Best finishes were the target of teams playing at the 2018 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football World Championships in Madrid, Spain, on Thursday (14 June), as a further five games took place to decide the ties for 5-16th place.
In the hunt for a top five finish, England had to endure their second penalty shoot-out in 24 hours after their match against Spain ended goalless at full-time.
Both teams managed to hold back advances from their opponents in an evenly matched 40 minutes. Neither team managed to breach the goal and the whistle blew for full-time.
When it came to penalties, Spain chose to shoot first. Antonio Martin Gaitan, his country’s longest serving player, was the first to slot the ball past Daniel James.
England followed with a successful shot of their own from Daniel English down the centre.
Youssef El Hadaoui Rabi was next for Spain, safely finding the back of the net.
But the curse of the England penalty shoot-out struck again as Brandon Coleman hit the post and the ball went skywards.
Hope was renewed for the English seconds later when Adolfo Acosta missed for Spain, leaving Keryn Seal with a crucial penalty.
As Seal lined-up his shot everyone in the packed stadium held their breath. The No.4 then powered the ball as hard as he could but Spain’s goalkeeper Pedro Gutierrez Leon went the right way to seal the win at 2-1.
Gutierrez Leon said: “I would like to congratulate England, they were a very tough rival. After Russia [the quarter final match which they lost 1-0] we were very sad and lost hope but we were very motivated to win today against England.
“When I knew we had penalties I knew I had to save at least one of the shots. It was a very tough match because we felt pressured by England, we have played them before so we know each other.”
Spain will play for 5th place on Saturday (16 June). Their opponents will be decided on Friday (15 June) when Morocco play Colombia.
Caption: Daniel James goes to save a penalty at the 2018 IBSA Blind Football World Championships.
Paralympic silver medallists Iran returned to the field to play Thailand on Thursday.
They put in an excellent performance to dispatch their Asian rivals 4-0 with two goals each for Ahmadreza Shahhosseini and Sadegh Rahimighasr.
Shahhosseini collected the ball from the wing in the 18th minute, threading his way past three Thai defenders before dispatching the ball over the shoulder of Narutchai Permpoonputcharasook.
Three more goals came for Iran in the second half. Shahhosseini scored a similar goal as his first, dribbling and driving the ball once again into the Thai goal.
Rahimighasr then entered the frame, scoring a great penalty with seven minutes left on the clock. He decided he was not finished and bagged a further goal just a few minutes later
Iran’s 4-0 win means they will face Mali on Saturday for 9th place.
Mali went head-to-head with fellow debutants Mexico on Thursday.
Mexico struck first as Jorge Lanzargota completed on a magnificent run down the left-hand side to take the score 1-0 at the first whistle.
Mali came out fighting in the second half. Fresh life was injected into their attack when Mamadou Thiam nut-megged Mexican goalkeeper Javier Amozorrutia to draw level.
Moments later Thiam received a great pass from his captain Bandiougou Traore in the box. A clinical finish brought the score to 2-1.
Mexico tried to come back, including a shot on goal from Lazargorta, but they could not capitalise.
Traore said: “In the first half we were not really into our game but in the second half, after the talk of our coach, we could get into our game and here we are with our second victory.
“This World Cup has been a great experience. We are really appreciating it and we will make our best.”
Turkey will get the chance to play for 13th place after a 3-1 win over France.
Hasan Satay found the bottom corner of the net first for Turkey but just a few minutes later his team scored an own goal.
Satay, determined to come back from the set-back, added two more goals before the end of the match to see his team take a 3-1 victory.
Turkey will face Costa Rica on Friday.
Central American champions and debutants Costa Rica came back against South Korea to register their first win of the tournament.
Yuncheol Sin gave South Korea the lead in the first half. Goalkeeper Junmin Ji threw Sin the ball and within one turn it was in the back of the net.
The break seemed to do Costa Rica some good and they soon pulled level. Daniel Contreras Verela finished an impressive solo run from within his own half to even the score.
Angel Flores Guardado then dribbled the ball round two South Korean defenders to take the lead and conclude the scoring.
After the match No.6 Michael Mora Solis was delighted with Costa Rica’s performance: “We would have liked to have progressed beyond the group stage but it is already a victory for us to represent our country. We are grateful to our fans and people in Costa Rica.
“For us this is a very big win – it’s like a trophy for us. I hope to be back in four years.”
The 2018 IBSA Blind Football World Championships, featuring 16 teams, are the biggest in history. The competition has seen debuts for Mexico, Central American champions Costa Rica, Mali, European champions Russia, Thailand and Iran.
The semi-finals between Brazil and China and Argentina and Russia will take place on Friday.
As well as the title, the winners of the sixteen-team tournament will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
All the games can be watched live at the official Championships website. Click here to view the full standings in the round-robin group stage.
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The banner of the 2018 IBSA Blind Football World Championships