THE DAY REPLAYED – Paraguay and Iran served up more thrills and spills before Russia finally got the better of Spain, ensuring that two first-time finalists are guaranteed to grace Cali on 1 October. FIFA.com rounds up the action from the opening two quarter-finals at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016.
The Iranians and Paraguayans took the crowd through the full gamut of emotions during their see-saw battle in Bucaramanga. The fans could have been forgiven for dozing off during the opening ten minutes while the two teams sized each other up without doing any damage. Not long after, though, they will have been rubbing their hands together with glee at the sight of the brilliance of the Asians' first couple of strikes and the South Americans' counter-attacking prowess. They will have finished the afternoon on the absolute edge of their seats following goals in the dying stages of both normal and extra time.
In the other match, it was a case of the tide finally turning for Russia, although their supporters must have feared the worst when their long-running nemeses Spain struck back after a poor start. Was history about to repeat itself? Not if the Russians had anything to do with it. With a compact, well-balanced team and Eder Lima once again firing on all cylinders, the eastern Europeans' time looks to have come. The Spaniards managed to remain afloat until the interval but ended the encounter at sixes and sevens, their misery compounded when opposing goalkeeper Gustavo settled the contest by kicking into an empty net.
With both previous winners now out, a new king will be crowned at Colombia 2016.
Paraguay 3-4 Iran (aet)
Russia 6-2 Spain
Patience and perseverance pay off
The ball just would not go in for Ahmad Esmaeilpour early on. The Iranian attacker tried his luck from virtually every position and angle possible, only to be denied by the hands of Gabriel Gimenez or, failing that, a Paraguayan leg. However, he stuck at it and got his reward when his screamer whistled into the top corner to make it 1-1, and he subsequently earned his side a dramatic win by doubling his tally in the nick of time.
A true team player
Tournaments are sometimes won from the bench and in the most unexpected ways. Aicardo clearly subscribes to this adage. The Spain star was forced to miss the meeting with Russia due to injury, but he did not let his disappointment deter him from doing everything in his power to try to help his country – from cheerleading to dishing out words of advice and even providing a personal towel service to keep the team-mates alongside him fresh.
When it rains, it pours
The showdowns between Spain and Russia in recent years have all been decided by small details. What made the difference on this occasion was a string of uncharacteristic individual errors from the Spaniards, who have so regularly remained a picture of calm when the pressure has been on in the past. Ortiz set the tone with a nonchalant pass that resulted in the opening goal, Fernandao deflected into his own net for the Russians' fourth – these were far from the only examples of the two-time champions getting themselves in a tangle at the back – and the La Roja forwards were guilty of some unusually wayward finishing at the other end. It was a perfect storm and Russia took full advantage.
23 – The number of seconds left on the clock when Esmaeilpour hit his last-gasp winner. The Iranian's strike avoided another penalty shoot-out between two teams who had both clinched their quarter-final berths from the spot.
"I want to thank the team for their efforts. My players fought to get us into another shoot-out but it didn't end the way we wanted. I'm very proud of them and I think they deserved better." Paraguay coach Carlos Chilavert
Sunday 25 September
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