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Futsal's finest head for Brazil

Spain aim to complete a hat-trick of FIFA Futsal World Cup titles as the European champions and continental rivals Italy, Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Portugal get their campaigns under way in Brazil.

Spain successfully defended the trophy four years ago in Chinese Taipei
Spain successfully defended the trophy four years ago in Chinese Taipei ©Getty Images

European sextet
The holders will be joined by 2004 runners-up Italy, Ukraine, Portugal, the Czech Republic and the one nation of the six that missed out four years ago, Russia, in the expanded 20-team tournament. There are five pools of four, with the top two going into a second group stage, which in turn leads to the semi-finals with the final scheduled for 19 October.

Spain opener
Spain, who are also European champions, do not kick off their campaign until Wednesday with a tough Group D opener against Asian counterparts Iran, while Uruguay meet Libya in the other game in Rio de Janeiro. The Czech Republic are also in the pool, and they face the Spaniards in their opening game on Friday. Ukraine start their Group C bid the same day in Brasilia against Guatemala, with Argentina, China and Egypt also in the section.

Italy campaign
Italy take part in the opening match in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday, facing Thailand in Group B, while Portugal begin on Thursday against Paraguay, when the Azzurri meet the United States. Russia are in Brasilia for Group A, but do not start until Thursday against Cuba. The Caribbean islanders play the Solomon Islands on Tuesday after Japan face hosts Brazil, whose squad has eight Spanish-based players, including a quartet from UEFA Futsal Cup contenders Interviú Madrid.

Nuccorini hope
Azzurri coach Alessandro Nuccorini is hopeful of victory, but admitted to fifa.com: "Brazil and Spain are favourites to win the trophy. Portugal and Russia could be the surprises of the tournament. We'll give it our best shot in every match. I think this will be the best World Cup ever. "

2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup first group stage: 30 September-19 October
European contenders in bold
Group A: BrasiliaGroup B: Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (hosts)Italy
Solomon IslandsUnited States
Group C: BrasiliaGroup D: Rio de Janeiro
ArgentinaSpain (holders)
UkraineCzech Republic

2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup second group stage: 11-14 October
Group E: Rio de JaneiroGroup F: Brasilia
Winners Group AWinners Group B
Winners Group CWinners Group D
Runners-up Group BRunners-up Group A
Runners-up Group D Runners-up Group C

2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup knockout rounds: Rio de Janeiro
Semi-finals: 16 October
1: Runners-up Group F v Winners Group E (15.30CET)
2: Winners Group F v Runners-up Group E (17.30CET)
Third-place play-off: 18 October
Losers Semi-final 1 v Losers Semi-final 2 (15.30CET)
Final: 19 October
Winners Semi-final 1 v Winners Semi-final 2 (15.30CET)