From May 2nd – 4th, the Powerchair Football Confederation of the Americas (PFCA) and Brazilian Powerchair Football Association (ABFC) hosted the Mundialito de Power Soccer. Held on a warm and sunny autumn weekend in Rio de Janeiro, six teams from North and South America, and Australia, came together the very first international competition in Brazil. The competition pool was a mix of newly established national squads from Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, as well as veterans of the international stage from the United States, Canada, and Australia. With the South American supporters blowing horns, beating drums, and chanting, an undeniable energy and excitement radiated throughout the arena the entire weekend!
The tournament opened with a South American flair as host Brazil took on Argentina. The match provided a lot of excitement with plenty of spectacular goals, while providing a glimpse into the future of powerchair football in South America. Brazil fended off a feisty Argentina squad and won 5-3. As Day 1 continued, the United States looked like a team on a mission, winning their first two matches by a combined score of 16-1. However, the match of the day was undoubtedly Uruguay vs Argentina. Uruguay and Argentina are the two newest members of FIPFA and their first meeting was a memorable one. They battled back and forth throughout the match, with Argentina either tied, or in the lead. That all changed in the final minutes of the match as Brian Media split the Argentina defense to give Uruguay the 3-2 victory.
Once the initial nerves went way on the second day, the teams were able to settle in and the veteran squads began to take control. Both Canada and the United States went undefeated on the day, securing a spot in the semifinal matches on Sunday. The highlight on Day 2 was once again provided by the young teams from South America. After having both beaten Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil were on a collision course for South American supremacy, the winner advancing to the knockout stages. It was a defensive battle throughout the match until Brazil captain, Darci Meneguelo, broke the scoreless draw late in the second half. Although Uruguay posed many threats, Brazil managed to notch another goal and win 2-0, earning a spot in the semifinal on Sunday.
Championship Sunday pitted the United States against Brazil and Canada versus Australia, with the Poweroos seeking to avenge a 3-2 defeat on the first day. In the first match, the United States lived up to expectations as the heavy favorite in the match as they used crisp passing and pinpoint accurate shooting to jump on Brazil early and often. When the final whistle sounded, the US was on its way to the championship match with a 9-0 victory. In the second semifinal, Canada jumped to an early 1-0 lead, but the Poweroos would not be shaken. Led by captain, Chris Suffield, Australia clawed and fought their way back, tying the match three times. As time wound down in the final minutes, Moustafa Ardati hit the game winner, propelling Australia into the final with a 4-3 victory.
In the 3rd place match, Canada had to shake off the disappointment from their previous game as they faced a Brazil team hungry to end their weekend with hardware. As the teams dueled, Canada took the lead, but Brazil fought back several times to tie. As the match progressed, both teams were cautious not to make any mistakes, ending regulation tied at 2-2. Through both overtime sessions, each team had opportunities to avoid a shootout, but neither was successful. During the tense shootout, Brazil had a couple key misses that allowed Canada to win 3-2 and secure 3rd place. Despite the loss, the Brazilian fans were thrilled with the team’s effort and began parading around the gym floor! It was a great show of support for the promising, young team.
The championship pitted the United States against Australia, a rematch from the previous day where the US won 4-1. From the outset, the US used their dynamic passing and shooting to take control of the match and jump into the lead. The Poweroos fought gallantly, but could not contain the two-time world champions. In the end, the United States came out on top with a 6-0 victory and first place in the tournament.
This was the first international tournament hosted in South America and it was a wonderful event to showcase the sport of powerchair football, just a few weeks before the FIFA World Cup. Media coverage was plentiful and many people were shown what makes this sport so special. It was also an opportunity to see the future of the sport as it continues to grow in the football-loving region. Coming off such a successful tournament, it will be great to see how the sport evolves in the coming years, giving even more people a chance to play The Beautiful Game.
Player of the Tournament: Juan Platero, Uruguay
Golden Guard: Natalie Russo, USA
Article submitted by Tony Jackson