Finnish wheelchair rugby team eye first Paralympics
The Finnish wheelchair rugby team has been given their best chance yet of qualifying for their first Paralympic Games.
The host nation was drawn together with Denmark, Ireland and Germany in the Group B of the 2015 International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) Wheelchair Rugby European Championship, which will be held in Pajulahti from 13-20 September.
Great Britain, Belgium, France and Sweden form the Group A.
The top two teams of the tournament qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Finland is currently ranked No. 10 in the world; No. 6 Denmark are the only other team ranked ahead of them in Group B. Group A consists of three top-10 teams: No. 5 Great Britain, No. 7 Sweden and No. 9 France.
“There are more teams in this group that suite our style of play, but I am sure we have tough matches ahead of us,” head coach of Team Finland Valtteri Lehtinen said.
Finland lost to Denmark in the 2014 World Championships, but managed to beat Germany 48–47. Ireland qualified for the European Championships, finishing second in the (IWRF) European Division B Championships last month.
With that, Lehtinen added that Ireland should not be underestimated, as the group have shown new quality players and gave France a tough battle in the European Division B.
A place in the finals of the European Championships will guarantee the teams a place in Rio 2016, putting plenty at stake in the semifinals on 18 September. To get to the semifinals, a team must finish in top two of their respective group.
For more information on the 2015 Wheelchair Rugby European Championships, visit the event website.