By Gary Anderson

August 18 - The successful Sweden side who defended their European crown in Antwerp with a win over Denmark in the finalDefending champions Sweden have retained their International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) European Championship title with the narrowest of wins over Denmark in the final in Antwerp.

In a repeat of the 2011 final in Switzerland, the Swedish side overcame Britain in the semi-finals in the Belgian city, while Denmark defeated Germany in the other semi-final match, to set up an all-Scandinavian final.

Despite a strong start from the Danes, which saw them control the scoreboard early on and forced the Swedes into a number of early time-outs to regroup, the reigning champions showed why they are just that by clawing their way back into the match and eventually emerging victorious by a single point 49-48.

"I really love this team," said Swedish head coach Gustav Forare.

"This is typical Sweden, we started the competition like crap, but game after game, we managed to play better until the final where we conquered the gold once again."

Meanwhile, Britain, who were the highest placed European team at last year's Paralympic Games in London, finishing fifth, completed a comfortable win over Germany in the bronze medal match.

A relatively young British side proved too strong for Germany, with Ayaz Bhutta in particular, catching the eye as he helped his team to a 56-43 victory.

"We really wanted to destroy the Germans with a difference as big as possible," Britain's veteran star Alan Ash said after the game.

"We are proud to win the bronze medal in this way.

"We want to help make the European level progress as much as possible in order to play an important role at the Worlds and the Games."

The European Wheelchair Rugby Championship trophy remains in Swedish hands The European Wheelchair Rugby Championship trophy remains in Swedish hands

Head coach Paul Shaw was delighted his young side medalled in Antwerp, which sees them qualify for next year's World Championship, but knows that much work needs to be done to translate a European podium into a world podium.

"This season has been about building a new squad and performance team and we have made some great progress," Shaw explained.

"The Europeans have given our young players a chance to experience playing under pressure and they will have learnt a lot.

"I am pleased that they got the bronze, but none of us are under any illusions about the work we still have to do if we are to compete with the best.

"That work continues now as we study and evaluate our performance here and build the performance programme, which will prepare us to take on the likes of the US and Australia at the World Championships next year."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related Stories
August 2013: 
Britain hold nerve to reach European Wheelchair Rugby Championships semi-finals
August 2013: Sweden to begin European wheelchair rugby title defence in Belgium
August 2013: Wheelchair rugby to launch a new online educational resource for athletes and participants
July 2013: Britain announce new-look wheelchair rugby team for European Championships