Rio 2016 Wheelchair Rugby Preview - Day Four
By Beau Greenway
A mouth-watering fourth day of the Rio 2016 wheelchair rugby competition lies ahead at the Carioca Arena 1 on Saturday (17 September), with the world’s top four teams to do battle in the semi-finals.
The final standings in both pools had to be decided by overtime, with Australia and the USA coming out on top after thrilling matches against Canada and Japan, respectively.
After Friday’s triumph against Japan, the USA will meet Canada in yet another major showdown in the first semi-final at 12.15pm.
The arch rivals have been involved in several close contests in recent years, but it has largely been Canada who has had USA’s measure, beating them in the London 2012 and 2014 IWRF World Championship semi-final, as well as the final of the 2015 Para Pan American Games in Toronto.
USA will be hoping that run ends today in order to have a chance of returning to the top of the podium at the Paralympics for the first time since Beijing 2008.
The second semi-final will take place at 4pm between Australia and Japan.
These two nations have also met in the last two major semi-finals at the Paralympics and World Championships, and played as recently as June in the Canada Cup.
While Australia did get the better of them on that occasion, Japan were successful against the world No.2’s at the 2015 IWRF Asia-Oceania Championships and will take plenty of confidence from the way they played against the USA on Friday.
Meanwhile, the remaining final standings in the competition will be decided with two classification matches.
The seventh and eighth place play-off is at the top of Saturday’s schedule from 10.30am, with Brazil facing France.
There is plenty at stake for both teams, particularly Brazil who have the opportunity to climb a massive 12 places in the world rankings with a victory.
This would then allow them to compete in more ranking tournaments, including the 2018 IWRF World Championships if they were to maintain that ranking in future competitions.
Lastly, the fifth and sixth place playoff will be contested between Great Britain and Sweden, with the winner to claim bragging rights as Europe’s No.1 ranked team by the end of the tournament.
Both teams got on the winners list during Friday’s final pool games and there isn’t expected to be much between the European heavyweights after just one goal separated them during last year’s IWRF European Championship final.
The influence of Jim Roberts will be vital for Great Britain, who will start slight favourites after having a combined losing margin of just three goals from their opening two matches at Rio 2016.