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2014 Wheelchair Rugby World Championship preview part four

USA pick up the Bronze medal in London
USA pick up the Bronze medal in LondonPhoto by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

As the 2014 Wheelchair Rugby World Championship continues to gets under way the Wheelchair Rugby Examiner completes the preview of the teams, finishing with the top half of the Pool B teams.

Sweden
World Ranking: 7th
Best World Ranking: 4th (August 2013: European Championships)
Best finish: 4th (1998, 2010)
2010 finish: 4th
The two time defending European Champions have been on one heck of a run in recent years as Wheelchair Rugby grows massively in Scandinavia, largely on the success of the national teams of Sweden and Denmark.

Sweden may not be on everyone's radar, with Australia, USA and Canada in the tournament but Sweden, along with fellow group member Japan, could be one of those teams to watch out for. They've finished fourth in the tournament twice, and are very familiar with the courts in Denmark, they will surprise teams.

Player to watch: Tomas Hjert (2.5), filling a much needed role for the Swedes and has earned his spot on the back of impressive club form, the tournament will be a big test for Hjert but one that he should relish.

USA
World Ranking: 1st
Best World Ranking: 1st (June 2013: Denmark Wheelchair Rugby Challenge)
Best finish: Champions (1995, 1998, 2006, 2010)
2010 finish: Champions
There's a Wheelchair Rugby tournament and this is the United States. They're almost impossible to look past, they only blip on their record in this tournament is 2002, and even then they managed to come second. But three straight proved a bridge too far for them in 2002 and perhaps it will in 2014?

The United States has not looked quite as invincible as they have in the previous decade, with teams getting closer to them, before the loss in the Semi-Finals in London. That elimination seems to have made the USA angry, as they restored their number one ranking after the Denmark Challenge. The USA want to prove that they are the strongest team and not starting to fade for the first time.

Having missed the Canada Cup due to reported financial constraints, the USA missed an opportunity to play more games at this level, but having not played such a huge tournament so close may well be useful to them.

Player to watch: Chuck Aoki (3.0), Aoki is something of an internet star, heavily active on twitter and even posting as a contributor to Buzz Feed. That would mean nothing if he can’t back it up, but Aoki has proven that he can, the affable American is a solid goal scorer for the United States and will be a key member of the side. All this in addition to his role as a Wheelchair Rugby evangelist and Aoki is set for a big week in Odense.

Japan
World Ranking: 4th
Best World Ranking: 3rd (October 2010: World Championships)
Best finish: 3rd (2010)
2010 finish: 3rd
Japan have fast been growing, with Asia proving a successful development area for the sport, Japan are leading that charge, beating New Zealand in the Asia-Oceania championships to improve their ranking and qualify for London, each time the Japanese side makes an appearance at a major tournament they are improving.

Japan are fast pushing the “big 3” of Canada, USA and Australia for belonging in that elite group, and in what appears to be the lighter pool in the tournament have a golden opportunity for their third straight appearance in a major tournament’s semi-finals. Odense will present Japan with a chance to prove that they belong in that company, and continue to show that they are the strongest side in Asia.

Player to watch: Daisuke Ikezaki (3.0), crowned the best 3.0 from the Canada cup this year, since joining the Japanese team in 2010 Ikezaki has proven to be a goal scoring force, using his strength and speed to break through defenses. Look for Ikezaki to be near the top of the scorers list.