England CP secure Tri-Nations victories ahead of 2022 IFCPF World Cup
Head coach Andy Smith is happy with England Cerebral Palsy team’s preparations heading into the 2022 IFCPF World Cup after watching his side secure two victories during a Tri-Nations tournament at St. George’s Park.
Like many of the disability teams, England CP had not played a competitive match since the beginning of the Covid pandemic but with the 2022 IFCPF World Cup starting at the end of April, the Para Lions have been back in action during the last week.
England CP hosted neighbours Scotland and the United States of America at St. George’s Park, with all three teams playing against each other.
The Para Lions and the USA also played an unofficial B team match on Thursday, which ended with a goalless draw.
England CP’s first competitive fixture in almost two years came on Friday against the USA, as a tough contest was decided by a solitary goal from James Blackwell. The ball broke to Blackwell on the edge of the box and after an impressive first touch, he drilled the ball into the bottom corner.
The Para Lions then faced Scotland on Saturday, as goals from Dale Smith, Harry Baker and David Porcher helped the home side to a 3-0 victory.
Smith opened the scoring when he was put through one-on-one and he slid the ball under the goalkeeper.
Baker then applied the finish after a goalmouth scramble to double his side’s lead, before Porcher scored the goal of the weekend. The former Hibernian youngster brought the ball out of the defence and after beating several players, found the bottom corner.
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The final contest then saw the USA beat Scotland 2-0 on Sunday thanks to goals in quick succession from Shea Hammond and Jonah Meyer-Crothers.
This was England CP’s third camp of the season, after time together at the end of October and then in late-January, when the Para Lions had their first match since the Covid pandemic started, as Redditch United Under-19s were asked to replicate the playing style of the leading CP teams to help England with their preparations for the 2022 IFCPF World Cup.
Smith said: “The camp as a whole was a real success for two main reasons. We lost some really key players before the camp, so I had to bring some younger players up, and I ended up playing basically the same team for the two games in two days.
“The boys showed real composure when we were 1-0 up against the USA and although we controlled much of the game, in that last five minutes the USA threw caution to the wind but we were able to see it out.
“The Scotland game was a slightly slower pace – whenever England play the USA it is always 100 miles an hour – so our lads managed to play very well against Scotland considering they had played 24 hours before.
“The players managed the game well and were always in control of both games, which is really pleasing when you think the USA, in particular, are one of the top five sides in the world.
“But there is work to do between now and when we go to the Worlds and the players have some fitness work they need to keep doing before our camp in April and when we go out to Barcelona. But there were lots of positives whilst still having things to work on.”
At the last IFCPF World Cup in 2019, England secured a fourth-place finish and they will be hoping to improve on that when the latest edition takes place in Salou, Barcelona between April 27 and May 16.
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.
CP football, which has been part of the Paralympic Games since 1984, is played up and down the country and you can find disability football in your area via our website here.
A first class week with the @EnglandFootball CP GKs. Another level again each day topped off with 3 clean sheets. Massive thanks to @AnthonyWhite91 for coming in with the World Cup just round the corner 🦁🦁🦁 pic.twitter.com/OXq2qcKqnt— Alex Molloy (@alexmolloy) March 14, 2022
In October the FA announced an ambitious new three-year plan titled Football Your Way, to help develop, improve and raise awareness of disability football in England. You can read more about the plan here.
For England CP, they now face a short wait to see what lies ahead in Barcelona.
Smith said: “I am happy with where we are heading into the Worlds. The boys have good fitness levels and whilst there are a few things for us to work on, we are happy with where we are at and we are now just waiting for the draw at the end of March to see who we will play at the World Cup.”