Football 5: Five things we learned from Rio 201602.10.2016
Brazil might have extended their winning streak, but September´s Paralympic Games proved that the gap is closing in blind football.
Brazil reasserted their dominance in football 5-a-side following a 1-0 win over Iran in the Rio 2016 final, maintaining a 100 per cent record at Paralympic Games and extending a winning streak at major international events which started in 2007.
Although they were targeting Paralympic gold, South American rivals Argentina rounded off a good tournament sealing bronze and returning to the podium after eight years.
Brazil remain invincible
Everything is easier for Brazil with superstars Jefinho, known as the ´Paralympic Pele´, and Ricardinho as part of the team. The former´s outstanding two goals to defeat China 2-1 in the semi-final had the world talking, whilst Ricardinho scored the winning goal in the gold-medal match against Iran. Nothing seems to stop this seemingly invincible Brazilian team, the current Paralympic, world and Parapan American champions. They will try to show once again why they are the best at the 2018 World Championships, in Spain.
Iran can get on the Paralympic podium
Four years ago in London, Iran ended sixth following a defeat to China on penalties. But the Asian champions had a big surprise reserved for Rio 2016. They advanced into the semi-finals after two scoreless draws against Turkey and Brazil and a 2-0 triumph over Morocco. But everything seemed to be set for a South American final between the hosts and Argentina, to whom Iran had lost 2-0 in the group-stage at London 2012. The story was different this time, with Iran eliminating Argentina on the penalties and qualifying for a historical final.
Gap closing in football 5-a-side
Even with Brazil reasserting their dominance at every tournament and remaining undefeated throughout the years, Rio 2016 proved that the gap between the powerhouses and the small rising teams is closing. Iran made it to the podium for the first time, China faced Brazil as equals in the semi-finals and World Championships runners-up Argentina and European champions Turkey are always forces to reckon with. Even African champions Morocco showed potential in the years to come and, why not, at Tokyo 2020.
Argentina return to Paralympic podium
The bronze medal is far more than a consolation prize for the Argentinian team, after a disappointing fourth place in London four years ago. The team arrived in Rio seeking to end Brazil´s football 5-a-side reign and win their first Paralympic gold after claiming silver at Athens 2004 and bronze at Beijing 2008. But this return to the Paralympic podium will give them a motivational energy boost ahead of the next major challenges.
Plenty of medal contenders ahead of Tokyo 2020
It is undeniable that with an increasing number of teams rubbing shoulders with powerhouses Brazil and Argentina, there will be multiple contenders for gold at Tokyo 2020. The World Championships in Spain in two years time will be a very good parameter to see which of them has the potential to dethrone Brazil at the next Paralympic Games.