The curtain came down on the 2012 Paralympic Games last night, with an uplifting closing ceremony maintaining the tone of an inspirational event. Seb Coe, chairman of the London Games, said the athletes involved had “lifted the cloud of limitation”, and predicted that, “we will never see sport the same way again, or disability the same way again”.
Football more than played its part in the success of this multi-sport showpiece, with sell-out crowds and transfixed TV audiences wowed by the skill displayed in both forms of the beautiful game on show. Surprises were, however, conspicuous by their absence as Brazil maintained their iron grip on the five-a-side event and a dominant eastern European duo fought it out for gold in the seven-a-side competition. FIFA.com rounds up the action.
This version, which is played by blind and visually impaired players wearing eye masks - save for the goalkeepers, who are sighted – was again mastered by Brazil. The South Americans had taken gold at this event in each of the two previous Paralmypics and they maintained their 100 per cent record with a near-flawless campaign at London’s Riverbank Arena. Indeed, Ramon Pereira de Souza’s side retained their place at the top of the podium without conceding a single goal in any of their five matches, with the only scare coming when they needed penalties to eliminate old rivals Argentina after a 0-0 draw in the semi-finals.
Final opponents France had also made it to the decider on the back of four clean sheets, but their resistance finally crumbled as Brazil won 2-0 through a Gabriel Da Silva penalty and a Martin Baron own-goal. The hero, however, was to be found at the other end, where veteran goalkeeper Fabio Ribeiro de Vasconcelos saved two spot kicks from David Labarre and Frederic Villeroux. Spain, meanwhile, took bronze with another penalty shoot-out win over the luckless Argentinians, but all eyes were on a Brazilian side that already has its sights firmly set on Rio 2016.
"Brazil are special,” said their coach, Pereira de Souza. “The players are very united, they fit in well together. We hope to have the same success [in Rio] and also in the competitions before that."
Like Brazil in the five-a-side event, Ukraine arrived at London 2012 aiming for a third successive Paralympic gold. This larger-scale tournament involves players with cerebral palsy and, as expected, the battle for gold was eventually settled in a showdown between the Ukrainians and Russia, winners of last year’s World Championships. Iran had put up a brave fight before being edged 2-1 by the Ukraine the semi-finals, and they went on to claim bronze with a thumping 5-0 win over Brazil in the third-place play-off.
The final proved a tighter affair, although Russia were worthy and thoroughly deserved winners, having registered twice as many shots as their eastern European rivals. The one that mattered came 16 minutes from time, when Eduard Ramonov raced through on to a Zaurbek Pagaev flick-on to slot home the game's only goal. Romonov's striker brought Russia’s first football gold since the 2000 Paralympic Games and helped them clinch second place in the overall medal table, with 102 across all sports.
The team they edged out in this respect was Great Britain, although Russia coach Avtandil Baramidze had nothing but praise for the event’s hosts. "I am very proud that the team have succeeded and I want to thank everyone for all the support in the United Kingdom to the team,” he said. "It has been a great help, and I feel very positive and uplifted by the reaction we have received."