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Albion’s powerchair captain confident of making impact with England

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The captain of Brighton & Hove Albion Powerchair FC (BHAPFC) is confident he can end an outstanding season by winning the World Cup with England.

Matt Francis only began playing the sport seven years ago but has already become one of the best players in the domestic game.

His impressive form for BHAPFC, who compete in the Muscular Dystrophy UK Premiership, has seen him secure a spot in the England squad ahead of the World Cup, which takes place in Florida, America.

England’s first game is against Ireland on 6 July and Francis, who will wear the number 10 shirt for his country, is optimistic the team will still be involved by the time the final takes place three days later.

Ten teams will compete for the trophy, with England grouped with Ireland, France, Australia and Canada.

And Francis, who is expected to make his England debut in the opening game, is adamant the Three Lions are travelling to the States with one aim: to win the World Cup.

He said: “There will be a lot of very good teams at the World Cup but if we play as well as we know we can we have a really good chance. It is important to get off to a good start and you can’t underestimate anyone but we’ll be disappointed if we don’t at least make the semi-finals.”

France and America are among the favourites for the tournament but, according to Francis, there will be no team better prepared than England.

“We’ve put a lot of work into getting ready,” he explained. “Our training camps have gone very well and I would say of all the teams taking part we probably have the most tactical approach.

“We have also been working closely with a sports psychologist. Playing at a World Cup is going to be massive for all of us, so we have been trying to develop techniques to help us focus on the games rather than the occasion and to help us move on from any mistakes.

“The support we have received has been fantastic. Now it is up to us to perform on the pitch.”

Francis, who scored 25 goals and was voted man of the match by opponents 17 times in 22 league games this season, also believes his experiences with BHAPFC will help England make an impact in the competition.

BHAPFC are one of a number of teams run by Albion in the Community (Brighton & Hove Albion’s official charity) who compete in a national league.

However, earlier this season they became the first of the charity’s teams to play European football after qualifying for the powerchair equivalent of the Champions League.

There they came up against teams from Ireland, Denmark and France and Francis hopes that exposure to different playing styles will prove invaluable.

Success for England would prove a fitting end to a fantastic season for Francis – both on and off the pitch. The 19-year-old has just completed his first year studying law at the University of Sussex, helped BHAPFC to a highest-ever league finish and saw his beloved Brighton & Hove Albion promoted to the Premier League.

“Winning the World Cup would be amazing,” he said. “When my friend Seb first convinced me to go along to a powerchair football session I was sceptical and didn’t think I would enjoy it. Now I am about to play for England at the World Cup.

“Representing England will be an incredibly proud moment for me. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me along the way. I certainly couldn’t have achieved all this without them.”