The U.S. team has been placed in Group 4 with Portugal and Iran, opening play on Sunday (July 22) with a 0-0 draw against an eager Portugal team, which had lost a day earlier to Iran by an amazing score of 14-0. The U.S. came out strong in the first half, getting five good scoring opportunities that either bounced off the post or went just over the crossbar, and at halftime the score stood at 0-0.
In the second half the U.S. came out strong again and controlled the game, rattling the iron once again. In the end, though, the team was unable to put one into the back of the net and settled for a scoreless tie.
On Monday, the U.S. played their second group game against the strong Iranian team. The Iranian team is comprised of players with traumatic brain injuries, which occurred in adulthood, with most of their players having played soccer for years prior to their injuries. Their team is significantly more polished than the U.S. players born with CP that later learned to play soccer.
The U.S. definitely had their work cut out for them against Iran, but they were up to the challenge, playing terrific defense and holding Iran to just two goals in a 2-0 loss. Despite the defeat, the U.S. went through to the second round of play where they now join a group with Ukraine, Brazil and the Netherlands. The USA's first game is today (July 24) against Ukraine, followed by Brazil on Thursday and the Netherlands on Friday.
The teams placing 1 to 4 in each of the two second-round groups will playoff in placement games for a 1 to 8 ranking on Saturday (July 28).
A strong showing by the U.S. will earn them valuable qualification points on the road to the next Paralympic Games in Athens 2004.