The day is finally here. The 2019 European Baseball Championship begins in Germany with not only the European crown on the line, but a path towards qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The top 12 teams in Europe will battle it out over the next nine days, playing 47 games in total across two venues: Bonn and Solingen.
Whilst every team will be aiming to emerge victorious in Game 47, they will also be mindful that the top five teams earn the right to compete in the Europe-Africa Olympic qualifier in Italy, starting on 18 September, alongside South Africa.
The two pools
The twelve teams are split into two pools for the first round of the tournament. Great Britain are in Pool A.
Czech Republic (18th)
Great Britain (38th)
The numbers in parenthesis are the current WBSC World Rankings. As with FIFA’s football world rankings, the exact placements can be questioned but they do tell a tale of the challenge ahead for Liam Carroll’s team.
Great Britain are ranked as the lowest team of the 12 and GB’s pool contains four of the top five ranked European teams, albeit that the differences in the Czech Republic (18th) to Belgium (30th) group of teams are not wide.
Don’t be so quick to count GB out, though.
The same five teams have finished in the top five in the past three Euros: Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic.
It will be difficult for any team to break into that group, but that’s not going to stop the rest from trying and Great Britain will be right there among them.
Here’s GB’s full first round schedule, with start times in BST.
Saturday 7th – Netherlands (15.00 BST)
Sunday 8th – Germany (18.00)
Monday 9th – Czech Republic (11.30)
Tuesday 10th – Israel (11.30)
Wednesday 11th – Sweden (12.00)
Game One: Netherlands
Great Britain’s tournament starts today against the Netherlands.
The Honkballers have won the tournament a record 22 times, including the last two in 2014 and 2016. They go into this year’s competition favourites not only to win the Euros, but also to prevail in the Olympic qualifier.
That means GB have the toughest test to start.
It also means GB have the perfect opportunity to really set down a marker for the days ahead, hopefully in the form of a shock win but, if not, at least by putting in a strong performance that they can take a lot of confidence from.
All of the games in the tournament are going to be streamed live on www.baseballsoftball.tv. Be sure to follow along from 15.00 BST as our Lions get their 2019 Euros started.