Ukraine reclaim football 7 Paralympic crown
The Europeans defeated Iran 2-1 and reclaimed the Paralympic gold they had won at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
Artem Krasylnykov played the role of the hero as he scored in extra-time to give Ukraine a hard-fought and much-celebrated victory over Iran 2-1 on Friday (16 September).
Ukraine remained undefeated throughout the tournament, winning their five matches, scoring 14 goals and conceding only three.
They have also become the most decorated football 7-a-side team at Paralympic Games, with three golds and two silvers.
There were few chances during a cagey opening 10 minutes at Deodoro, until first Volodymyr Antoniuk and later Vitalii Romanchuk came close to opening the scoring for pre-match favourites Ukraine.
Their pressure finally paid off four minutes before the end of the first half when Antoniuk fired a shot with his left foot to open the scoring and give Ukraine an interval lead.
In the second 30 minutes, Ukraine had countless opportunities to put the game beyond doubt but they could not convert.
They were forced to pay for their wastefulness when Iran equalized as Mehdi Jamali, falling to the ground, pushed the ball past goalkeeper Kostiantyn Symashko.
Extra-time was then needed to determine the Paralympic gold medallist. Ukraine eventually prevailed thanks to a goal scored by Artem Krasylnykov with 15 minutes to go, to claim the coveted gold medal.
Ukraine’s route to gold included a thumping 6-0 victory over Ireland in the group stage of the competition, in which they also beat Brazil and fifth-placed Great Britain convincingly.
“I am unlimitedly happy now. Ukraine showed what we can do", said Ukraine's Taras Dutko.
“I want to thank all the Brazilian people because they are amazing and they made our competition unforgettable.”
Brazilian football legend Cafu was also at the Deodoro stadium as a Paralympic medal presenter.
“I loved all the Paralympic sports. The Paralympics are a life lesson for everyone,” he said.
“Yesterday I watched women’s sitting volleyball – Brazil against USA – and also wheelchair basketball. Today I am here for the 7-a-side football. I was always supporting the swimmers. I watch everything I can on TV or at the field.
“It is an immense honour to be a Paralympic medal presenter, and I think it is good also for athletes to have an unexpected person, maybe a hero for them, giving them their medals.”
Iran’s silver represents their best Games performance, having won bronze at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 editions.
Earlier, the home crowd had a reason to celebrate as Brazil took bronze following a 3-1 victory over the Netherlands. Leandro Goncalves do Amaral sealed the win with all three goals for the hosts, while Jeroen Schuitert scored for the Dutch.