THE DAY REPLAYED – On the final day of group-stage action at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016, Kazakhstan, Iran, Costa Rica and Azerbaijan claimed the last four places in the Round of 16.
The day began with the last two games in Group E, with Argentina having to work hard to come from two goals down and force a draw against a Costa Rica side inspired by their keeper Alvaro Santamaria. The point pleased both teams. As well as allowing the Argentinians to finish top of the section, it also took the third-placed Ticos through to the knockout phase for the very first time.
Also making their debut in the second round are Kazakhstan, who finished runners-up in the group thanks to their ten-goal demolition of Solomon Islands, with Arnold Knaub, Douglas and Pavel Taku all getting on the scoresheet twice.
Over in Group F, meanwhile, Spain had to draw on all their individual ability to see off Morocco. Lozano scored a brace for La Roja, with Adil Habil replying for the Moroccans with two goals of his own. In the other game in the section, Iran and Azerbaijan played out a draw that took them both through to the next round, the Azeris becoming the second tournament newcomers to advance to the knockout phase at Colombia 2016, after Vietnam.
Costa Rica 2-2 Argentina
Kazakhstan 10-0 Solomon Islands
Azerbaijan 3-3 Iran
Spain 4-3 Morocco
Let’s hear it for Kazakhstan’s Higuita
Kazakhstan’s naturalised Brazilian goalkeeper Higuita is known both for his saves and his contribution to his side’s outfield play. Named after extrovert Cafetero keeper Rene Higuita, he has earned a legion of new admirers at Colombia 2016, with the fans at the Coliseo Ivan de Bedout in Medellin adopting him as their own and chanting their appreciation of him. Grateful for their support, the Kazakh custodian raised a triumphant clenched fist in appreciation.
Smiles all round
The match between Iran and Azerbaijan was watched by a group of 12-year-olds, who had been invited to attend by the competition’s organisers. Already delighted to be there, their day was made complete when a clearance from the court sent the ball in their midst. Scarcely believing his luck and flashing the broadest of smiles, one of the children held the ball in his hands. Though encouraged by his colleagues to keep the ball for good, he decided that the show must go on and threw the ball back on to the court.
6.81 - the average number of goals per game in the group phase at Colombia 2016, the sixth highest in the history of the competition, ahead of Chinese Taipei 2004 and Netherlands 1989, where the averages were 6.38 and 5.83 respectively. The first round at Thailand 2012 produced 7.17 goals, however, while Hong Kong 1992 boasted the most prolific group phase of them all, with 8.42 goals scored per match.
“Kazakhstan is a boxing country, and us qualifying is very important for developing futsal. We outplayed Argentina, despite the result, and we did the same to Costa Rica and to Solomon Islands today. We’re not scared of Spain.” Kazakhstan coach Ricardo Sobral
“We’ve grown in confidence with every game, and I’m very pleased with how we performed today. Argentina play a dynamic game but we managed to keep them in check. It was an intense game but we achieved our objective in the end.” Costa Rica coach Diego Solis
“It was one of the best matches of the tournament, and I think Iran played a lot better than they did in their earlier games. They’re the Asian champions and one of the five best teams in the world, which is why we’re so pleased with the result.” Azerbaijan pivot Vitaly Borisov
“We made a lot of mistakes but we had the edge over Morocco in terms of possession and, ultimately, the result. We couldn’t create any clear-cut opportunities. They were very organised in defence and they’ve obviously got big plans for the future. They’re a great side and that’s why they caused us a lot of problems.” Spain coach Venancio Lopez
Round of 16 fixtures
Russia-Vietnam (Medellin, 17:30)
Colombia-Paraguay (Cali, 20:00)
Brazil-Iran (17:30, Bucaramanga)
Spain-Kazakhstan (17:30, Medellin)
Portugal-Costa Rica (20:00, Cali)
Argentina-Ukraine (17:30, Bucaramanga)
Thailand-Azerbaijan (17:30, Medellin)
Italy-Egypt (20:00, Cali)
(All times local)