Italy are sure to face a stern test as they take on Argentina on the fifth day of action at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012, while fellow Group D sides Australia and Mexico prepare to battle it out for their first win at the competition. Over in Group B, heavily fancied Spain and rivals Iran are both searching for their first three points against Panama and Morocco respectively after the opening game between the powerhouse duo ended in a 2-2 draw.
These two sides are always exciting to watch, while both will be looking to confirm high pre-tournament expectations. Italy can lay claim the biggest win of the section so far following their 9-1 battering of Australia, and it will be interesting to see if Saad Assis and Co can maintain the high standards they have set for themselves.
Argentina, meanwhile, will be looking to serve up a dose of revenge. The two teams last met in Chinese Taipei in 2004, when the Squadra Azzurra defeated the South Americans for the sixth consecutive occasion. One has to go all the way back to the 1998 Mundialito for the first and last time La Albiceleste got the better of the Italians.
Two-time tournament winners Spain face Panama, who currently top Group B after an emphatic 8-3 win against Morocco. Following their opening draw against a doughty Iran side, La Roja will be determined to add thrust to their campaign with a victory.
Having shown bravery aplenty to fight back from two goals against the Spaniards, Iran will want a repeat of that performance when they take on Morocco. Iranian goalkeeper Mostafa Nazari was instrumental against the 2000 and 2004 world champions but will probably come under less pressure against the North Africans, who squandered a comfortable lead in their loss to Panama.
Over in Group D, Mexico face Australia, and both sides are still smarting from their opening-match losses. All of which means the battle between the section’s current two stragglers should make for compelling viewing.
Player to watch
Midfielder Fernando Mena has been central to Panama’s emergence as a force to be reckoned with at Thailand 2012. His two goals and two assists against Morocco will make him a vital part of coach Agustin Campuzano’s plans when they take on reigning European champions Spain on Monday.
45 – The number of goals scored by Iran at the AFC Futsal Championship 2012, making them the tournament’s most prolific attacking team. They seem to have carried their form into Thailand 2012, by scoring twice against a Spanish side that did not concede once during the qualifiers.
“Are we worried about Italy? I think it’s natural for any team to be a bit concerned when they come up against a strong opponent. It’s a positive thing, too, because in a tournament like this you can’t afford to be too relaxed. We believe in ourselves, but Italy will make this game hard for us,” Fernando Larranaga, Argentina’s coach.
Australia-Mexico (Bangkok, Nimibutr Stadium, 17:00)
Argentina-Italy (Bangkok, Nimibutr Stadium, 19:00)
Morocco-Iran (Bangkok, Indoor Stadium Huamark, 19:00)
Spain-Panama (Indoor Stadium Huamark, 21:00)
(All kick-off times are local)