Cerebral Palsy squad still hopeful of World Cup quarter-final berth.
The England Cerebral Palsy squad are still confident of a World Cup quarter-final berth despite disappointment in their opening group game against Russia on Sunday.
England were beaten 3-0 by the reigning world champions at Achilles FC in the Netherlands yesterday afternoon but The FA’s National Manager of Disability Football, Jeff Davis, maintains that the game was a good learning curve for the team.
"It wasn’t a great result for us," he said, "but our Russian colleagues were impressed with our play and said we’d improved greatly over the last 12 months so that gives us a confident boost going into the South Korea game on Tuesday.”
Lyndon Lynch’s team found themselves 2-0 down inside the opening ten minutes thanks to goals from Murvanadze and Tumakov but Davis believes that prompted England to raise their game.
“We were probably in awe of Russia in all honesty," he admitted. "They’re defending the title here and were runners up to Ukraine at both last year’s European Championship and the Paralympics in Beijing so we’re talking about a very good team here.
“We played well in the rest of the game though and caused the Russians a few problems from set-pieces. Michael Barker’s header from a corner was probably our best opportunity. Murvanadze then scored again to make it 3-0 and that put the game beyond doubt but that’s been and gone now and we’re looking forward to South Korea and Argentina this week.”
Both Russia and Ukraine are pre-tournament favourites and Davis explained that both countries have been investing heavily into Paralympic football over the last few years: “Both are totally committed to Cerebral Palsy football and the 7-a-side game while we run both a CP and Blind squad amongst others.
“There are a lot of players in the Ukraine side born after the Chernobyl tragedy when post natal care in the Eastern Bloc wasn’t up to the standards of the Western countries. The old Soviet Union really does cover a vast area with an immense population and football is very popular of course.
“But we have a very young team at this tournament with an average age of 21 while Russia is around the 32 mark. One of their keepers is about 43 and we’ve got two 16-year-old lads in our squad so that’s a big positive for our team.”
If England can pick up six points from their next two games then Iran could be a potential opponent in the quarter-finals: “We’re taking each game as it comes but there’s been talk that we’d face Iran if we finish as runners up in our group,” said Davis.
“Again, they’re an emerging nation in Paralympic football and would start as favourites if we make it through. They beat Eire at the weekend and will be full of confidence but we’ve got our young squad and fresher legs and that might count for a lot as the tournament progresses.”