Two years after losing out to the hosts in the final of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil 2008, Spain exacted a measure of revenge by beating the South Americans in their back yard to win the sixth Grand Prix de Futsal last weekend.
Organised every year by the Brazilian Futsal Confederation, this prestigious event brings together the world’s top 16 nations and has been won on the previous five occasions by A Seleção. Not only did La Roja’s 2-1 win in the final in Anapolis end Brazil’s domination of the competition, it was also the first defeat the men in yellow and green had suffered in 163 matches, their last reverse also coming against the Spanish five years ago.
“This was what we came here for,” said a triumphant Spain captain Kike, one of six Spanish survivors of that fateful world final defeat to the Brazilians in Rio in 2008. “What makes it even better was that it was a fantastic match in front of a full house, which just goes to show how strong this team is. We deserved the win.”
Ortiz, another survivor of Brazil 2008 and the scorer of three Grand Prix goals, including one in the final, played down any talk of revenge: “That’s not the way we’re looking at it. It was very special because we missed out two years ago and we really wanted to get back to the summit.”
The Europeans were in mightily impressive form throughout the competition, winning all six of their games, scoring 35 goals and conceding only nine, the lowest total in the tournament along with the hosts. Top-scoring for Spain with six goals was their 21-year-old target Aicardo, just one of the exciting youngsters drafted into the team by coach Venancio Lopez. “Getting the better of the Brazilians is never easy and even less so in their own country, which is the cradle of futsal,” commented the Spain supremo afterwards. “Beating such a good team makes this even more satisfying for us.”
Food for thought
Despite losing their grip on the trophy and suffering a first loss in five years, the Brazilians tried to accentuate the positive. “I think we started the job of winning the last World Cup when we lost to Spain in 2005,” explained the ageless Falcao, who scored four goals to move to within one of the 300 mark. “That was when we began to open our eyes and take a closer look at our opponents. We’ve still got two years ahead of us and we can improve. We’ll be looking to turn this situation around in 2012 or at next year’s Grand Prix even.”
Aside from the final, Falcao and Co won all their games, amassing 30 goals and letting in just nine. Yet despite those impressive stats, the home side endured a scare or two, edging out Libya 2-1 in the group phase and only overcoming Paraguay 5-3 in a semi-final that proved much tighter than expected.
Even so, as goalkeeper Tiago explained, the four-time world champions are not about to hit the panic button. “We’ve learned a little bit more about them and about our shortcomings. Now’s the time for us to start looking forward and to work towards qualifying for the next World Cup as well as we can.”
The rest of the field
Having reached the last eight at Brazil 2008, Paraguay confirmed their progress by overcoming Iran 5-3 in the match for third place. Los Guaraníes’ semi-final defeat to Brazil was their only setback of the competition, and in Yiyi they boasted the tournament’s second-highest scorer with eight goals. “Our technique showed through and we managed to stay fresh. We’re delighted,” said the 25-year-old central defender.
Iran’s fourth-place finish provided proof of their improvement, the Asian representatives having missed out on a semi-final slot at the last FIFA Futsal World Cup on goal difference. As well making the Spanish sweat before going down 6-4 in an epic semi, Team Melli relegated Brazil 2008 semi-finalists Italy and Russia to the minor placings.
While the Italians can take some consolation from at least reaching the quarter-finals, where they went out to Brazil, the Russians were unable to advance beyond the group stage. The only positive note of a dismal Grand Prix for the eastern Europeans was provided by their naturalised Brazilian Pula, who hit 11 goals to finish the competition as top scorer, repeating the feat he achieved at Brazil 2008.