A trio of Asia's traditional powerhouses have booked
their places FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil 2008, with Iran, Japan
and hosts Thailand cruising to resounding victories in
Thursday's quarter-finals. However, it was China who stole the
show as they stunned Uzbekistan 4-1 to book their maiden appearance
at the global showpiece.
China, who have never progressed beyond the quarter-final stage at continental level, emerged a different team under Brazilian coach Farinha. Despite suffering an 8-1mauling at the hands of group favourites Iran in the second game, two identical 9-0 victories over Tajikistan and Kuwait saw them through to last eight as the group's second-placed team behind Iran. In the decisive quarter-final encounter against Uzbekistan, Farinha's charges kept their cool to dispatch the Central Asians to progress to Brazil 2008.
After winning their group with three straight victories over Iraq (1-0), Indonesia (11-0) and Kyrgyzstan (3-1), hosts Thailand had their first real test in the quarter-finals against a formidable Australia side, who had finished their group competition behind Japan to reach the knockout stage. The hosts, however, showed their visitors no mercy by running out 5-2 winners.
As the only Asian team besides Iran to have won the continental laurels, Japan had few problems in topping their section with overwhelming wins over Chinese Taipei (8-2), Turkmenistan (4-1) and Australia (4-2). They then went on to dominate their quarter-final meeting with Kyrgyzstan, scoring four unanswered goals to progress with ease.
Iran, meanwhile, confirmed their status as 'Asian Futsal Kings' as they topped their group unchallenged, scoring an incredible 34 goals in three wins while conceding just one in the process - in that 8-1 defeat of China. In their quarter-final clash, the defending champions certainly gave Lebanon no chance, waltzing through 9-1.
The semi-finals will now see hosts Thailand lock horns with China while Iran cross swords with Japan.