Monday, October 20, 2008

Futsal World Cup 2008 Round-up

The Futsal World Cup concluded yesterday with hosts Brazil clinching the title for the fourth time.

Futsal is an indoor football game. A derivation of Five-a-side, it's played throughout the world. Many of the top players are full-time professionals and the game can claim the likes of Ronaldinho and Robinho among its ranks. As you can imagine the game encourages flair and close ball control.

The Futsal World Cup is played every four years and this is its sixth event. If you've got Eurosport you may have caught some of the action while channel hopping to Sky Sports. Here at Some People Are On The Pitch, we like to keep you in the loop with football competitions that appear on the edge of the English media's radar. To that end, here's your whistle-stop tour of the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2008.

Venues and qualifying
The games were held in two venues, Brazilia and Rio, with the opening match kicking off on 30 September. Twenty teams qualified for the tournament: Four from Asia, two from Africa, three from CONCACAF, three from South America, one from Oceana and six from Europe including the 2000 and 2004 World Champions Spain.

First Round
Round One saw the teams divided into four groups of five. The top two teams would qualify for the next stage. This is how they faired:

Group A
The hosts were comfortable winners of the group with their toughest opponents being second place Russia against whom they managed to squeak a 7-0 win. Top scorers were Falcao (that’s a Falcao not the Falcao) and Schumacher (that's a Schumacher not... well you get the idea). The runners-up, Russia's defeat to Brazil was their only loss. The whipping boys were Oceana's sole representative Soloman Islands who conceded 69 (sixty nine) goals.

Group B
A much tighter group this with the top three finishing on nine points. Portugal lost out by a single goal with no team going to double figures during a match. The final round of games involved Paraguay and Italy together. Paraguay were third at the start of play and thanks to a 4-2 win finished top. Italy didn't mind too much as they went through as well.

Group C
Another straightforward outcome with both Ukraine and Argentina finishing on ten points. As for China, well they may have the fastest growing economy in the world but they have a long way to go when it comes to Futsal. They scored even less goals than Soloman Islands.

Group D
The World Champions were safely through. However the story of the group was second placed Iran who surprised everyone by going 3-0 up to the champions on their first game. A second half comeback with goals from Torras and Borja spared the Spaniards' blushes. The Iranians finished the group level on points with Spain.

Second Round
With the men separated from the boys it was time for the second round. Rather than a knockout stage, the top two from each group were placed in two separate groups E and F. Some People Are On The Pitch pays tribute to FIFA for this retro style of international tournament organisation. Here, then, is what happened next:

Group E
Brazil went through but they were made to work. Their first game was against surprise packages Iran. They won but only by a solitary Schumacher goal. The Iranians just missed out on second spot by goal difference. They needed to beat the Italians but could only manage a 5-5 draw against the team that went through at their expense.

Group F
Group B winners Paraguay were disappointing and didn't win a single game in Round 2. They did manage to scupper Argentina's hopes, mind you, in a group where Spain were comfortable winners.

On reflection, looking at the scorelines for the second round by comparison to the first, there is an argument that Futsal does not have the strength in depth to hold a twenty-team World Cup and perhaps and eight-team tournament would be better. On the other hand...

Semi Finals
Moving on to Round 3 and the denouement of this twenty-day tournament. The final four was a straight knockout. The semi finals saw Brazil play Russia and Spain play Italy.

Brazil beat the Russians in what was, at times, a bad tempered and physical game. Schumacher and Falcao (them again) got the South Americans off to a fine start. Russia hit back but more goals from Vinicius and Gabriel saw the Brazilians through to the final.

Italy took Spain to extra time before losing 3-2. Adriano Foglia may have been Man of the Match for Italy after his equalising goal after 26 minutes. Unfortunately he scored an extra time own goal that put the Spanish through.

With the Italians taking third place via a play-off, the final was played out between the only two teams that had won the trophy: Brazil and Spain. Surprisingly, neither Falcao nor Schumacher scored for the Brazilians. Marquinho scored direct from a corner for Brazil to put his team 1-0 up. Three minutes later a volley from Torras put the Spanish level. Vinicius put Brazil 2-1 up on 36 minutes only for Spain to equalise two minute later with a tap-in from Alvaro who took advantage of a defensive error.

After extra time, a penalty shoot-out decided the championship. Brazilian goalkeeper Tiago was the hero and his team won the shoot-out 4-3. After eight years of hurt, Brazil were the Futsal World Champions once again.

But what, I hear you ask, of England. How did they did not grace this magnificent competition? Well, quite simply, the English Fusbal team finished bottom of their qualifying group on zero points scoring only three goals in three games. Still, there's always next time, eh?

Full details, plus badly edited highlights, of the tournament are available on the FIFA website. If you want to learn more about Futsal in England, click here.

1 comment:

Jho said...

I hope japan will get stronger!!!!


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