Photo Gallery | Interview | Video
It all came down to this. The Final of the 2017 IFA Women’s Futsal World Cup in Lloret De Mar was contested by the USA and Australia. In their last meeting in the Pacific Cup, USA overcame their Aussie counterparts, who were on a revenge mission. Both sides overall were the outstanding teams at this World Cup and deservedly reached the final. It really was set up to be an incredible match.
The game began at a ferocious pace, both sides playing Futsal exactly how Futsal should be played. The USA had the better of the chances in the opening stages. Jessika Cowart coming close with a strike that flew past the post.
Shortly after Veronica Cashman was baring down on goal, Melissa Khoury raced from her goal grabbed the loose before just before Cashman could get any sort of effort on goal.
Australia grew into the game as the half went on. Pollicina battled well to keep the ball in midfield before feeding the ball wide to Chelsie Winchcombe. She opened her body and fooled Gabriella Batmani in the USA goal as she went for the near post, and she hit the outside of the upright and out for a goal kick. The closest the Aussies have come in the match.
You couldn’t separate these sides as half time approached. Pollicina struck one from distance for the Aussies that flew just wide of Batmani’s post. Maricela Padilla also tried her luck from distance but Khoury had it covered.
With less than three minutes remaining before half time, the USA almost broke the deadlock, twice. Raylene Larot fired a terrific strike towards the top corner, but Khoury tremendously tipped it over the ball. Padilla then tried her luck, but Khoury produced another stunning save to keep the scores level.
Half Time: Australia 0-0 USA
The first chance of the second half fell to the USA. Padilla chipped the ball into Katelyn Nebesnick, who laid the ball off to Raleigh Loughman but her shot was deflected wide. A good move by the USA at the beginning of the second half.USA were looking the more likely team to score. Loughman again played in Erika Lum with a fantastically weighted pass, Lum took one touch and tried to stab the ball between the legs of Khoury, but again the big keeper was equal to it and blocked the shot with her body.
Khoury was again called into action when Lum launched the ball forward to the unmarked Cashman. She spun and fired a shot towards goal but Khoury blocked it again. She was having an excellent game.
The stalemate was soon no longer as the USA took the lead. Australia were pushing forward and left a huge gap at the back. Padilla won the ball back, nutmegged Shannon Day, drove forward towards goal and stabbed the ball with her toe through the legs of Khoury who couldn’t get down quick. The large USA support were sent into raptures, as were the players. Maricela Padilla gave the USA the lead.
Australia almost immediately equalised less than a minute later. Shannon Day found space and struck towards goal but Batmani stood up to the task and palmed the ball away, top save!
Moments later Batmani was called into action again when Chelsie Winchcombe drove through on goal, squared the ball to Day, she cut in on her left foot and shot low but Batmani got down to her right very quickly to beat the ball away.
The Aussies hit the post for the second time in the game midway through the second half. Jasmin Kent played it into the box, it bobbled around with Hargreaves trying to get something on it. Pollicina ghosted in at the back post and got a strike on at goal, it beat Batmani but not the post as it crashed off the upright and away to safety.
The USA goal lead a charmed life a few times in the game, but it did no longer as the Aussies levelled the scores. Winchcombe received the ball on the left, switched the ball to Pollicina on the right, and Batmani was left with no chance as Pollicina, famous for her long range strikes in this world cup, hit a venomous strike that nestled sweetly in the top corner. With only five minutes remaining, who would prevail victorious?
The score wasn’t level for long as the USA got themselves back in front. Jessica Cowart from the kick in played the ball back to Loughman. She then squared it to Jessica Sanchez, who in turn played in Raylene Larot in space, and the little number one for the USA struck low and the ball crept in under the arms of Britt Hargreaves in the Aussies goal. Every member of the USA team and coaching staff joined in the jubilant celebrations.
The literally seconds remaining, Australia came within an inch of equalising. Pollicina cut inside from the left and curled her effort towards the top corner, but Batmani through herself through the air and tipped the ball over the bar, and that was that, the USA had won the 2017 IFA Women’s Futsal World Cup in Lloret De Mar.
Full Time: Australia 1-2 USA
Australia: 1- Britt Hargreaves (GK), 2- Lindsey Jobling, 3- Lori Depczynski, 4- Jasmin Kent (Captain), 5- Chelsie Winchcombe, 6- Sophie Jones, 7- Shannon Day, 8- Andrea Preiato, 9- Caitlin Jarvie, 10- Rhianna Pollicina, 11- Melissa Khoury (GK), 16- Jessica Lindquist.
MVP: Rihanna Pollicina - Scored a wonderful goal, and influential in the game as a whole. Unlucky to be on the losing side, but being the youngest player in the Aussie squad she has a very bright future ahead.
USA: 1- Raylene Larot, 2- Veronica Cashman, 3- Gabriella Batmani - GK, 5- Julie Meurer, 6- Emily Kuo, 7- Katelyn Nebesnick, 8- Maricela Padilla, 9- Erika Lum, 10- Jessica Cowart, 11- Alejandra Palominos Maldonado - GK, 12- Raleigh Loughman, 13- Ellie Pope, 17- Jessica Sanchez, 18- Jillian Jordan.
MVP: Raleigh Loughman - As she has been for the whole tournament, she was tremendous both going forward and defending. A real team player and a joy to watch playing Futsal.