For the third year in a row, Brazil's Malwee/Jaragua have booked their place in the grand final of the Sudamericano Futsal Club Championship, overcoming the challenge of fellow Brazilians Atlantico in the final of the Southern Zone tournament.
Malwee/Jaragua's 4-2 success in the competition held at Jaragua do Sul's Wolfgang Weege Gymnasium puts them in a prime position to complete a remarkable hat-trick of Sudamericano wins, with the club also having taken the trophy in 2004 and 2005. The reigning champions must now await the outcome of the Northern Zone tournament, due to take place in December, before learning the identity of their challengers for the continental throne.
Picking up where they left off last year, Malwee/Jaragua swept the board in terms of individual and team awards. In star forward Falcao, the Brazilians not only boasted the tournament's best player, but the event's top scorer with 14 goals. As if that were not enough, Malwee/Jaragua ended the competition with maximum points, the highest goal tally of any team involved and the meanest defensive record. "A team like ours lives for winning titles, so we're already thinking about the next one," warned coach Fernando Ferreti.
The final of the Southern Zone pitted Group A winners Malwee/Jaragua against Group B's top dogs Atlantico in what turned out to be an extremely hard-fought contest. Despite the vocal backing of more than 1,200 fans, the home side were made to sweat for their win, goals from Xande, Vandin, Augusto and the genial Falcao eventually sinking the brave challenge of Atlantico, who replied through Cris and Dede. "We took our chances and went ahead at a crucial point in the game, midway through the second half," was Ferreti's verdict on the decisive final encounter. This gave us the freedom to go and kill the game off."
Atlantico winger Tales, whose 12 goals for the Gaucho outfit saw him take second spot in the scorers' charts, saw things a little differently: "We're really disappointed. We knew that they were going to have home advantage and that they are a top-class side, but we still felt they were beatable. That said, we can be justifiably proud of our performances throughout the tournament."
It should be noted that the Northern Zone competition is set to take place in Colombia between 5 and 9 December 2006. Host nation sides Independiente Santa Fe and Petrosia have already qualified, as have Ecuadorian outfits Didi and Walter Sport and Venezuela's Futuro Futsal and Universidad Central. Of the Peruvian representatives, as yet only Universitario de Deportes have booked their ticket to Colombia, while it is still not known which teams will be representing Bolivian Futsal at the eagerly-awaited event.
Pinocho grab the bronze
Meanwhile, Argentine giants Pinocho, winners of the domestic title for the last three years, thumped Paraguay's Sport Colonial 4-1 in the play-off for third place. Both teams went into the game having suffered just one defeat thus far, against Atlantico and Malwee/Jaragua respectively during the group phase.
Facundo Ruscia, coach of the Argentinian club, was clearly delighted with his charges' display: "We achieved what we set out to do, which was to finish behind the Brazilians. We're absolutely delighted and completely satisfied to have finished third." Over in the Sport Colonial camp, striker Sergio Daniel made no attempt to disguise his disappointment at the result, saying: "I can't say I'm pleased, we were chasing third place and didn't make it. We need to keep improving."
Round-up - Sudamericano Futsal Club Championship 2006
Venue: Wolfgang Weege Gymnasium (Jaragua do Sul, Brazil)
Teams GP W D L GF GA GD. Points
Malwee/Jaragua (BRA) 4 4 0 0 43 7 36 12
Sport Colonial (PAR) 4 3 0 1 21 18 3 9
Talcahuano (CHI) 4 2 0 2 18 38 -20 6
Sp. Barracas Bolivar (ARG) 4 1 0 3 16 22 -6 3
Penarol (URU) 4 0 0 4 11 24 -13 0
Penarol 4 - 5 Sport Colonial
Malwee/Jaragua 21 - 3 Talcahuano
Malwee/Jaragua 7 - 0 Penarol
Talcahuano 6 - 4 Sportivo Barracas Bolivar
Sportivo Barracas Bolivar 6 - 3 Penarol
Malwee/Jaragua 7 - 2 Sport Colonial
Sport Colonial 9 - 3 Talcahuano
Malwee/Jaragua 8 - 2 Sportivo Barracas Bolivar
Sportivo Barracas Bolivar 4 - 5 Sport Colonial
Penarol 4 - 6 Talcahuano
Teams GP W D L GF GA GD. Points
Atlantico (BRA) 4 4 0 0 30 10 20 12
Pinocho (ARG) 4 3 0 1 20 11 9 9
Nacional (URU) 4 2 0 2 19 19 0 6
Deportivo Recoleta (PAR) 4 1 0 3 17 24 -7 3
Deportivo Arturo Prat (CHI) 4 0 0 4 12 34 -22 0
Pinocho 4 - 2 Deportivo Recoleta
Deportivo Arturo Prat 4 - 9 Atlantico
Pinocho 8 - 1 Deportivo Arturo Prat
Atlantico 5 - 2 Nacional
Deportivo Recoleta 2 - 10 Atlantico
Nacional 9 - 3 Deportivo Arturo Prat
Deportivo Arturo Prat 4 - 8 Deportivo Recoleta
Nacional 2 - 6 Pinocho
Deportivo Recoleta 5 - 6 Nacional
Sul Atlantico 6 - 2 Pinocho
Play-off for third place
Sport Colonial 1 - 4 Pinocho
Southern Zone Final
Atlantico 2 - 4 Malwee/Jaragua