The Round of 16 kicks off at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 with three second-round debutants taking the stage as Thailand, Japan and Colombia face off against the experience of Spain, Ukraine and Iran. Revenge is the name of the game in Sunday’s fourth and final encounter as Paraguay square off with Portugal.
Four years ago La Albirroja met Portugal in the teams’ first and only FIFA Futsal World Cup encounter to date. While Portugal triumphed 3-2 in the Group B clash at Brazil 2008, the teams appear so closely matched that is impossible to predict who will come out on top in Sunday’s game and book the first quarter-final slot at Thailand 2012.
The game between Spain and Thailand is sure to be popular, with the tournament hosts making their first-ever second round appearance after finishing third in Group A. The sides met in pre-tournament friendlies in Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchsima, both of which were won by Spain. Thailand will be hoping their home advantage can work in their favour in a tough game against the two-time world champions, who have not failed to reach the semi-finals in five successive editions of the tournament.
Japan’s task will be no easier against well-drilled Ukraine. A third place in Group C was enough for the AFC Asian Futsal champions to make history and qualify for the Round of 16, but Ukraine coach Gennadly Lisenchuk’s men came top in Group A and look set to go far.
Sunday’s final game sees newcomers Colombia take on Iran, one of seven sides yet to lose a game at Thailand 2012. Colombia will take heart from their sterling defensive work against Group F opponents Russia.
Player to watch
Following his hat-trick in Paraguay’s first game against Ukraine, a suspension saw Enmanuel Ayala sidelined for his side’s shock 6-3 defeat at the hands of Costa Rica. But in his return against Thailand the midfielder was on top form, knocking in his side’s second goal and stamping his authority on the game. He will be an important part of coach Fernando Leite’s plans against Portugal.
9 - The number of times Spain have played Asian sides at a FIFA Futsal World Cup. The two-time world champions have a superb record in this regard, with only a single loss, and that came back in 1992 when they were defeated 4-2 by Iran in the group stage. However they had their revenge later in the same tournament when they overcame Iran in the battle for third place.
“Before the game against Russia we thought we would make third place in Group F, not second, but this outcome doesn’t change anything as far as we’re concerned. Iran will be as hard as any other side we could have faced in the Round of 16,” Colombia coach Arney Fonnegra.
Paraguay-Portugal (Bangkok, Indoor Stadium Huamark, 16:00)
Ukraine-Japan (Bangkok, Indoor Stadium Huamark, 18:30)
Spain-Thailand (Bangkok, Nimibutr Stadium, 18:30)
Iran-Colombia (Bangkok, Nimibutr Stadium, 21:00)
(All kick-off times are local)