Recap of Friday's semifinals at IWRF European Championship
Great Britain and Sweden earn spots at Rio 2016 Paralympics
By Lauri Jaakkola
Great Britain and Sweden have earned tickets to Rio de Janeiro as they won their semifinal matches of the Wheelchair Rugby European Championship in Pajulahti, Finland.
The Brits secured their place in the 2016 Paralympic Games beating Germany 53–40 in the first semifinal.
– Germany really stepped up their game compared to the last time we played against them. They made a real fight for the place to Rio, said Jim Roberts of Great Britain.
– Securing ticket to Rio was our number one goal in the tournament, but we want to win gold as well, Roberts said.
GB’s latest European title is from 2007. Since then the trophy have gone once to Belgium and twice to Sweden.
– I’ve never won a European Championship, so it’s important to myself too, Roberts said.
– We want to establish our dominance in Europe and take a step towards reaching top-4 in the World, he continued.
Great Britain stands fifth in the World Ranking at the moment, being the best European team. Australia, Canada, USA and Japan are ahead of them.
Tireless Swedes snatched tickets to Rio
Friday’s other semifinal between Sweden and Denmark was every bit as exciting as it was predicted to be. Sweden beat their southern neighbors 58–57 after second overtime and secured a place in Rio.
Sweden played almost the whole match – as they have done in previous matches – with one line-up: Tobias Sandberg, Tomas Hjert, Stefan Jansson and Glenn Adaszak, whereas Denmark have used wider rotation during the tournament. But still Sweden refused to give up, although Denmark levelled the match in the last moments.
– We have talked a lot about fatigue during our preparation for the tournament. That there might come a situation where you have to make big decisions on court when you are really tired. I think that helped us tonight, said Benoit Labrecque, a head coach of Sweden.
Coach himself puts his whole soul into the game, making it impossible for players to let their focus slip for even one second.
– We didn’t think before the tournament that we might have to beat Denmark in a decisive match. We have to go game by game, even play by play inside the match. We always have to live in the present, Labrecque explained.
Sweden have won two previous European Championships, but in Pajulahti, Great Britain have made it clear that they are the biggest favorite for gold. In the group stage Great Britain defeated Sweden by 16 goals.
– We weren’t at our best in that match. They got too many easy turnovers. I bet the final will be a fun match, Labrecque told.
On Friday’s other matches France defeated home team Finland 58–38, and Ireland beat Belgium 57–56 after overtime. Finland and Belgium got relegated to the B Division of the European Championship.
Saturday’s schedule in the 2015 IWRF Wheelchair Rugby European Championship (Finnish time, UTC+2h)
10.00 Places 7–8: Finland–Belgium
12.00 Places 5–6: France–Ireland
14.00 Bronze match: Germany–Denmark
16.00 Gold match: Great Britain–Sweden
for full results and schedule visit www.iwrf.com/?page=iwrf_news&id=454