Debutants aiming high

When the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2012 kicks off in Thailand on 1 November, six countries will be making their tournament debuts. For the first time in their respective histories, Colombia, Kuwait, Morocco, Mexico, Panama and Serbia all qualified for a FIFA Futsal World Cup. While they all go into the competition with a great deal of respect, self-confidence also abounds.

“In Thailand we want to develop as a team and test ourselves against the best sides in the world,” Kuwait coach Luis Fonseca told FIFA.com. “Ideally we’ll be at the same level as our opponents there and who knows, maybe we’ll even win one or two games.”

The draw was kind to the AFC Futsal Championship quarter-finalists, placing them in an evenly-matched Group E alongside Egypt, Czech Republic and fellow tournament newcomers Serbia.

Duo dreaming of last 16
Kuwait captain Salem Aman is therefore optimistically looking forward to the action getting under way in Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima: “After our training camps in Spain and a tournament in Vietnam, I’m confident that we’ll be able to compete at the World Cup.”

Serbia are likewise hoping to reach the knockout rounds and will once again be counting on Slobodan Rajcevic for goals. The striker certainly proved his ability in qualification, when hitting five in as many games.

“Our group will be very interesting, as all the teams are capable of beating each other,” Serbia coach Aca Kovacevic told FIFA.com. “Czech Republic are probably favourites because they always play at World Cups and European Championships. We know that Kuwait and Egypt have been working very hard on their preparations too. We need to give our all in every game and if we do, I think we’ll qualify for the next round."

Two debutants against two giants
Group B also pits two of the tournament newcomers together. However, the situation for Panama and Morocco is rather different than their fellow rookies in Group E, as they will go up against two of the futsal world’s heavyweights in the shape of Spain and Iran.

While the Iberians have been European champions six times and boast two FIFA Futsal World Cup triumphs, Iran can point to their record of ten continental titles since 1999, even if Team Melli only managed to finish third at the latest edition in May.

Iran coach Ali Sanei is therefore more determined than ever for his side to succeed in Thailand: “We’re happy with the draw. We want to show the futsal world what we’re capable of. We plan to do that by starting with a win against Spain.”

Mexico's tough task, hope for Colombia
Mexico, who lost to Panama in the match for third-place at the CONCACAF Futsal Championship, will also have a hard time making it out of Group D. There they will lock horns with Argentina, who recently won the South American qualifying tournament; Italy, who finished third at the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2008 and an Australian side who demonstrated how far they have progressed at the AFC competition.

Mexico coach Ramon Raya is thus channelling all his efforts in the next two months into honing El Tri’s preparations ahead of their first FIFA Futsal World Cup appearance. “From now on we need to concentrate on the challenges that lie ahead and our upcoming warm-up matches in order to travel to Thailand in the best possible form,” Raya said after his side secured their ticket to the finals.

The same goes for Colombia, who will have to negotiate their way past Russia, Salomon Islands and Guatemala in Group F. Los Cafeteros are eager to continue the good form they showed in South American qualification on the world stage in Thailand.

“Our aim is to reach the next round,” Colombia coach Osmar Fonnegra said in interview with FIFA.com. “That might sound foolish coming from World Cup debutants going into the tournament as outsiders, but I know my team very well and I’ll say it again: We can qualify for the last 16 and make our country proud.”