say it’s not the best performance we’ve ever had and we need to be faster and more accurate, but I’m proud of the girls.”
Japan got their competition up and running with an impressive 3-2 win over Rio 2016 bronze medallists USA.
Matching their men’s side, they remarkably did not concede a single penalty against their American counterparts and coach Kyoichi Ichikawa offered a glowing appraisal of experienced centre Rie Urata.
“She performed very well today and in the last match against Brazil and she allowed us to play a higher defensive line. This win will give us confidence for the remainder of the competition.”
It is three straight wins for Turkey, the only women’s side to maintain a perfect record, as they beat Brazil 8-4 to back-up victories against Japan and Egypt.
The damage was done in the first half when they led 5-2 with Sevda Altunoluk and Fatma Gul Guler sharing the goals. The former eventually finished with six goals to increase her lead at the top of the scoring charts.
In contrast, this result leaves Brazil with just a solitary point from three games. They now face a must-win game against Egypt on Monday (30 August) in order to give themselves the best chance of advancing.
Aided by Lihi Ben David’s four-goal haul, Israel produced an outstanding display to beat world champions the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) 8-3, ending their opponents’ winning record in the process.
With six points from three matches, the 2019 European Championship silver medalists have given themselves a great chance of qualifying for the knockout stages for a second consecutive Paralympics.