The semi-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 see newcomers Colombia seeking to extend their dream run all the way to the final and the trophy itself. In their way stand three giants of the futsal world, in the shape of Italy, holders Brazil and two-time world champions Spain.
Spain and Italy are scheduled to square off in a repeat of their semi-finals at last February’s UEFA Futsal EURO and Brazil 2008. The other match sees Colombia take on Brazil for the first time at a FIFA Futsal World Cup.
These two sides have met numerous times before, but their first encounter at this competition came four years in the semi-finals of Brazil 2008, when Spain snatched a 3-2 win in extra time. La Roja were again the victors eight months ago, at the semi-final stage of the UEFA Futsal EURO, with 1-0 the score on this occasion.
Despite history being against them, Italy are clearly in the mood to defy the odds. Their quarter-final against Portugal saw them overturn a 3-0 deficit to bounce back for a 4-3 win in extra time. Spain, meanwhile, had to show plenty of solidity in their defeat of Russia, whose group-stage performances marked them as a serious threat.
With both sides able to field full-strength teams, the match is a mouth-watering propect. Torras and Co will be looking to guide Spain to a remarkable fifth FIFA Futsal World Cup final in a row. Meanwhile Italy, led by Saad Assis, are chasing revenge against the side that also beat them 2-1 in the final of Chinese Taipei 2004.
World champions Brazil are clear favourites to defeat Colombia in the second semi-final. Not only do the Brazilians have more experience of big-match expectations, their opponents Colombia are widely regarded as party-crashers, springing the surprise of the tournament by beating Iran in the Round of 16 then edging out Ukraine in the quarter-finals.
But Brazil’s progress has not been as smooth as predicted. Indeed, they required a dazzling individual performance from veteran star Falcao to claim a 3-2 extra-time win against quarter-final opponents Argentina. Fans will be hoping that the iconic 35-year-old can continue the form he has shown since returning from injury in the round of 16.
Brazilian forward Je, however, will miss the game after being sent off against Argentina, while Colombia’s Yefri Duque will also be absent. The odds are against them but Colombia are determined to continue their run. As coach Arney Fonnegra said after the Ukraine match: “Why not dream of beating Brazil too?”
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With Russia now out of the title race, a number of players will be eager to depose Eder Lima from the top of the goalscorers’ list. These include Italy’s on-form Rodolfo Fortino, who has six goals and three assists to his name thus far. The 29-year-old forward is one of only three players to find the net five games on the trot at Thailand 2012, alongside Brazil’s Neto and Russia's Sirilo, whose goal against Spain was not enough to keep his team in the tournament.
7 – The number of times Brazil have reached the semi-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup, making them the only side not to miss a final-four berth since the tournament’s inaugural edition in 1989. Spain are just one behind their fierce rivals, with six semi-final appearances, while Italy have three. At the other end of the scale, Colombia join Ukraine, Iran and Portugal as only the fourth side to make it this far at their debut FIFA Futsal World Cup - not including that 1989 event.
“I expect it to be a close game, just like the one we played against Russia and the last time we played Italy at the Futsal EURO. But I think we can beat them again,” Spain coach Venancio Lopez.