Japanese club Nagoya Oceans defeated the cream of the Asian futsal world to win the second edition of the annual AFC futsal Club Championship in Qatar’s capital Doha last week. In so doing, they eclipsed their third place finish at last year’s tournament, won by Iran's Foolad Mahan. FIFA.com brings you all the highlights of the 2011 AFC futsal Club Championship.
On the front foot
The Japanese champions owed much their success to an aggressive attacking strategy that produced no fewer than 21 goals during successive victories over Group A opponents Zhejiang Dragon from China, Iraq's Al Karkh and Qatar’s Al Rayyan, who took second place in the section to go through to the semi-finals alongside Nagoya.
Group B winners Shahid Mansouri of Iran also won their opening three matches to book a semi-final berth alongside Al Sadaka of Lebanon, whose fiercely contested 4-3 victory over Uzbekistan’s Ardus earned them the group's runners-up spot. Ardus and Thai outfit GH Bank RBAC Futsal failed to win a single game between them and thus failed to progress.
Given the quality on show at the group stage, the semi-finals promised to be intriguing contests, and so it transpired. The Japanese side struggled to overcome a tenacious Al Sadaka, eventually winning 2-1 in extra time to reach the decider. There they faced Shahid Mansouri, whose dramatic 6-5 semi-final goalfest against Al Rayyan was a tournament highlight. The final also went to extra time, with Nagoya Oceans eventually prevailing over their Iranian opponents 3-2.
Nagoya coach Jose Amarante was full of praise for his players after their victory: “Job done, I think! This is a very important title. When I took over, the club asked me to raise standards and get the side competing at the top of the Asian game.”
“In the last three years we’ve done wonderful things,” added the Portuguese tactician, “but we’ve still got a long road ahead if we’re going to take on the rest of the world. We have to keep focussed on that goal.”
The stars of the show
Oceans may have taken the title, but it was Iranians who made a clean sweep of the individual awards on offer. With two FIFA Futsal World Cup appearances under his belt, Shahid Mansouri’s Mohammad Keshavarz was voted best player of the tournament, while his compatriot, Al Rayyan frontman Ali Hassanzadeh, was top scorer with ten goals.
The Japanese side owed their dominance to an experienced group of players, such as Kenichiro Kugore, captain Wataru Kitahara, Yoshifumi Maeda and goalkeeper Hisamitsu Kawahara, who had all cut their teeth at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil in 2008.