Brazil, Argentina to meet for blind football gold
Date: September 2, 2021
Four-time reigning champions Brazil will lock horns with their old foes Argentina in the gold medal match at Aomi Urban Sports Park on Saturday (4 September) after both teams won their respective semi-finals on Thursday.
Brazil will face traditional rivals Argentina in a repeat of the gold medal match at blind football’s debut at Athens 2004. Seventeen years ago, the match was decided by a penalty shootout, with Brazil winning 3-2 to claim their first gold medal. Brazil has taken all four gold medals, while Argentina has one silver medal from Athens 2004 and two bronze medals from Rio 2016 and Beijing 2008.
Argentina’s place in the gold medal match is their first since Athens 2004.
The first semi-final between Argentina and China was an end-to-end game as it was when the sides last met in the Rio 2016 bronze medal match.
After a goalless draw in Rio 2016, Argentina won on penalties thanks to Maximiliano Espinillo’s successful penalty, and today he was the hero again giving Argentina a 1-0 lead in the first half by slotting in an eight-metre penalty. He scored once again in the second half to put the game beyond reach for China and advance Argentina to their second Paralympic blind football gold medal match.
“I am very happy and this is a big achievement,” Espinillo said. “There was a lot of effort, sacrifice, training and family support to have achieved this.”
Brazil and Morocco battled to join Argentina in the competition’s second semi-final, with Brazil looking to reach their fifth successive gold medal match. African champions Morocco, with a stroke of fortune, sought to make even more history by qualifying for their first ever final.
The rain fell heavily in the game, making it difficult for players from both sides to catch a clean strike of the slippery ball on the wet pitch. Morocco guarded their goalkeeper Samir Bara and held Brazil at bay with the first-half ending goalless; however, the reigning champions took the lead halfway through the second half thanks to a deflection and own goal from Imad Berka. Morocco pushed for an equaliser through their talisman Zouhair Snisla but Brazil’s experience prevailed to secure a 1-0 win and to progress to the gold medal match.
In the classification matches, hosts Japan finished fifth by defeating European champions Spain. Chances to score were far and few between with both sides defending their goal with intense focus. A minute before the end of the first-half, Japan’s captain Ryo Kawamura floated a ball in the penalty area to Tomonari Kuroda who poked the ball with one touch past Spain’s No.1 Pedro Gutierrez Leon to put the hosts in front.
Spain pushed for an equaliser in the second-half but Japan managed to see out the game and secure a 1-0 win.
Seventh place went to debutants Thailand who sealed a 3-2 victory over France. Kittikorn Baodee scored Thailand’s first ever goal at the Paralympics followed by a second from Panyawut Kupan to give Thailand a 2-0 lead in the first half. Kupan got his second and Thailand’s third early on in the second half. France pushed for comeback as substitute Khalifa Youme scored two goals in quick succession, but couldn’t find any additional goals to avoid finishing last.
“I was aiming higher than seventh, however all the teams were of a high quality. With it being our first time in this competition we are satisfied with the result,” Kupan said.