The 20 participating nations at the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2008 received a taste of things to come today, when the city of Brasilia hosted the Final Draw for the tournment. The ceremony took place at the Ulysses Guimaraes Convention Centre and involved Federal District governor Jose Roberto Arruda, Sports and Tourism Secretary Marcia Lins, and FIFA Director of Competitions, Jim Brown, among other officials. Also in attendance were some of the futsal's most esteemed figures, including the Brazilians Manoel Tobias, voted Player of the Tournament at Spain 1996 and Guatemala 2000, and Jorginho, winner of that same award at Hong Kong 1992.
Final Draw results
Group A: Brazil, Russia, Japan, Cuba, Solomon Islands
Group B: Italy, Portugal, Thailand, Paraguay, USA
Group C: Argentina, Ukraine, China PR, Guatemala, Egypt
Group D: Spain, Czech Republic, Iran, Uruguay, Libya
During the first phase of the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2008, the teams will battle it out for supremacy in four groups of five. The top two from each section will advance to a second group phase, which will ultimately decide the four semi-finalists.
As well as allocating the 20 qualifiers their respective groups, the event in the Brazilian capital also had the tournament's official poster and mascot unveiled to the public. "The country is already moving to the World Cup beat and that gives us a lot of motivation," said Seleção star Falcao, voted top player at Chinese Taipei 2004, this despite Brazil only finishing third.
After winning the first three editions of the event, Brazil will be hoping their passionate home support can help them wrest the title back from two-time champions Spain, who eliminated the Canarinhos in 2000 and 2004. "Teams from other continents than Europe or South America have made important progress in the past years, especially the Asians ones, and that will reflect on the technical level of the game," said Manoel Tobias.
"I think Spain has been drawn in the toughest group, since they will play Czech Republic and Iran. The Spaniards are the favorites, but today we very well know there won't be any easy matches. I do hope Brazil can give joy to the people and recapture the throne at home."
The sixth edition of the sport's showpiece event will take place in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia between 30 September and 19 October 2008. For the first time in its history there will be 20 teams taking part instead of the usual 16.
"Because of the atmosphere I have feel here in Brazil, there is no doubt in my mind we will have one of the greatest competitions ever organized by FIFA. After increasing the number of participating teams, the FIFA Futsal World Cup will be the second biggest FIFA event with 56 matches, only behind the FIFA World Cup", said Jim Brown after the draw.