PREVIEW: PNT Faces Paralympic Powerhouse Ukraine in Final Group Stage Match

After a dominant start to the 2017 IFCPF CP Football World Championships, the U.S. PNT faces its toughest test yet as it takes on world No. 1 Ukraine on Friday in San Luis, Argentina (3 p.m. ET, YouTube). The reigning Paralympic champion fresh off winning the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio is a titan of the sport; Ukraine has won every Paralympic tournament it has entered and has never been ranked below No. 2 in the world. The No. 6 USA enters with its highest-ever world ranking plus the momentum of two group stage routs and a six-match unbeaten streak.

The Yellow-Blue currently leads Group D with a plus-13 goal differential, while the U.S. is just behind at plus-11. Both squads have already clinched qualification to the knockout round and a berth in the 2019 IFCPF World Cup in Pinto, Spain, but this match will determine final group placements and quarterfinal opponents.

The PNT’s tournament run has seen contributions from across the board. The team’s four newcomers have made an immediate impact – Cameron DeLillo shares the team goal-scoring lead for tournament with Adam Ballou (both have three goals), while Ben Lindau and Nick Mayhugh have contributed three assists. PNT veterans have also made their mark on the scoresheet- 2016 Paralympic leading goalscorers Ballou and Seth Jahn (one goal, two assists this tournament) have picked up where they left off in Rio, and captain Kevin Hensley has also netted twice.

U.S. scoring has been fast and furious in Argentina. Against Northern Ireland, the USA scored three goals in two minutes- including Hensley goals in the 16th and 17th minutes. In the red, white and blue’s opening match against Australia, the team scored twice in three minutes then forced an own goal sixty seconds later.

Ukraine was the first nation in the world to sponsor a full-time residency for its Paralympic soccer team and the efforts have payed dividends. It dominated its first two matches, defeating Northern Ireland 5-0 and besting Australia 8-0. During last year’s Paralympic gold medal run, the team never trailed and never allowed more than a single goal. At the last World Championships in 2015, Ukraine only allowed two goals, finishing a run to the final with a plus-21 goal differential.

Friday’s winner will claim first place in Group D and take on the second-place team in Group C. Currently England and the Netherlands sit at first and second in Group C; their final position will be decided by their 11 a.m. clash.

PNT Roster by Position (Hometown):
GOALKEEPERS (2): Boyle, Sean (Minneapolis, Minn.), Estrella, Marc (Bakersfield, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (6): Ballou, Adam (Virginia Beach, Va.), Boarman, Bryce (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Brigman, Gregory (Harrisburg, N.C.), Garza, David (San Diego, Calif.), Hensley, Kevin (Memphis, Tenn.), Lindau, Benjamin (Chicago, Ill.)
MIDFIELDERS (4): Abbiate, Mason (San Diego, Calif.), Bennett, Tyler (Wadsworth, Ohio), Bremer, Andrew (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Mayhugh, Nicholas (Manassas, Va.)
FORWARDS (2): DeLillo, Cameron (Blandon, Pa.), Jahn, Seth (Lakeland, Fla.)

UKR Roster by Last Name:
Antoniuk, Volodymyr; Dutko, Taras; Kahramanian, Edhar; Krasylnykov, Artem; Kulynych, Bohdan; Len, Oleh; Molodtsov, Dmytro; Podolskyi, Stanislav; Romanchuk, Vitalii; Sheremet, Artem; Shkvarlo, Ivan; Symashko, Kostyantyn, Trushev, Vitalii; Zinoviev, Yevhen

Matchday 6 Schedule:

Date

Match

Time (ET)

Venue

Sept. 15

Netherlands vs. England

11:00 a.m.

Stadium J.G. Funes

Sept. 15

Venezuela vs. Japan

11:00 a.m.

Stadium Estancia Grande

Sept. 15

Ukraine vs. USA

3:00 p.m.

Stadium J.G. Funes

Sept. 15

Northern Ireland vs. Australia

3:00 p.m.

Stadium Estancia Grande

Group D Standings:

Team

W

L

D

GD

Points

Ukraine

2

0

0

+13

6

USA

2

0

0

+11

6

Northern Ireland

0

2

0

-10

0

Australia

0

2

0

-14

0