England CP 2022 IFCPF World Cup squad and group fixtures confirmed
England Cerebral Palsy team head coach Andy Smith discusses Para Lions’ 2022 IFCPF World Cup squad and fixtures
England CP head coach Andy Smith is excited to see what his side can achieve after naming a 14-man squad for the 2022 IFCPF World Cup in Spain.
The 2022 IFCPF Men’s World Cup will take place in Salou, Barcelona, between April 27 and May 16.
Smith’s side have been joined in Group A by Canada, Venezuela and Netherlands and the Para Lions will face all three in the space of six days during the first week of May.
Russia, who are the reigning champions, are not allowed to compete in this year’s event but it is hoped that 2019 runners-up Ukraine will be able to take part, with the organisers originally producing two schedules: one based on 14 teams and another with 15 sides.
First up is Canada, who were twelfth in 2019, on Tuesday 3 May at 2.30pm BST (3.30pm local time), before facing Venezuela two days later on Thursday 5 May at 11.30am BST (12.30pm local).
The final group match will then be against Netherlands on Saturday 7 May at 2.30pm BST (3.30pm local), with the Dutch looking to improve on their 2019 finish of eighth.
Those familiar to CP football will recognise many of the England CP squad but there will be four players competing in their first major tournament for the Para Lions in the shape of Sam Dewhirst, Mason Dunbar, Aaron Lucas and Cameron Osburn.
Smith said: “I am really happy that we have finally been able to name our group for the World Cup. There have been changes to the squad since 2019 and we have four new faces joining the squad because of different situations around player availability, so it is exciting to see new and young players coming in.
“We have a good balance to the squad, with experienced players who have been around the course a few times and have really good tournament experience, and some young players who are really exciting. They are going into their first tournament but I’m sure they will grab the opportunity with both hands, because it is a great opportunity for them to not only enjoy the experience of a first tournament but also to push to get into the starting team.”
England CP secured fourth at the 2019 IFCPF World Cup but then, like many para sports, international CP football was effectively halted for two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Para Lions played their first competitive matches since the pandemic started at St. George’s Park last month, when they beat USA and Scotland during a Tri-Nations tournament.
And the uncertainty around how each country has developed and changed in recent years has added an extra dynamic to the 2022 IFCPF World Cup.
Smith said: “Ukraine are one of the best teams in the world but even if they are there, we would still probably be in the top four or five teams in the world based on things like the rankings, who we have beat, who we haven’t beat, and things like that.
“But the biggest thing for me and maybe all of the coaches is that it has been two years since we have seen teams properly and two years in CP football could see all sorts of new players coming in and out of squads.”
The IFCPF World Cup is a tournament where every match has a direct impact on a team’s points and seeding, with the countries eventually ranked from top to bottom.
The final positions then contribute towards the world ranking and matters such as continental competitions and qualifying events.
Should England CP qualify from their group, Smith acknowledges the knock-out stages are “as tough as it could be for us”.
A change in format for the tournament will see Group A paired off with Group C in the knockout rounds, meaning England CP could have to face Iran, ranked fourth in the world, or USA, who are ranked sixth, one below the Para Lions.
Smith said: “Iran are probably one of the favourites to win it and we have had the US in the last two World events and we played them recently. It is so close between those two teams so if we finish first or second, we will have to play the first or second team in that group.
“Iran are one of the top teams in the world but the US have done well against them in the past and beat them in the last World Cup, so it is a tough draw and then after that it would be Brazil potentially, so we are certainly in the more unfavourable side of the draw but if you are going to win the tournament then you are going to have to beat the best.”
The war in Ukraine means that when this article was published on April 6 2022, they were unable to confirm whether they would be able to participate in the 2022 IFCPF World Cup.
But Smith is hoping the 2019 runners-up will have the chance to join England CP in going for glory in Spain.
He said: “I had a call on Monday from the IFCPF (International Federation of CP Football) around some other things and when they said that the Ukrainians had been in touch and were still looking to try to get to the tournament, it was one of the best pieces of news I have had for a long time.
“We all know the players and the coaching staff of Ukraine so it is a real positive from a personal point of view and for the players as well.
“You just hope they are able to participate and that the players and staff are safe and well.”
Whilst mainstream football involves 11 players in each team, CP football is seven-a-side, consists of two 30-minute halves and is played by athletes with cerebral palsy or an acquired brain injury, such as a stroke.
A classification system is used based upon what type of movement the individual has and where the impairment is located, with a new classification method introduced to international competitions in 2018, ranging from FT1 to FT3, with the higher number having the more minimal impairment.
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England CP will be taking 14 players to the 2022 IFCPF World Cup and you can see the squad in full below.
You can also read Smith’s views on each of the Para Lions’ group stage opponents at EnglandFootball.com in the coming days.
England CP’s 2022 IFCPF World Cup squad
Giles Moore, Liam Irons, David Porcher, Harry Baker, Matthew Robinson, Matt Crossen, Dale Smith, Sam Dewhirst, Mason Dunbar, Aaron Lucas, James Blackwell, Cameron Osburn, Reegan McMillan, Ryan Kay
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