Welcome to 2019: Football 5-a-side

Qualification slots for Tokyo 2020 to be decided

a group of male blind footballers celebrating on the football pitch Brazil were crowned world blind football champions once again at Madrid 2018 © • Madrid 2018

It will be an important year for football-5-a-side as teams vie to achieve one of the qualification slots at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

With world champions Brazil and hosts Japan having already secured a place, the rest will fight to obtain one of the remaining six at one of the Regional Championships set to take place in 2019.

Americas

Two-time world champions, Rio 2016 bronze medallists and 2017 Copa America winners Argentina will be clear favourites for the continental competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil, between 1 and 9 June.

But Colombia have become a force to be reckoned with in recent years, especially after a much-celebrated sixth place at Madrid 2018.

Mexico and Chile run behind but maintain expectations.

Europe

Rome, Italy, will stage the event from 15-24 September.

It will be a hard-fought battle for the two spots up for grabs as many teams have the potential to reach the final.

It would not be a surprise if Turkey and Spain make it into the Paralympics again as it happened four years ago for Rio 2016.

But they will need to perform at their very best to defeat strong rivals England and France, among others.

Africa

Morocco seem to have no strong opposition in their continent as they seek to win their third successive African Championships title in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, between 15 and 26 November.

They are the first African football 5-a-side team to have competed at a Worlds and Paralympics. Mali are arguably Morocco’s main rivals after finishing in tenth place at the 2019 World Championships.

Asia

World Championships third-placed China and Rio 2016 silver medallists Iran have been dominating the Asian region since the very beginning.

But they must continue improving to extend their dominance as newcomers rise. Thailand are the best example.

They were one of the most impressive teams at Madrid 2018 with their physical strength and fast-paced attackers. They even achieved a historical 3-0 victory over 2015 European champions Turkey in the group stage.

Besides the Regional Championships, the second Blind Football World Grand Prix will be held in Tokyo, Japan, from 19-24 March.