The Netherlands and England were severely tested as they warmed up for FIFA Futsal World Cup qualifying at the KL World 5s in Kuala Lumpur.
Televised in Asia, the tournament featured several major futsal forces including World Cup hosts Brazil, who claimed first prize with a 4-0 final win against Argentina. Falcão was among the scorers to boost Brazilian hopes of wresting the global title back from Spain from 4-19 October. For the European contenders, sharpening up for the start of qualifying from 28 February was the key.
England, who ended their wait for a first international victory against Greece in December, began with a 12-1 defeat by one of the world's top teams, Argentina; fell 7-2 to Indonesia; conceded six first-half goals in losing 6-1 to Australia; and completed the group stage with a 6-2 loss to hosts Malaysia.
Manager Graeme Dell, whose team also succumbed 7-3 to China in a consolation game for fifth-placed finishers, said: "I knew it was going to be difficult and we certainly did not expect to win all four matches in our group. But we have learned a lot from this trip and hopefully we will take that lesson to improve our game. Of course, our reputation as a football nation has taken a beating here, but then again, we are on a learning curve." England face Poland, Hungary and F.Y.R. Macedonia in World Cup qualifying Group 4.
Dutch edged out
Meanwhile, the Netherlands kicked off their group campaign by twice coming from behind to draw 3-3 with Thailand, Karim Ajnane's 31st-minute equaliser confirming the point. They then overcame China 3-1, but went down to Iran by the same score and ended up fourth after a 2-0 reverse against Brazil. In the subsequent battle of the third and fourth-placed sides, a 5-0 win against Malaysia took the Netherlands into the Plate final, where they were pipped 2-1 by Iran. Majid Latifi scored 26 seconds from time, Antoine Merlinho having equalised six minutes earlier.
Netherlands coach Vic Hermans, whose charges are up against Estonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Lithuania in World Cup Group 2, reflected: "We have played six games in as many days. This is very useful in the run-up to World Cup qualification." His team's preparations continue in Belgium on 13 February followed by a training camp in Spain. The winners of the ten groups and two runners-up will progress to the play-offs, which will produce Europe's six contenders in Brazil.
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