The last four quarter-final slots are up for grabs on 12 November, and the teams fighting it out for them include a couple of tournament debutants and some pre-tournament favourites. Formidable futsal powers like Italy, Russia and Brazil will certainly be wary of slipping up in their first knockout matches of Thailand 2012, while rivals such as Czech Republic and Panama – having already met expectations – can go into the fixtures unburdened by pressure and expectation.
A clash between South America's top team in qualifying and a team of FIFA Futsal World Cup debutants would normally be seen as having only one likely winner. However, with Argentina severely weakened by injury and suspension, and Serbia emerging as one of the revelations of the group phase, this encounter has become considerably tougher to call.
The Serbia coach, Aca Kovacevic, has predicted that the sides’ similar styles of play will make for an intriguing match-up, and indications are that fans at the Huamark Indoor Stadium could be in for a treat.
Brazil’s match against Panama has a more defined favourite, and it would rank as a massive upset if the holders were to be eliminated by a team participating in its first FIFA World Cup.
There is also an all-European clash, with Czech Republic aiming to unsettle a Russian side that, having made no secret of their desire to challenge for the title, go into the last 16 on the back of a near-flawless group campaign.
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Argentina’s successful passage through the group stage came at a heavy cost, with Matias Lucuix suffering a double leg-break and Cristian Burruto picking up a suspension. Deprived of two of the world’s finest players, La Albiceleste need a new talisman, and Alan Calo – impressive throughout the group phase – looks the most likely candidate.
27 – The number of goals scored by Russia in their first three matches at Thailand 2012, comfortably establishing them as the highest scorers of the group phase. With no goals conceded, the eastern Europeans emerged from their section with an average scoreline of 9-0.
“I believe it was our destiny to meet Italy in the round of 16. Our last meeting was a friendly and they were at home, but they only managed to beat us 2-1. Nonetheless, they will definitely be tough opponents because they have several players who are among the best in the world,” Egypt coach Badr Khalil.
Italy-Egypt (Nakhon Ratchasima, Korat Chatchai Hall, 16.00)
Russia-Czech Republic (Bangkok, Huamark Indoor Stadium, 18.30)
Brazil-Panama (Nakhon Ratchasima, Korat Chatchai Hall, 18.30)
Serbia-Argentina (Bangkok, Huamark Indoor Stadium, 21.00)
(All kick-off times are local)