Paralympic champions Brazil won their third world title in a row at the 2018 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) World Championships in Madrid, Spain, on Sunday (17 June) with a tension-filled 2-0 win over Argentina.
In a rematch of the 2014 final in Tokyo, Japan, and the gold medal match at the 2017 Americas Championships, the two blind football powerhouses faced each other once again.
An incredibly tense first half opened proceedings as temperatures pushed 30 degrees Celsius in Madrid.
Americas champions Argentina were stronger in attack and the quality of both sides showed. Despite chances for Maximiliano Espinillo, the Argentinian could not convert and at half-time the game was goalless.
The stalemate look set to continue into the second half but after just three minutes Richardinho broke the deadlock for the Paralympic champions with a wonder strike to give Brazil the lead. Cutting in from the touchline, the tournament’s top scorer unleashed a thunderbolt from eight metres out which ricocheted in off the post and into the back of the net.
Argentina pressed forward looking for an equaliser and in the 33rd minute of the game David Peralta missed a superb opportunity from right in front of the goal. With the pressure building, Espinillo then had an attempt well saved seconds later by goalkeeper Luan de Lacerda Goncalves.
Sensing their lead was under threat, Brazil called a timeout, a move that turned out to be a tactical masterstroke.
At the re-start, Raimundo Nonato received the ball in his own half and out-ran and weaved his way past Peralta and Froilan Padilla. Entering the goal area, he calmly slid the ball passed the despairing goalkeeper and into the bottom right hand corner of the goal to seal Argentina’s fate and Brazil’s fifth world title.
The 2-0 win secured Brazil’s qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Ricardinho said: "I am very happy. I am proud of myself because I broke my nose during the semi-final and I had problems with breathing.
“I am proud of the sacrifice of the whole team to win the World Cup. Argentina has a great team with very good players. It was a very exciting final and a tough challenge."
Silver medallists and two-time world champions Argentina made it onto their sixth World Championships podium.
Nicolas Veliz said: “I am happy despite the defeat. Argentina fought face-to-face with Brazil. I think Brazil are technically at a higher level and I congratulate them of course. I am very proud of the whole team because we gave everything throughout the whole World Cup and especially in the final.
“I think it’s time to start looking at the next Paralympics. We keep fighting to grow blind football in Argentina. We look forward to another match against Brazil and we will get revenge.”
The bronze medal match was a clash of the regional champions, with Asian title holders China defeating European gold medallists Russia* 2-1.
Full results are available on Madrid 2018's website.
*Editor's note: The International Paralympic Committee suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August 2016 for its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory). As a result of the suspension, Russian athletes cannot enter IPC sanctioned events or competitions, including the Paralympic Games.
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