Madrid 2018: Biggest blind football Worlds kick offWorld's best 16 teams will battle it out for title and Tokyo 2020 qualification 07 Jun 2018
The biggest International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football World Championships in history will kick off in Madrid, Spain, on 7 June.
As well as the title on offer, the 16 participant teams will also fight for qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Six teams - Mexico, Costa Rica, Mali, European champions Russia*, Thailand and Iran - will all make their debuts alongside the more established countries, making the tournament the most competitive ever.
Hosts Spain will play in the opening match against Thailand on 7 June in group A. African champions Morocco and Turkey join them in the group.
Defending champions and Paralympic title-holders Brazil have been drawn in group D alongside England, Costa Rica and Mali. At the last edition in 2014 they beat two-time world champions and 2017 Copa America gold-medallists Argentina 1-0 in extra-time to win their fourth trophy.
The Brazilian squad also includes eight players who were part of Brazil’s gold medal team at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Forwards Jefinho and Ricardinho, most valuable players of the 2010 and 2014 World Championships respectively, will return.
"The preparation for the World Cup was the best possible,” Jefinho said. “We train a lot, we dedicate ourselves to get the best of our form in this competition. I believe we will arrive very well prepared for this challenge.
"The objective is to be champions, every time we get on the court the goal is victory. Of course it's game by game, step by step, but the goal is always the title. We know it will be the most disputed World Cup in history, it will be a very complicated competition, there are quality teams that can reach the title, but our objective is to win the final".
Brazil will open their campaign against Mali on 7 June.
Argentina will play in pool B, the so-called 'Group of Death', which features some of the most prolific blind football teams.
Paralympic silver medallists and three-time Asian champions Iran, Americas bronze medallists Colombia, and France, who finished fourth at the 2017 European Championships in Berlin, Germany, will all be fighting to get past the group stage.
Argentina will play their opening game against Iran on 8 June.
Five-time Asian title holders and world No.3 China will take on South Korea in their opening group C game also on 8 June. Wei Jiansen, the top scorer for the 2017 Asian Championships with five goals, will lead the Chinese men.
European gold medallists Russia and Mexico join them in group C.
After the Opening Ceremony and match on 7 June, the group stages get underway in earnest on 8 June. The quarter finals and play-offs begin on 13 June with the final taking place on 17 June.
All 44 matches will be held at the Colegio Sagrado Corazon which has capacity for 400 fans. Entry is free to spectators.
The Championships are being organised by the Spanish Blind Sports Federation for Blind Sports (FEDC) and the Spanish National Organisation for the Blind (ONCE).
*Editor's note: The International Paralympic Committee suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August 2016 for its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory). As a result of the suspension, Russian athletes cannot enter IPC sanctioned events or competitions, including the Paralympic Games.