Argentina hoping for 2004 repeat

While dreams of glory are one thing, and harsh reality another, is daring to dream and risking failure not the first step to success? One man who has certainly set his sights high ahead of the forthcoming FIFA Futsal World Cup is Argentina coach Fabian Lopez, whose gifted charges kick off their campaign against China on 30 September in the Brazilian capital Brasilia.

And Lopez's ambition is well-founded. Four years ago at Chinese Taipei 2004, the ever-present Argentinians pulled off their best performance so far at the showpiece event when reaching the semi-finals. And having lost out against Italy in the last four, they were denied a podium place by fierce rivals and futsal superpowers Brazil in the play-off for third place. "Our aims are clear: we're hoping to reach the last four again. And once there we're capable of giving anybody a good fright," the Albiceleste supremo told FIFA.com.

Armed with 14 years' experience as part of the national team set-up, allied to seven years in the fiercely competitive Italian futsal league, Lopez took the helm of the senior national side in May 2008. "This World Cup comes around just as this group are reaching the ideal level of maturity. Some are heading into their third World Cup, others their second," he says.

"There are experienced players ably backed up by youngsters with a very bright future. Besides which, the vast majority have played abroad, some of them even won the title under me in Italy. In other words, they're used to playing in important matches in front of big crowds."

Tactical edge
Lopez is equally forthright when it comes to analysing his team's Group C rivals. "China have made progress but we should still beat them, even though opening matches are never easy. It might sound strange but Egypt and Guatemala are similar sides: their players are good technically and thrive in one-on-one situations, but we can get the edge on them tactically. The Ukraine, on the other hand, are on a par with us. They're the team to beat if we want to finish first and avoid the toughest second-round opponents."

And who does he feel will win the title? "It's strange to think that Brazil might miss out on the title on home soil, but Spain have had their number for a while now and have got a very solid squad. Italy are also a force and in very good form. One step down are ourselves, Portugal, Russia and the Ukraine," says Lopez.

The experienced tactician also believes that the gap between Argentina and the very best sides has narrowed, but that his boys in blue-and-white stripes still have plenty to prove. "We're not like Brazil who have thousands of players to choose from. We're still lagging behind as far as infrastructure is concerned, even if futsal is growing fast in our country. That said, this growth needs to be matched by results on the pitch. That's what we're hoping to achieve in Brazil."