All seven European contenders are through to the FIFA Futsal World Cup round of 16 after the conclusion of the group stage in Thailand.
Ukraine, Spain, Italy, finals debutants Serbia and Russia all topped their groups unbeaten. The Czech Republic were second in their section behind Serbia while Portugal came in behind holders Brazil, with the two runners-up being the sole UEFA member nations to lose a match.
Spain, the only side other than Brazil to win the global competition, had a disappointing start to Group B when, for the second World Cup running, they were held by Iran – Miguelín and Sergio Lozano putting them two up before they were pegged back to 2-2. But then Panama were seen off 8-3 and Morocco 5-1 to ensure Spain finished above Iran on goal difference.
Italy, 2004 runners-up behind Spain, never looked back in Group D after an opening 9-1 thrashing of Australia with eight different scorers, coming from behind to defeat Argentina 3-2 and, with progress assured, Mexico 5-2. But they were outdone in the scoring stakes by the side beaten by Spain in the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 final earlier this year – Russia – who overcame the Solomon Islands 16-0, Guatemala 9-0 and Colombia 2-0 in Group F. Not surprisingly, Russia's Eder Lima, with eight goals, was the group stage's leading marksman.
Ukraine launched their tournament in Group A by drawing 3-3 with Paraguay before a 5-3 success over Vic Hermans's Thailand – who trailed by five at half-time – and a 6-1 triumph against Costa Rica sealed first place. Portugal looked good as Cardinal's hat-trick helped them begin Group C by downing Libya 5-1, and they led Japan by that scoreline before being hauled back to 5-5. That left them two points behind Brazil, and Portugal would lose 3-1 in the group decider – though second place was clinched ahead of Japan on goal difference. A red card against the Brazilians for goalkeeper João Benedito makes him suspended for Sunday's knockout game against Paraguay.
Group E contained two European teams and both won first off, the Czech Republic 3-2 against Kuwait and Serbia 3-1 versus Egypt. However, while Serbia turned over Kuwait 7-2, the Czech Republic lost by the same scoreline to Egypt, with coach Tomáš Neumann admitting they "collapsed". That meant they needed a point against Serbia to at least have a chance of being one of the four best third-placed sides. In the event, they twice came from behind to draw 2-2, which left the Czechs second behind their opponents – and up against Russia next.
Portugal will get the round of 16 under way against Paraguay and, if they win, they could face a rematch of their Futsal EURO quarter-final with Italy, who play Egypt on Monday. Also on Sunday, Spain take on hosts Thailand with either the Czech Republic or Russia awaiting them. That is also when Ukraine encounter Japan – with Iran or Colombia their potential last-eight opposition. Serbia have a tough Monday task against Argentina, and, should they prevail, will meet Brazil or Panama.
The quarter-finals are on Wednesday and the semis two days later. The final takes place next Sunday and the draw keeps apart Brazil and Spain, who were only split on penalties four years ago in the decider and also faced off in the final in 2000, when Spain won, and in 1996, with Brazil victorious.
Round of 16
37: Paraguay v Portugal, Indoor Stadium Huamark
38: Ukraine v Japan, Indoor Stadium Huamark
39: Spain v Thailand, Nimibutr Stadium
40: Iran v Colombia, Nimibutr Stadium
41: Italy v Egypt, Korat Chatchai Hall, Ratchasima
42: Brazil (holders) v Panama, Korat Chatchai Hall, Ratchasima
43: Russia v Czech Republic, Indoor Stadium Huamark
44: Serbia v Argentina, Indoor Stadium Huamark
45: SRB/ARG v BRA/PAN, Indoor Stadium Huamark
46: IRI/COL v UKR/JPN, Indoor Stadium Huamark
47: PAR/POR v ITA/EGY, Nimibutr Stadium
48: ESP/THA v RUS/CZE, 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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