The final day of group matches at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 could hardly have been any more dramatic. Alongside the eight teams fighting for their place in the knockout stages on Friday, the hosts nervously looked on and were also celebrating at the end, as they progressed thanks to a surprise victory for the Solomon Islands.
It went down to the wire in Group E, with everything initially pointing to Kuwait joining Egypt in the next stage, but it was Czech Republic who reached the last 16. Meanwhile in Group F, Guatemala threw away their seemingly secure ticket into the next round after losing to Solomons, who recorded a maiden tournament triumph.
Solomon Islands 4-3 Guatemala
Colombia 0-2 Russia
Kuwait 4-3 Egypt
Serbia 2-2 Czech Republic
Goal of the day
Solomon Islands - Guatemala, 4-2 Anthony Talo, 35'38"
It was a day of firsts for Solomon Islands, as they won an inaugural FIFA Futsal World Cup game and had a goalkeeper score a first tournament goal. With the Oceania nation leading 3-2, Guatemala were forced to push for an equaliser. The ball landed at Anthony Talo's feet and the custodian wasted no time in hitting a first-time effort the full length of the court into the empty net at the opposite end. The 16-year-old is only the fifth keeper in tournament history to have found the net, following in the footsteps of A.J. Lachowecki (USA) and Adolfo Jara (Paraguay) in 1989, as well as Luis Amado (Spain) and Zheng Tao (China) in 2008.
Thailand celebrate with Solomon Islands
After two days of nail-biting tension, it was Solomon Islands of all teams who came to Thailand's rescue. Having ended up in third in Group A on Wednesday, the fate of coach Vic Hermans' team was out of their hands as they hoped to be one of the four best third-placed finishers to reach the knockout rounds. On Thursday, Thailand were rooting for Iran against Panama, but the Central Americans scored in the closing seconds to make it 4-3, overtaking the Thais on goal difference in the process. Yet in an unexpected twist, Solomon Islands surprisingly beat Guatemala 4-3 on Friday evening, much to the delight of the hosts.
Kuwait on the attack
Just like Solomon Islands, Kuwait's situation appeared hopeless ahead of the final round of group matches. The Asians were expecting a rough ride against Egypt, but soon went 3-0 in front. Yet instead of protecting their lead, the Kuwaitis went all-out attack, piling forward with five players in an unusually adventurous tactical manoeuvre.
Russia have been in impressive form during the group stages. Not only are they the current top scorers with 27 goals, but goalkeeper Gustavo and Co are also yet to concede. The Russian custodian has been excellent and his ability was clear to see against an attacking Guatemala side. Russia are only the second team to have reached the knockout stages of a FIFA Futsal World Cup with three clean sheets, after Spain paved the way in 2004.
Stat of the day
2000 - The date 9 November will live long in the memory of Czech Republic's Michal Belej. In the game against Serbia, the Czech claimed the 2000th goal to be scored in the competition's history.
"We are very happy because this is a great victory for our nation, which is one of the smallest islands in the world. We've already had texts from back home congratulating us. People are going wild over there," Solomon Islands' coach Dickson Kadau on his side's historic success.
Sunday 11 November 2012 (All kick-off times are local)
Monday 12 November
Russia-Czech Republic 18.30