Knockout casualties out but not down
© Getty Images

Getting knocked out of a major competition can be a painful experience, particularly when your fate is decided in the elimination stages. The Round of 16 put paid to eight teams at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012, but rather than bemoan their fortune, the respective coaches chose to look on the bright side.

Hosts Thailand enjoyed unexpected success at their home tournament, but a 7-1 defeat against a superb Spain side means the sound of a fervent Thai crowd roaring their side on is now a thing of the past. However, despite the loss, Thailand’s Dutch coach Victor Hermans felt his charges had come on leaps and bounds in the six months since the AFC Futsal Championship and believes they can now go from strength to strength.

“There’s been a huge evolution between Dubai and now,” said the 59-year-old. “I hope the players have learnt some important lessons, like how to dominate a game and retain possession. When they do, we’ll be a match for anybody.”

And the coach had a clear plan on how to take his side forward: “Our goal is keep developing the game in Thailand, and we’ve got a number of futsal leagues and conferences set up throughout the country. We must get these leagues going as soon as possible and I hope they’ll help unearth some of the abundant talent we have here.”

Iranian manager Ali Sanei, whose charges were eliminated by Colombia in one of the Round of 16’s biggest shocks, was also enthusiastic about the huge improvements in the game: “I think that futsal has come on so strongly in the last few years. We’ve seen it at Thailand 2012, with Solomon Islands beating Guatemala, and Kuwait prevailing against Egypt. It shows the game is constantly moving forward.”

For the newer sides, Thailand 2012 was a perfect opportunity to test themselves against the best teams in the world. Minnows Panama faced Spain in the group stages and Brazil in the Round of 16, and despite the 16-0 scoreline against the world champions, coach Agustin Campuzano seemed cheerful.

I’m realistic enough to appreciate that qualifying for Thailand then topping our group is a massive success.
Serbia coach Aca Kovacevic

“We’ll leave Thailand perfectly content,” Campuzano insisted. “We came here to compete and that’s what we did. These players have lived the dream, taking on the champions as well as runners-up Spain, and that’s the kind of experience money can’t buy.”

Serbia’s coach Aca Kovacevic was equally upbeat: “It was a wonderful experience for us. I’m realistic enough to appreciate that qualifying for Thailand then topping our group is a massive success. We came so close to going even further but it wasn’t to be, this time.”

Czech Republic may have been undone by Russia, but their coach Tomas Neumann was satisfied that they’d progressed to the limit of their ability: “[It was] a successful tournament in the end. Our players are all young and I look forward to them developing and coming back to compete in four years' time.”

Another coach to take the balanced view was Egypt’s Badr Khalil, who said: “It took a big effort to get this far - and it’s the best we’ve done in 20 years." For Khalil, taking part was no less important: “Playing in a major tournament like this and facing all the strong sides gives the players confidence and experience. That’s what we’ll be taking away from Thailand.”

While these coaches can go home satisfied, others were not expecting to be on the plane so early. Paraguay’s Fernando Leite, for one, could not hide his disappointment: “I feel we were better in the qualifiers. I thought we’d carry that into the finals but we didn't play as well as I had expected.”

Japan’s Miguel Rodrigo, meannwhile, blamed a lack of concentration for his side’s defeat, saying his nation's fans were the only saving grace. “The crowd’s support was very important,” he conceded. “I'm glad we at least gave them a few goals to cheer, even if we weren't mentally strong enough to go through.”

While the big guns move forward in their quest for the trophy, the eight teams who leave Thailand 2012 have taken home some valuable lessons. The goal now is to return to the world stage in four years with renewed hope and confidence.