With only days to go until the 2018 Wheelchair Basketball World Championships in Hamburg, Germany begins, here’s what to expect from the event that’s being held at the edel-optics.de Arena in the Wilhelmsburg area between the 16th – 26th August.
Sixteen teams will compete in the men’s tournament which is split across four pools of four and twelve teams will compete in the women’s competition divided into two pools of six.
Pool A of the men’s tournament will feature the home nation Germany, Canada, Iran and newcomers Morocco. Germany will want to impress in front of a home crowd as they look to hopefully kick off a successful World Championship campaign. Canada have done a lot to improve since their performance at Rio 2016, they finished second in the Americas Cup 2017 to qualify, and with Patrick Anderson back in the team they will look to further improve on their world ranking. Whilst Iran are determined to make a name for themselves on the world stage. Morocco are the only African nation in the men’s competition and are looking forward to making their debut at a major tournament going in as African champions.
USA, Great Britain, South Korea and Poland are all in Pool B. USA look to be the favourites to emerge top of the pool as current Paralympic Champions, they have retained 10 of the 12 members that achieved gold in Rio. Great Britain can’t be counted out though, winning bronze in Rio and silver at the European Championships last year in Tenerife. Making up Pool B are Poland and South Korea, both will have a tough task ahead to progress to the final 8.
The teams in Pool C are Brazil, Italy, Japan and Turkey. Brazil have been constantly improving over the past four years and finished their highest ever position of fifth at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Italy made the quarterfinals of the European Championships but were knocked out by the eventual winners and pool counterparts, Turkey, and will be looking to make up for their disappointment of not qualifying for Rio. Japan are looking to build momentum on the road to Tokyo 2020 as they enter the Worlds as Asia Oceania bronze medallists. European Champions, Turkey come in as favourites to top the pool.
To complete the men’s set Argentina, Australia, the Netherlands and Spain will feature in Pool D. Australia head in as reigning champions, after winning gold at the two previous World Championships (2010 & 2014), and despite a disappointing finish in Rio, they come into the Worlds looking strong after winning the Asia Oceania Championships. Both European team’s Spain and the Netherlands are looking to build on their European Championship performances. After creating history at Rio 2016 and taking home silver, Spain were knocked out of the quarterfinals of the European Championships in 2017 by Germany and the Netherlands were also defeated at hands of Germany in the bronze medal match. Whilst from the America zone, Argentina head in as Americas Cup bronze medallists.
Moving on to the women’s tournament. Pool A will feature Australia, Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Spain. The pool will see some intense competition as both Canada and the Netherlands are champions of their respective zones, both going undefeated through the respective qualifying tournament. Australia missed out on gold at the 2017 Asia Oceania Championships but are still seeking redemption after failing to qualify for Rio. Meanwhile, Great Britain look to improve on their world ranking after finishing fourth in Rio they enter the Worlds as European bronze medallists. Brazil and Spain come in as underdogs of the group, despite continually improving over the past number of years. Brazil gained their highest ever in Rio 2016 after defeating France for seventh, whereas Spain qualified in fifth from a strong European field.
Algeria, Argentina, China, France, Germany and USA all feature in Pool B. The home nation look to be strong contenders to emerge top of the pool as European silver and Paralympic silver medallists. Despite being Paralympic champions, the USA squad have undergone some changes since Rio, unlike their men’s squad, however, thanks to depth in their programme they still look strong heading into the Worlds as Americas Cup silver medallists. Asia Oceania Champions China also can’t be counted out, as they steadily been climbing the world rankings finishing seventh in 2014 Worlds and sixth in Rio. France and Argentina both come into the tournament after finishing fourth in their respective qualifying tournaments with aims of making the last eight. After making their debut at a major world competition in Rio, this is the first time the African Zone will have female representation at a Worlds and the Algerians will be looking to do their zone proud.
One thing to expect for definite is that there will be some world-class wheelchair basketball on display in Hamburg!
Written by IWBF junior writer Dylan Cummings.