The reigning champions and the tournament hosts will both be in action on what promises to be an action-packed opening day at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012. While Japan lie in wait for Brazil and Costa Rica square up to the Thais, Paraguay face a tough opening encounter against Ukraine, while Libya will be out to spring a surprise against Portugal.
Match of the day
Brazil-Japan, Nakhon Rathasima, 1 November 2012, 21:00 (local time)
Although this was a fixture that produced a 12-1 win for Brazil in the first of match of their triumphant 2008 campaign, much has changed in the intervening four years. Chief among these developments is the rise in stature of Japan, who arrive at Thailand 2012 as Asian champions, having undergone a remarkable transformation under Spanish coach Miguel Rodrigo.
The extent to which the gap between these sides has narrowed was underlined only last week, when they fought out a 3-3 friendly draw. And while Brazil will nevertheless begin this competitive encounter as strong favourites, their coach was hugely impressed by the strides their opponents have made. “Japan were totally different from the team we remember playing in 2008,” acknowledged Marco Sorato. “They have made a lot of progress both tactically and physically.”
Preceding the clash between Brazil and Japan in Nakhon Ratchasima will be the meeting of their Group C rivals. Portugal have been singled out by several observers as potential dark horses, and Jorge Braz’s talented side will be confident of securing maximum points against the section’s outsiders, Libya.
Paraguay are another team with aspirations of challenging for the title, although the South American face a tough opening examination against Ukraine in Group A.
Local fans, meanwhile, will be eagerly awaiting the section’s later match, which pits Thailand against the kings of CONCACAF. Costa Rica surprised many observers by winning the continental title back in July, and they will be out to make life as awkward as possible for a Thai side aiming to at least reach the quarter-finals.
Player to watch
He may be in the veteran stage of his glittering career, but Falcao remains futsal’s poster boy - and is considered by many to be the discipline’s greatest-ever exponent. Crowned as the best player of the last two FIFA Futsal World Cups, the 35-year-old will be aiming to make it three-in-a-row here in Thailand, where he needs just nine more goals to become the tournament’s all-time leading scorer.
45 - Kazuyoshi Miura, better known as ‘King Kazu, will become the oldest player ever to compete at the FIFA Futsal World Cup when he steps out against Brazil - eight months and six days after celebrating his 45th birthday. The Japan legend, scorer of 55 goals for his national football team, will eclipse the record of 44 years and nine months set in 1989 by his fellow countryman, Satoru Noda.
“The players have skill and determination. They need support from their compatriots in the stadium. I am sure that we will beat Costa Rica,” Victor Hermans, Thailand coach.
Ukraine-Paraguay (Bangkok, Indoor Stadium Huamark, 17.00)
Thailand-Costa Rica (Bangkok, Indoor Stadium Huamark, 19.00)
Libya-Portugal (Nakhon Ratchasima, Korat Chatchai Hall, 19.00)
Brazil-Japan (Nakhon Ratchasima, Korat Chatchai Hall, 21.00)
(All kick-off times are local)