Favourites Brazil lived up to expectations and claimed their fourth consecutive football 5-a-side Paralympic gold after defeating Iran 1-0 in the final at the Olympic Tennis Centre.
The hosts may have had the weight of a nation’s expectations on their shoulders, but they rarely showed it as they maintained their 100 per cent Paralympics record in the final on Saturday (17 September).
And, speaking afterwards, one of the hosts’ most influential players Jefinho, said winning the tournament on home soil eclipsed all their previous successes.
“I always thought about this moment: listening to our national anthem in a packed stadium at home with a Paralympic gold medal around my neck,” he said.
“We are used to winning, but doing it in our country is different and beautiful.”
Hi teammate Cassio added: “It was magic for us. We showed the supporters what football 5-a-side is. Playing in a packed stadium, full of journalists too, is great.”
Brazil dominated the game from the beginning in terms of possession and shots.
Ricardinho had the first goal-scoring opportunity but Iran’s goalkeeper Meysam Shojaeiyan cleared the danger.
Two minutes later, the Brazilian took revenge and gave his team the lead with a precise shot.
Iran had only one opportunity in the first half through their captain Hossein Rajabpour but goalkeeper Luan prevented an unlikely equaliser.
Ricardinho and Jefinho once again emerged as the dominant figures throughout the match, confirming their status as the world’s two best players. The former almost doubled the lead but his shot hit the crossbar.
Brazil dominated the second 25 minutes as well, giving their opponents no chances of levelling the game and sealing a one-goal margin victory that was loudly-celebrated by the home fans.
For silver medallists Iran there was no disgrace in defeat – it was the first time they have appeared on the football 5-a-side Paralympic podium.
Earlier, Argentina beat China 1-0 on the penalties following a scoreless draw to win bronze, the country’s third Paralympic football 5-a-side medal after claiming silver at Athens 2004 and bronze at Beijing 2008.
China could not climb onto the podium again as they did eight years ago on home soil, when they took silver.
Argentina’s Coki Padilla explained how important this medal was for him and his family.
“I am 37 years old. I am not going to leave football but football will leave me soon. I know that in a couple of years the coach will not call me. So this was the opportunity in a lifetime, because we depend on a Paralympic medal to have a state pension,” he said.
“I played for the food of my family. This is a golden bronze medal for me.”