England CP suffer IFCPF World Cup heartbreak with defeat against Iran
England cerebral palsy team’s hopes of securing a first medal at the IFCPF World Cup ended in heartbreak with a 3-1 defeat to Iran.
Head coach Andy Smith had spoken about the difficulty of the draw before the tournament and so it proved to be as his Para Lions came up against Iran, who are ranked fourth in the world, at the quarter-final stage.
England’s hopes of making the semi-final were boosted after just 14 seconds when Sam Dewhirst gave his side the lead.
But then a goal from Medhi Bakhshi just before the break and a second-half brace from Ehsan Masoumzadeh ensured it would be Iran who would compete in Thursday’s semi-final.
For the Para Lions, they still have two matches to play, starting with a game against Argentina on Thursday, as they look to finish as high as possible, with the best outcome now a fifth-place finish.
England had qualified for Monday’s quarter-final having finished top of Group A, with the emphatic 8-1 win over Canada and 9-0 victory against Venezuela followed by Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Netherlands.
Cerebral Palsy football consists of two halves of 30 minutes and is played with seven players on a team.
Each side must have at least one player who is classified as FT1, which is those with the more severe impairments, on the pitch at all times and no more than one person who is class FT3 playing.
Andy Smith made four changes to his starting line-up, as he reintroduced Giles Moore in goal, captain Matt Crossen in defence and the dangerous duo of Liam Irons and Harry Baker into the midfield.
And the Para Lions made the perfect start as they scored within 14 seconds.
David Porcher, starting in a deeper role, played an incisive pass into the run of Baker on the left-hand side of the Iran penalty area and he passed to Dewhirst, who bundled the ball home from close range at the second attempt.
Iran enjoyed lots of possession immediately after the goal and would have scored an impressive equaliser seven minutes into the game had it not been for a great save by Moore and then, after the goalkeeper parried another effort, a superb last-ditch block by Crossen.
Blackwell was next to have an attempt for the Para Lions, as the experienced midfielder sent a long-range effort wide of the post.
Iran continued to enjoy more of the possession during a fiercely contested first half and England needed another fine stop from the legs of Moore to deny Shahab Rahimikandoleh’s low drive.
But Iran equalised just before the interval in first-half injury-time after a neat one-two saw Bakhshi finish well.
England needed Moore to save well once again early in the second half, this time to deny Hossein Tiz Bor from close range, but Iran took the lead five minutes after the restart when Masoumzadeh was allowed too much space on the right-hand side of the penalty area and he fired the ball into the roof of the net.
Crossen went close to equalising with a well-struck free-kick but the Para Lions’ hopes of reaching the quarter-finals suffered a further blow when another one-two saw Masoumzadeh find the bottom corner for his second.
This is Football: Liam Irons x Dylan
Football is for everyone. This is football.
England kept pushing for a way back into the match and enjoyed more possession in the second half, with Crossen forcing another save from a free-kick.
But they were unable to find the goals needed and in the final minutes, Irons was sent off for a second yellow card after a collision with the goalkeeper.
The Para Lions’ IFCPF World Cup campaign has not finished yet though, as they will now face Argentina on Thursday at 11.30am BST (12.30pm local time).
The result in that contest will then decided whether their final ranking match will take place on either Saturday evening or Sunday lunchtime.
England: 1 Giles Moore; 6 Matt Crossen ©, 3 David Porcher; 2 Liam Irons, 11 James Blackwell, 4 Harry Baker; 8 Sam Dewhirst
Substitutes: 9 Mason Dunbar for Dewhirst 46’
Substitutes not used: 5 Matthew Robinson, 10 Aaron Lucas, 12 Cameron Osburn, 13 Reegan McMillan, 14 Ryan Kay
Head coach: Andy Smith
Goals: Sam Dewhirst 1’
Bookings: Liam Irons 50’
Red cards: Liam Irons 60+2’