The FIFA Futsal World Cup kicks off in Thailand on Thursday with Spain aiming to reclaim the trophy they lost in 2008 and Serbia making their debut among the seven-strong European entry.
Former finalists Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Portugal and the Czech Republic complete the UEFA representation, increased from six in 2008 as the tournament has expanded by four to 24 teams. This is the first time the World Cup has taken place in the same year as a full UEFA European Futsal Championship and Spain are hoping to make it a double having beaten Russia in extra time to make it a fourth continental title in a row in Croatia back in February.
Spain, who start on Friday against Iran with Panama and Morocco to come in Group B, have kept up their form with three comfortable friendly wins last week against Solomon Islands, Costa Rica and Malaysia. They also beat Thailand 8-0 and 7-4 after the draw in August. However, for the first time since the 1996 World Cup, they will be without goalkeeper Luis Amado following his international retirement.
Brazil wrested the title from Spain on penalties on home soil four years ago, and the two sides have won every edition of the competition between them; indeed, since 1992, they alone have knocked the other out. Portugal have Brazil in opposition in Group C, the sole section being played outside Bangkok, but first meet Libya and Japan – who feature 45-year-old former football international Kazuyoshi Miura – in Ratchasima.
That pool begins on Thursday as does Group A, containing hosts Thailand under experienced Dutch coach Vic Hermans, part of the Netherlands team that reached the inaugural 1989 final. Thailand face Costa Rica after Ukraine open the finals against Paraguay. On Friday 2004 runners-up Italy take on Australia with Argentina the main threat in Group D.
Serbia's debut comes on Saturday against Egypt and there could be two European qualifiers from Group E as the Czech Republic are also involved along with Kuwait. Group F commences on the same day and Russia are rematched with Solomon Islands, whom they beat by a competition record 31-2 in 2008. The top two from each section and the four best third-placed sides progress to the knockout phase, which previously started in the semi-finals after two group stages.
Group A (1, 4, 7 November; Indoor Stadium Huamark)
Group B (2, 5, 8 November; Indoor Stadium Huamark)
Group C (1, 4, 7 November; Korat Chatchai Hall, Ratchasima)
Group D (2, 5, 8 November; Nimibutr Stadium)
Group E (3, 6, 9 November; Indoor Stadium Huamark)
Group F (3, 6, 9 November; Nimibutr Stadium)
Round of 16
37: 2A v 2C, Indoor Stadium Huamark
38: 1A v 3CDE, Indoor Stadium Huamark
39: 1B v 3ACD, Nimibutr Stadium
40: 2B v 2F, Nimibutr Stadium
41: 1D v 3BEF, Korat Chatchai Hall, Ratchasima
42: 1C v 3ABF, Korat Chatchai Hall, Ratchasima
43: 1F v 2E, Indoor Stadium Huamark
44: 1E v 2D, Indoor Stadium Huamark
45: Winner 44 v Winner 42, Indoor Stadium Huamark
46: Winner 40 v Winner 38, Indoor Stadium Huamark
47: Winner 37 v Winner 41, Nimibutr Stadium
48: Winner 39 v Winner 43, Nimibutr Stadium
49: Winner 47 v Winner 48, Indoor Stadium Huamark
50: Winner 45 v Winner 46, Indoor Stadium Huamark
Final & Third-place play-off
18 November, Indoor Stadium Huamark
Previous finals (hosts)
2008: Brazil 2-2, 4-3 pens Spain (Brazil)
2004: Spain 2-1 Italy (Chinese Taipei)
2000: Spain 4-3 Brazil (Guatemala)
1996: Brazil 6-4 Spain (Spain)
1992: Brazil 4-1 United States (Hong Kong)
1989: Brazil 2-1 Netherlands (Netherlands)
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