Let the games begin! On Tuesday, the Futsal fireworks ignite in Brazilian capital Brasilia and in Rio de Janeiro, with both hosts Brazil and 2004 runners-up Italy in action on opening day. The youngest team in this year’s FIFA Futsal World Cup will also go in search of a flying start to the event.
The big game
Brazil - Japan, Tuesday 30 September, 10.30 local time, Brasilia
Expectations are running high in Brazil. The host nation are among the favourites for the trophy and will start in confident mood with strong support from a boisterous home crowd. The Seleção open their FIFA Futsal World Cup campaign against Japan, who qualified for the global showdown thanks to a third-place finish at the AFC championships.
With an average age of 30 years and one month, the Brazil side is the oldest but also the most experienced at the tournament. However, as coach Paulo Cesar de Oliveira exclusively told FIFA.com recently, the hosts have a great deal of respect for all their opponents and are fully aware of the stern challenge which lies ahead.
The other games
In Rio de Janeiro, 2004 runners-up Italy meet Thailand, an emerging force nowadays under coach Jose Maria Pazos Mendez after battling through to the final in Asian qualifying, where they fell 4-0 to Iran. However, their ticket to the FIFA Futsal World Cup was safely in the bag, and the Thais are quietly confident of making an impression in South America. Nevertheless it is Italy, losing finalists to Spain at both the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2004 and last year’s UEFA Futsal Championship, who start as favourites.
The second Group B fixture pits Paraguay against the USA. The South Americans finished fourth in CONMEBOL qualifying, while the USA booked their slot in Brazil with a third-place finish in the CONCACAF eliminators. The crowd can look forward to an open and exciting encounter.
The opening day programme is rounded off by the meeting between Cuba and the Solomon Islands. The young team from the South Pacific rate as unknown newcomers. By contrast, Cuba are old hands after contesting the last three world tournaments, although they will be desperate to register their first-ever points at the event, as their record currently reads played nine, lost nine.
A venerated icon of Brazlian futsal and the undoubted superstar of the Seleção, Falcao has been one of the game’s greats for years and now aims to crown an illustrious career with the FIFA Futsal World Cup trophy. Technically gifted and stunningly potent in front of goal, he will seek to whip the crowd into a frenzy and ensure his men open on a winning note.
18 years and six months – the average age of OFC hopefuls Solomon Islands. Coach Victor Wai'ia’s side are the youngest at this year’s showdown.
What they said
“Thailand are much improved thanks to their European coach, and they’re strong and enthusiastic too.” (Alessandro Nuccorini, Italy coach)
All the fixtures (kick-off times are local)
Brazil - Japan (10.30)
Cuba – Solomon Islands (12.30)
Rio de Janeiro
Italy - Thailand (10.30)
Paraguay - USA (12.30)