Every tournaments has its upsets, and Thailand 2012 has been no exception. Yet if there was one genuine shock to emerge from the group phase of this FIFA Futsal World Cup, it was that it concluded without a single heart broken.
The tears and desolation that normally accompany first-round exits were conspicuous by their absence, with the final group games somehow managing to provide almost everyone with cause for satisfaction. Even teams eliminated in the cruellest of circumstances, such as Kuwait – who were heading through until Czech Republic snatched a late draw – found reason to be cheerful.
They could, after all, reflect on securing their nation’s first-ever win at a World Cup, secured in style with a swashbuckling attacking display against Egypt. That, as their Spanish coach, Luis Fonseca explained, was why the match ended with high-fives being exchanged rather than consolatory hugs. “It was a great experience for my players to play on such a fantastic stage, and we have learnt a lot of important lessons,” he said. “We will now look to use these experiences to improve the level of the game in Kuwait.”
The learning of important lessons was a recurring theme among the teams heading for home, with Morocco coach Hicham Dguig able to pinpoint specific areas for improvement. “We learned that we weren’t psychologically ready to play against big teams, and we also found out that we were not in a good enough physical condition,” he said. “In future, we will focus on those two areas.”
Nguig’s Australia counterpart, Steven Knight, also departed Thailand with psychology uppermost in his mind. “Going forward, our players need to believe they can play this game in the right way,” he explained. “The problem is that we don’t normally get to compete at this level because we’re on the other side of the world from the best teams, so it has been a great to play against and learn from the likes of Italy and Argentina.”
Australia did at least depart with a win under their belts, having beaten Mexico 3-1 ] for their first victory at a FIFA Futsal World Cup in two decades. But even their victims that day were to be found stressing the positive, with their coach enthusing about the experience of rubbing shoulders with the game’s elite. “What's really amazed me has been the rhythm and precision some of these teams play with,” said Ramon Raya. “With Italy, for example, it was a real pleasure just to be on the same pitch.”
With Costa Rica coach, Diego Solis, left describing the tournament as a “good experience”, and Libya’s Pablo Prieto stressing its importance for his team’s development, it was difficult to find anyone with a negative word to say. And the last place to look would have been the Solomon Islands dressing room, where elimination was followed by a raucous party. The reason, of course, was a memorable and historic win over Guatemala, the Kurukuru’s first at the FIFA Futsal World Cup.
“We’ve already had a lot of texts from back home. People are going wild,” said Dickson Kadau, the Solomons coach. “It was a great victory for our nation, and we will remember this tournament for a long time.”