FIFA Futsal World Cup holders Spain have been placed in a group with the Czech Republic, Iran, Uruguay and Libya after the draw was made for the finals in Brazil.
Six European teams will play in the tournament from 30 September until 19 October, part of an expanded entry of 20 nations. European champions Spain, who took the world title in Guatemala in 2000 and defended it in Chinese Taipei four years ago, will hope their pairing with the Czech Republic is a good omen – they have beaten them in all nine of their previous fixtures including a 2-0 win in the 2004 World Cup second group stage. Asian champions Iran will be tough opposition for both European contenders in Group D, which is based mainly in Rio de Janeiro.
Also playing in that city will be 2004 World Cup and 2007 UEFA European Futsal Championship runners-up Italy and Portugal in Group B, up against Thailand, Paraguay and the United States. Italy and Portugal began the 2007 finals with a 0-0 draw, the same scoreline as when they met in the 2004 second group stage, when the Azzurri went through along with Spain in an all-European group. Italy and Portugal have played in qualifying or the finals of every World Cup, apart from the inaugural 1989 edition when only the Azzurini, unbeaten in all nine meetings with their rivals, entered.
Russia face hosts
The other venue for matches is Brasilia and among those competing in the capital are Russia, who missed out on qualification four years ago but will now take on hosts and three-time champions Brazil, Japan, Cuba and the Solomon Islands in Group A. Ukraine are in Group C against China, Guatemala, Egypt and the team that knocked them out four years ago on goal difference after a 0-0 second group stage draw, Argentina.
Two teams from each pool will progress to the second group stage, starting on 11 October. The leading two nations from each of those groups will play in the semi-finals on 16 October in Rio de Janeiro, which will also stage the decider three days later.
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