Some of the world’s top blind football teams have gathered in Tokyo, Japan, for the second edition of the World Grand Prix from 19-24 March. The tournament serves as preparation for this year’s regional Championships as well as the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. With the teams ready to go, here are five things you should know.
1. The 2019 Blind Football World Grand Prix is organised by the Japan Blind Football Association (JBFA) and will be hosted at the Shinagawa-Ku Tenno Park in Tokyo.
2. This year’s Grand Prix tournament will expand to eight teams from the previous six. Newcomers Colombia are in Group A with Russia, Japan and Spain while debutants Thailand will join Argentina, England and Turkey in Group B. Both Colombia and Thailand are expected to finish strong after impressive performances at last year’s World Championships in Madrid, Spain.
3. Argentina won the first Grand Prix in 2018 after defeating England 2-0 on penalties in the final. Maximiliano Espinillo and Micolas Veliz converted from the six-metre penalty spot to take the title to Buenos Aires.
4. Last year, Argentina’s renowned defender Padilla Froilan claimed the Most Valuable Player award while Espinillo attained Top Goalscorer with four goals. Goalkeeper Dairo Lencina won Best Goalkeeper. England’s captain Dan English received the Most Important Player award and Turkey’s Hasan Satay was rewarded the Tanaka Great Effort award.
5. Argentina will be brimming with confidence to defend their title after finishing runners-up to Brazil at the World Championships and winning the Tango Cup against Japan in 2018. European giants England, Spain and Russia will be strong contenders to challenge the reigning champions for the title.
All games are being live streamed on YouTube, with selected matches shown right here on the International Paralympic Committee’s website.