DESPITE missing out on a medal, Elmswell’s Matthew Ellis believes Paralympic GB’s seven-a-side football team can still finish the Games on a high, as they target a fifth-place finish.
The 32-year-old was an unused substitute in his side’s comfortable 4-0 victory over the USA on Wednesday, as GB gave the home fans inside the sold-out Riverbank Arena something to cheer in their final group match, following straight defeats to Brazil and Ukraine.
That result secured the host nation a third-place finish in Pool B, meaning they will now face Argentina – who finished bottom of Pool A following comprehensive defeats in all their matches against Russia, Iran and Netherlands – today (11.30am) for a berth in the fifth-place classification play-off match on Sunday.
Despite conceding to be disappointed at missing out on a shot at medal glory, Ellis believes a fifth-place finish would be classed as a success for the nation in relation to their status on the international scene.
“After defeats in the first two matches, our aim was to make sure we qualified third in the group and thankfully we have achieved that,” he said.
“Hopefully now we can beat Argentina and then play for a fifth-place finish because that is the highest we can now achieve.
“It will be tough match because Argentina are a very physical team who are capable of playing good football as well, so it should be very entertaining.
“Obviously there is a disappointment at not being able to challenge for a medal because you gear yourself up to try and do that.
“Football can be a cruel game and at this level you can get punished easily as we’ve seen and that is why teams like Ukraine and Russia are through to the medal matches.
“Teams like Russia and Iran are all full-time teams and so it was always going to be tough to compete at that level.
“If you look at the world rankings, England are roughly 10th, so to come together as Great Britain and finish fifth, although it may not sound great, would be a positive achievement for us.”
Ellis, who is based in Miami, also took the opportunity to pay tribute to the crowd, who turned out in force to give their vociferous support to the team.
“I was thrilled for the team to be able to give the fans a victory after the first two defeats and it should give everyone a huge lift going forward,” he added.
“The crowd have been amazing, especially when you consider that we lost our first two games and yet you come out here and it is still a sell out.
“They cheer every touch and that is great to see the passion of the crowd and their interest in the sport.”