By Emily Goddard

Hosts Finland are aiming for gold at the 2014 IBSA Goalball World Championships ©Getty ImagesFinland's men are aiming for gold on home turf as the nation prepares to host this year's International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball World Championships in Espoo.

The London 2012 Paralympic champions have been drawn in Pool A but will face the challenge of two continental champions in the form of current African champions Algeria and Iran - the Asia/Pacific champions, with the stakes being particularly high as the top three nations of the tournament will be the first to book their places at the Rio 2016 Games.

The group also includes the United States, Spain, Germany, Ukraine and the Czech Republic - a nation that has defeated Finland a number of times in recent years.

"Countries from Europe and North America used to be in charge in goalball but nowadays there are countries from Asia, South America and even from Africa that are capable of winning," Finland's Erkki Miinala said.

"In my opinion, Lithuania and Czech Republic have been the most impressive teams in men's goalball lately.

"But Brazil, Iran, Algeria, Spain, US and Turkey all have what it takes."

Pool B features the likes of Canada - the Americas regional champions - and Brazil, who picked up silver at London 2012.

Beijing 2008 Paralympic champions China will also be looking to progress from the group, as will Egypt, Belgium, Lithuania and Japan.

China's women will be looking to defend their world title at the 2014 IBSA Goalball World Championships in Espoo ©Getty ImagesChina's women will be looking to defend their world title at the 2014 IBSA Goalball World Championships in Espoo ©Getty Images

Meanwhile in the women's tournament, reigning world champions China will be looking to defend their title away from Paralympic champions Japan.

China, who secured silver at London 2012, will start their defence in Pool Y, alongside Paralympic bronze medallists Sweden, Israel, Ukraine, Australia and 2016 Paralympic hosts Brazil.

Pool X sees Japan up against European champions Russia and Americas champions the US.

Hosts Finland, Germany and Turkey, who are making their World Championships debut, complete the group.

"China is definitely a top contender in the World Championships," Finland's Katja Heikkinen predicted.

"Japanese players are small but their defence is rock solid.

"The floor was very slow in London.

"It's quite the opposite from what we have in Espoo: a hard and fast wooden floor.

"It benefits hard throwing teams such as China, US, Turkey, Israel and us."

The 2014 IBSA Goalball World Championships will take place from June 30 to July 5.

Full competition schedules and results can be found here.

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