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'We'll remember this forever'

Posted: 13-Jul-2019 by PanAm Games 2019

These are the days playing for Maccabi is all about.

On the outskirts of Mexico City, Australia's Junior Football team produced a scintillating performance to beat the USA 3-2 and register their first win of the Pan-American Games.

And the scenes that followed were pure gold.

They might not be in contention for a medal after being taught a lesson by their South American rivals in their opening few games, but this win – this special win – will stay with them and their families forever.

As the full-time whistle confirmed their triumph, the party began. The Aussies sprinted towards their supporters, letting out screams of joy along the way, with this tight-knit group of boys celebrating their greatest ever victory together.

The Junior Football boys celebrate their win over USA

Coach Nathan Maiorana is soaked in water and hoisted into the air as the boys leave the scene of their triumph. Boy did they deserve it.

This was the performance of their lives. From the word go, the Aussies were tight at the back, utilising a back five, headlined by top performances from Mitchell Langer and Harry Levy, as they repelled waves of attacks from a threatening United Stated front three.

But nothing could prepare the opposition for an absolute thunder bolt from Kovi New. The diminutive winger picked up the ball miles from goal and trusted his right foot. The ball flew so very sweetly through the air, over the outstretched keeper and into the top corner. Cue delirium.

New stands on the spot of his strike, arms outstretched and is swarmed by teammates. There would be so much more to celebrate.

The Aussies took their well-deserved lead into the break and they weren’t in any mood to give it up. Before some had even retaken their seats, it was two. A perfect defence-splitting pass from Joel Parasol set the speedy Mark Shvartsman away towards goal – he was never going to be stopped.

Shvartsman reached the ball in acres of space, eyed off the keeper and slotted his effort into the back of the net. Job half done.

Joel Parasol celebrates his cracker of a volley

But there were to be plenty more twists in this exasperating contest. A tussle in the penalty area soon handed the US a route back into this game. The referee pointed to the spot after a controversial handball decision and the US number 10 wasted no time in dispatching his strike past goalkeeper Oscar Schyer and into the back of the net.

Game back on? Joel Parasol had other ideas.

The midfielder was on absolute fire after laying on the first two Aussie goals, but his best moment was yet to come. As the ball dropped at his feet roughly 25m from goal, Parasol had a go on the volley. The strike he produced is the stuff of dreams.

Not even in his wildest imagination could the 14-year-old have imagined he would find the top corner from that sort of distance on the volley. The US goalkeeper could only stand and stare as the ball fell neatly into his net.

And the Aussies went off! Parasol and his teammates found top gear jetting towards their travelling support, jumping and striking the air in a moment of pure joy. This was the game they had waited for, this made the back-to-back shellackings worth it. This Aussie team were finally going to do it.

But not without a scare. The US refused to lie down, and soon they had another glimmer of hope, as the Aussie rearguard were breached with minutes to play.

Minutes of tension followed, as the one-goal lead remained. And then, one final chance. The American ‘keeper joins his teammates in the penalty area as the ball is floated in from the corner flag. It floats through the air… and finds an Aussie head.

The referee blows his whistle one final time. It’s over. For the first time at the Pan-Am Games, our Aussie boys taste the sweet embrace of victory.

It's a feeling they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

“So proud,” coach Mairoana said after the game.

“It’s been a really tough tournament, a lot of lows, but we kept fighting and fighting and we deserve that. I’m so proud of them, we’ll remember this forever.”