Stage Set of Semi-Final Action
So far at the London 2012 Paralympics, we've seen big hits, fast goals and hoardes of cheering fans. But if murderball fans think they've seen everything that the sport has to offer, think again because it's time for the semi finals. At this point, 4 teams are simply playing for pride, bragging rights and rankings. For the other 4 teams, however, tomorrow will represent a crucial next step on their road to gold.
The two title matches of Saturday will be the two semi-final games. Here's what you can expect:
Australia vs. Japan: Australia and Japan have probably played each other this year more than any two teams in history. They know each others' strengths and weaknesses well. Historically, Australia has come out the winner in these matches, but Japan is known for coming up with a stellar game when the pressure is on. After their defeat of the USA, no one can take them lightly. As usual, we're bound to see a lot of the two dynamic duo of Ryley Batt and Chris Bond on the Australian side. On the Japanese side, we'll see the speedy, hard-hitting Ike trying to neutralize Ryley Batt. The two Shins (Shimikawa and Nagazato) will provide speed and firepower. Bottom line: these two teams know what to expect. The question is: who will perform under such intense pressure?
USA vs. Canada: Fans of the documentary "Murderball" will be excited to see another showdown between these two historic rivals. There's a lot of history between the USA and Canada. Canada knocked the USA out of medal contention at the 2004 Paralympics, and the USA ended Canada's medal hopes with a one-point victory at the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships. As added fuel: the USA's head coach in "Murderball," Kevin Orr, is now the Canadian coach. When these squads met in Canada Cup, it wasn't much of a contest, but this time around both sides are rested and focused and fueled by a desire to smash their most bitter rival. Canada has a well-rounded squad of veterans, but look for the impact of 18-year-old Zak Madell, who provided the Canucks with a spark in their win against Sweden. Low-pointer Trevor Hirschfield is also a key to Canada's success. On the American side: look for leadership from Will Groulx, coupled with the heavy hits of Chuck Aoki and Chance Sumner. The American squad is deep, and will throw wave after wave of highly conditioned athlete at the Canucks. This will be quite the showdown, folks!
Here's tomorrow's schedule:
9:30: GBR vs. BEL
11:45: SWE vs FRA
14:00:Semi-final 1: AUS vs JPN
16:15: Semi-final 2: USA vs CAN
19:00: 7/8 Place Game
21:15: 5/6 Place Game
Sadly, none of these games are being webcast. Instead, we'll get "Wheelchair Rugby Highlights" from 3-4 pm and 10 pm - 1 am.