The first day of the Denmark Wheelchair Challenge is tomorrow and features two exciting match-ups. The first of which sees the host 12th ranked Denmark taking 6th ranked and defending European champions Sweden in a Pool A match-up. The second sees 4th ranked Japan take on short-handed 7th ranked Belgium.
Denmark vs Sweden
Denmark is the lowest-ranked team is the tournament by a large margin, but will have the home crowd on their side and will be looking to make a statement to the world of wheelchair rugby that their place in the world championships is earned rather than given. 3.0 Leon Jorgensen spent the 2011-2012 season in the United States with the Seattle Slam and should be a key player for the Danes: a big body with powerful trunk. Look for him to unleash some devastating hits and really frustrate players defensively.
As for Sweden, they’ll be looking to come out strong and show the other two teams in their pool that they’re not a team to be taken lightly. They have a few new faces in the squad but should rely heavily on guys like Tobias Sandberg and Thomas Hjert, who really broke out last year. Sweden also has very strong low pointers like the fiery Stefan Jansson who won’t hesitate to give opposing high pointers, a good hit or two between the whistles.
This should be a good game between two northern European rivals and a great way to open up the tournament. This is an early game with a lot at stake as the loser will likely be relegated to the consolation round due to the presence of two of the game’s major powers in their pool. I predict the home crowd will help keep Denmark in the game, but Sweden should ultimately come out on top.
Belgium vs. Japan
The second game sees a understaffed Belgium team up against a Japanese team looking to get their new coach a win in his debut. Without the presence of Lars Mertens for Belgium, it forces players like Raf Hendrix and Ludwig Budners to take a greater role than what they’re used to it at this stage and against an opponent like the Japanese, its hard to see this one being close. Look out Japan’s new 3.5. Yukinobu Ike, as these days a new 3.5 often signals a new offence or a new star.
While Day 1 is short on games, both matches should have a lot to look for, from new faces, new roles and a somewhat new team in Denmark, so check it out. The games will be live streamed here.
I will be live tweeting all of the games up until Saturday on twitter @WheelNbragg.