World Grand Prix to mark return to blind football
Date: May 28, 2021
Five of the eight qualified teams for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will line-up for the 2021 Santen International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football World Grand Prix in Shinagawa, Japan, from Sunday (30 May).
The competition will be the first major event in more than a year and marks the return of blind football to Japan with just under three months to go until the Paralympics.
Since the event started in 2018, the hosts have put in strong performances as they gain more experience and improve their game. This includes a win over European champions and veterans of the sport, Spain, in the group stage of the last edition in 2019. Then they just missed out on a top three finish but will be aiming for an even better outcome this year.
World and Paralympic silver medallists Argentina will go for their third successive World Grand Prix title. They are unbeaten at the tournament and will be relying on the likes of Maxi Espinillo, a top scorer and most valuable player from 2019.
Two European heavyweights – Spain and France – also line-up in Shinagawa.
Spain are currently ranked No.3 in the world following their latest European title win in 2019. There they beat France 3-1 in the final. Antonio Martin Gaitan finished as the top striker and is expected to be a key player for Spain once again.
Frederic Villeroux meanwhile was named player of the tournament at France’s last major test at the 2019 Euros.
Thailand are preparing to make their Paralympic debut in August. The team will reply on players such as Kupan Punyanut to form a strong attack. Punyanut was amongst the top 10 scorers at the 2018 IBSA Blind Football World Championships and also finished on top of the pile at the Asian Championships in 2019.
The 2021 Santen IBSA Blind Football World Grand Prix gets underway on Sunday. Thailand will play Spain the opening match followed by Japan v France.
The third place play-off and final will take place on 5 June.