El Salvador won the Division One gold medal after an exciting 3-2 victory over Costa Rica in the final day's play at the eleven-a-side competition of the Special Olympics World Games in Clonshaugh, Dublin.
After remaining unbeaten throughout the group stages, El Salvador maintained that form in the final, racing into an early 3-0 lead. Geovann Quintanilla opened the scoring, before prolific striker Gustavo Deras added two more to put the pre-match favourites into a comfortable lead. The goals took Deras's total for the competition to 16.
However, Costa Rica managed to reduce the deficit to just one goal before half-time. Midfield player Cesar Jiminez bundled the ball in from a corner after 37 minutes and three minutes later, he volleyed in a spectacular effort to leave the game tightly poised at the break.
The exertions of the week, in addition to the tense situation, led to a less entertaining second period with El Salvador centre-back Edgar Miranda the outstanding performer. The Costa Ricans pushed forward for an equaliser, and their hopes grew after 68 minutes when El Salvador defender Ruben Sigaran was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Two minutes from time Costa Rica forward Jesús Coronado finally got away from Miranda but El Salvador defender Douglas Rivera got back to clear his subsequent effort off the line. It was Costa Rica's last chance and the sending-off of Miguel Cortez in injury time only confirmed their fate.
'Could have scored more'
Flanked by new-found friends from host town Tralee, where the team stayed in preparation for the games, Deras spoke of his pride in taking the gold medal but bemoaned the fact he had not scored more goals. "I could have scored more times, but once the other teams heard about me they started marking me harder," he said.
South Africa victorious
Elsewhere, South Africa danced their way to the podium to collect a bronze medal after coming from two goals down to defeat Great Britain 3-2 on the 'golden goal' rule in Division One. The goal of the game, and arguably the day, came from sweeper Mark Mohlala Rogers, whose long-range effort ten minutes from time forced the game into extra time.
Gold for Greece
Greece took the gold medal in Division Two after a 2-0 win over Ecuador, while the Division Three gold medal went to Germany, who were in outstanding form all week long, eventually defeating the team from USA Wisconsin in the final.
The El Salvador-Costa Rica match brought down the final curtain on the football tournament of the Special Olympics, with the extreme skill, dedication and sportsmanship demonstrated over the course of the week certain to live long in the memory for all those fortunate enough to have witnessed it.
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