Four teams bade farewell to the dream of making the semi-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 this Wednesday. Ukraine were unceremoniously ejected by giant-killers Colombia, while Argentina, Portugal and Russia were all edged in closely contested encounters.
Quarter-finals are always unforgiving, and Thailand 2012 proved no exception, with many of the eliminated sides harbouring hopes of going further. But there is a silver lining, as the lessons they have learnt are sure to stand them in good stead in the future.
Despite Ukraine’s unexpected loss to tournament debutants Colombia, coach Gennady Lisenchuk told FIFA.com that he thought “a number of teams have got much stronger and come on leaps and bounds. These sides are playing with enormous courage and at a much higher standard than in previous tournaments.”
In Thailand, Lisenchuk guided a squad that contained only five members of the side that competed at Brazil 2008, and was philosophical about their performance: “We have a number of young players. When they have more games under their belt they will learn more and their performances will improve. This will be a stronger team in the future.”
With Argentina two goals clear of Brazil at the end of the first half, their fans must have begun to believe that their side really could beat the world champions. Falcao had other ideas, however, scoring twice in the Auriverde's 3-2 comeback win that booked their slot in yet another FIFA Futsal World Cup semi-final.
Argentina are out, but they will take happy memories with them. Striker Martin Amas insisted that his team were getting ever closer to a win against their South American neighbours: “We had an excellent tournament and forced the best side in the world into extra time after going two goals up. Not many other teams have managed the same.”
“I believe that one day we’ll be on equal terms with them, if not better,” he added. “With Matias Lucuix and others now playing in Europe, the team can only improve in the future.”
Of all the sides to be knocked out, perhaps Portugal have the biggest cause for disappointment. With just over 11 minutes gone in their quarter-final against Italy, the Portuguese were 3-0 and firm favourites, but it was not to be. Italy fought back and levelled via Fortino with 46 seconds left on the clock to take the game into extra time, when a strike from Honorio sent Gli Azzurri to the semis.
“We were very upset to go out like that,” explained Portugal striker Cardinal, “and I feel we deserved better than to go home after the quarter-finals. Overall, it was a good tournament for us but we were hoping for more.”
Russia coach Sergey Skorovich, for his part, remained realistic after his side’s defeat by Spain: “We tried hard and wanted the victory, but as always seems to be the case, Spain go through and we go home!”
Skorovich and his charges join three other sides on a return flight from Thailand 2012. But even as they leave the tournament behind, the lessons they have learnt will stay with them.