Ausnew Home Care | ParaMatildas show 'never say die' spirit as they win silver in inaugural Cerebral Palsy Women's World Cup final

ParaMatildas show 'never say die' spirit as they win silver in inaugural Cerebral Palsy Women's World Cup final

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Seventy-three days ago, the ParaMatildas — Australia's first national team for women and girls with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, and symptoms of stroke — didn't exist.

Thirteen days ago, they hadn't played a single game together as a team.

Yesterday, in the heat of Salou in Spain, they became the first senior Australian football team to win a silver medal at a World Cup, pushing the mighty USA to extra time in a thrilling final before falling to the eventual champions 4-2.

The two teams qualified for the gold medal play-off as the two best-performing sides in the round-robin tournament, with the USA finishing in top spot after their final-day 4-0 victory over Australia in the group stage.

However, the ParaMatildas learned many lessons from that loss ahead of their title-defining clash.

As co-captain Georgia Beikoff said beforehand: "We saw that match against the USA as a dress rehearsal. We had a few injuries, including myself, and that took me out for the second half. There were also a few other things that were going on like Katelyn [Smith] having asthma, which knocked her over.

"We're confident that we can play a better game today and are really keen to just kill it."

And so they did. Despite the fatigue of their fifth match in seven days, the ParaMatildas came out far more confident and organised in Tuesday's final.

Defying their underdog status, Australia pressed the USA's physical midfielders and peppered the goal throughout the first half, with pacey striker Lainee Harrison looking the most dangerous.

Their momentum eventually paid off in the 23rd minute when co-captain Eloise Northam scored a sensational full-field lob to hand the ParaMatildas a 1-0 lead at half-time.

Two female soccer players wearing yellow and green hug after scoring a goal
Eloise Northam (right) opened the scoring for Australia in a dominant first-half display.(Football Australia)

But the USA, a long-standing powerhouse in the women's game, bounced back almost immediately in the second half, scoring two quick-fire goals through substitutes Annie Wickett and Jessiyn Kuhmnel.

True to the Matildas' "never say die" spirit, though, the ParaMatildas refused to give in, defending valiantly as the USA's refreshed side gained the upper-hand.

And just as it looked like the title race was over, Australian goalkeeper Katelyn Smith scored a miraculous equaliser four minutes from full-time, firing the ball up-field with such venom that the opposition goalkeeper was bundled back across her own line to make it 2-2 and send the crowd into raptures.

Pushed into extra-time and buffeted by the sizzling Salou sun, the ParaMatildas began to fade as the bench depth and fitness of their opponents came through.

Two more goals to Kuhmnel and Emma Martin saw the USA crowned inaugural CP Women's World Cup champions with a 4-2 win.

Japan secured the bronze medal earlier in the day by defeating the Netherlands 4-1.

Despite the loss, Australia have still written themselves into the history-books, becoming the country's first senior football team to qualify for a final and win a silver medal at a World Cup.

Further, two ParaMatildas players won individual gongs for their performances throughout the tournament.

Katelyn Smith won the Golden Glove for most outstanding goalkeeper, while Beikoff claimed the Golden Boot with 13 goals across the five games.

"It's been quite surreal," the 29-year-old Beikoff, who's also a Paralympic bronze medallist in javelin, said before the final.

A female soccer player with disability holds a football and smiles at the camera
ParaMatildas co-captain Georgia Beikoff won the tournament's inaugural Golden Boot.(Football Australia)

"I was not expecting to get all those goals, especially in the first match against the Dutch.

"It's been a really full-on eight weeks since we put the team together. Some of these girls haven't really played football before, so I'm really proud of how they've stepped up.

"It's been a really big learning curve for us and this is just the beginning. I'm really excited for the future."


Source: ABC

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