London’s York Hall will be full to the rafters on Thursday night as the British Lionhearts go into their first-ever WSB Semi-Final against defending WSB Champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan. It has been a remarkable campaign for the Lionhearts, with a wealth of young talent giving the team their best chance yet of reaching the final against Cuba Domadores, winners of the WSB Season IV.
The Lionhearts reached the Semi-Final after finishing top of Group B, helped by two brilliant opening away wins against USA Knockouts in Miami and Morocco Atlas Lions in Casablanca. A home win against Mexico Guerreros firmly established the new-look British team as favourites to qualify, and the number-one spot was eventually secured with just one defeat.
That meant facing at home the Quarter-Final match against the Ukraine Otamans, and a stunning 4-1 win in the first leg set the team on its way. The score was then repeated in the second day, making it the first time the Lionhearts defeat the Otamans in the history of the competition and a clear indication of just how far the team has come.
Their opponents on Thursday are seasoned WSB campaigners. Joining up in Season I, Astana Arlans Kazakhstan have since reached three finals and won twice, experience that will prove invaluable in East London. Like the Lionhearts, the Arlans suffered just one defeat in the Group Stage, at the hands of the Uzbek Tigers, finishing top to set up a home Quarter-Final against the Venezuela Caciques.
Astana Arlans Kazakhstan won the first leg 4-1 to take the pressure off, and an even more convincing performance on the following evening in Shymkent secured a 9-1 aggregate victory. The Central Asian giants will be confident of reaching a second successive final against Cuba Domadores, but the British Lionhearts’ young stars are ready to push them all the way.