England Powerchair suffer penalty heartbreak in World Cup final
Para Lions make the country proud once again as they just miss out on a first FIPFA Powerchair Football World Cup title
England suffered penalty heartbreak in the 2023 FIPFA Powerchair Football World Cup final as France retained their crown.
As in the 2019 EURO final, the sides could not be separated in normal time or extra-time on Friday meaning we went to penalties.
But on this occasion, it was France who were victorious at the Quaycentre in Sydney Olympic Park after some outstanding goalkeeping from Mohamed Ghelami.
France topped the group stage, having scored 45 goals and only conceded two in their nine matches, with England managing 25 goals and conceding eight on their way to third.
The Para Lions had beaten the USA 1-0 on Friday morning to book their place in the final, whilst for France it was a 2-0 victory over Argentina in their semi.
England were put under early pressure in the final but it was the Para Lions who had the first chance of note as Ed Common crossed and Marcus Harrison’s shot was saved.
France were in the ascendancy in the opening stages though and Jon Bolding needed to save a Mohamed Ghelami effort on the line. A contact foul moments later led to a Bryan Weiss free-kick but it was also saved.
England Powerchair v France | World Cup Final
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Both Harrison and Chris Gordon had shots saved in quick succession but most of the play in the opening 20 minutes was in England’s half as Colin Gordon’s side tried to play through the France press.
England captain Bolding and vice-captain Chris Gordon showed their world-class quality in defence and they saved further attempts from Weiss and Morgan Lifante.
Ghelami is recognised as one of the best players in the world and he forced Bolding into another good save in the second half.
But the breakthrough finally arrived moments later when Weiss sent over a free-kick and this time Bolding wasn’t able to get across to stop Lifante’s shot at the back post.
England managed to equalise in fortuitous circumstances four minutes later though when Bolding attempted to start a counter-attack following a France corner and his pass rebounded off Lifante’s chair and rolled the length of the court to make it 1-1.
France laid siege to England’s goal as normal time came to a conclusion but some outstanding defensive play and concentration levels from Gordon and Bolding meant the game went to extra-time.
Ghelami continued to be the game’s most prominent attacker and had three shots in a row early in extra-time but on each occasion, Gordon and Bolding were equal to it.
England almost scored when Bolding’s long clearance was completely missed by goalkeeper Erwan Conq and the ball trickled just wide.
Conq was then forced to save the resulting corner and England went into half-time of injury-time with renewed belief.
Aurelien Fillatre was centimetres away from scoring early in the second period when he attempted to force the ball over the line under pressure from Chris Gordon but the Para Lions vice-captain managed to keep the ball in front of the goal line.
Weiss had a shot saved by Bolding in the final minute of injury-time and Harrison had a last attack but the sides could not be separated and the game went to penalties in a repeat of the 2019 EURO final.
First to take a spot kick was England goalkeeper Chris Gordon but it was saved by Ghelami, who had moved to goalkeeper in injury-time ahead of the shootout.
Weiss then put France in front and Ghelami saved yet again to deny Common’s spot-kick.
Gordon gave England hope when he saved Fillatre’s spot-kick, only for it to be retaken because the goalkeeper was adjudged to have come off his line too early.
But the England goalkeeper saved the retake and Bolding pulled his side level with a great penalty.
Tristian Le Beller then put France back in front and when Harrison’s spot-kick was saved by the superb Ghelami, France were victorious and retained their World Cup title.
It was a heartbreaking way to lose but England Powerchair will return home knowing they have made their country so proud once again.
Speaking immediately after the game, vice-captain Gordon said: “We gave it our all. It was a tough game. We got beat by France comfortably in the group so we went away, worked out how we could change things around and we pushed them to the wire. Obviously, it's heart-breaking to fall short on penalties.
“It has been a great World Cup as a whole. There has been some great football throughout the competition.
“Credit to France and congratulations to them. They were the better team on the day. Obviously, it's heartbreak for us, but hopefully we put on a show for people watching and it's great to have an occasion like this to promote the sport.”
England starting line-up: 4 Ed Common, 7 Chris Gordon, 8 Jon Bolding, 9 Marcus Harrison
Substitutes not used: 5 Dave Lewis, 10 Dan McLellan, 11 Tyler Reeve, 19 Brad Bates
Goals: Morgan Lifante 28, Jon Bolding 32
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