Northern Ireland’s quest for Homeless World Cup glory in the USA ended in heartbreaking fashion as they suffered defeat at the quarter-finals stage.
The boys in green and white met Portugal in the last eight but cruelly lost out on penalties.
They had previously been beaten by the Portuguese in the first of two group stages on a 6-2 scoreline.
However, in the quarter-finals they pushed them all the way. And they were actually leading with 20 seconds to go before a late goal from Portugal saw the match end 3-3 after regulation time.
Unfortunately the Portuguese then won the penalty shootout to progress to the semi-finals of the four-a-side tournament, which is currently being staged in California.
Naturally, the team were deflated after such a heartbreaking result and they subsequently lost out to Costa Rica, whom they had previously defeated in the initial group stage, in the first of two games to determine an overall placing between fifth and eighth. The final score was 5-1 to the Costa Ricans.
It means that later today they will face Lithuania in a play-off for seventh/eighth place at California State University’s Hornet Football Stadium in Sacramento, the host venue for the festival of football.
Win or lose the team are already history makers as Northern Ireland are guaranteed their highest ever finish at the Homeless World Cup, which is run annually by the UK-based Homeless World Cup Foundation.
Portugal were subsequently beaten by Chile in the semi-finals, and Chile will now face Mexico in today’s Homeless World Cup final in Sacramento.
Northern Ireland also played the Mexicans in phase two of the group stages, narrowly losing 4-3.
In the first group stage they enjoyed wins against Switzerland (9-0), Greece (8-2), Costa Rica (4-1), Norway (7-2) and Finland (6-1).
And in stage two of the competition they defeated Austria (9-1) and Poland (5-3).
Street Soccer NI, a charity working with homeless people and disadvantaged groups across Northern Ireland, put the eight-strong Northern Ireland squad together. Team NI are being supported this year by Simon Community NI, Choice Housing, Nationwide and the Irish FA Foundation among others.
The eight-strong squad includes Amin Jalali, Jonny Holland, Alfred Quansah, Caoimhinn Gallagher, Osama Almahmoud, Michael Devlin, Thomas Brown and Talal Alsakkaf. The team are coached by Terry Moore and Justin McMinn.
Image: Coach Terry Moore galvanises the history-making Northern Ireland team at the Homeless World Cup.