Challengers eye next round
© Foto-net

The first phase of the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2008 has almost reached the halfway point and the stakes are getting higher with every game. looks ahead to what day five of the competition has in store.

The big game
Italy-Portugal, Saturday 4 October, 12.30 local time, Rio de Janeiro
After squeezing out three points against Thailand and hitting USA for six, Italy can all but seal their place in the second group phase if they beat Portugal, another team with genuine championship aspirations.

But with the Portuguese earning a narrow but well-deserved win over Paraguay in their Group B opener, the Italians will not have things all their own way, and the battle of the No 10s, Arnaldo and Adriano Foglia, should go some way to deciding the outcome. The two sides have only met once before in the FIFA Futsal World Cup, playing out the first goalless draw in its history in 2004.

The other games
In one of the most eagerly awaited duels in Brasilia, hosts Brazil can put one foot in the next round themselves with victory over Russia. Having dispatched the weakest teams in the section with ease, the Auriverde now face their first serious examination. The eastern Europeans showed they know how to score in their first match by putting ten past Cuba, but stopping the yellow and green machine will be a different task altogether.

In the day's remaining matches, Japan take on Solomon Islands and Thailand face USA, with all four sides still looking for their first wins of the tournament.

The player
Sergey Zuev, Russia
The goalkeeper was one of Russia's star performers in Thursday's win over Cuba, pulling off some vital stops to prevent the Caribbean outfit from getting back into the game. Zuev will need to maintain that form against the brilliant Brazilians, who racked up a total of 33 goals in their opening two matches.

The stat
4 -
The number of times USA have faced Asian opposition in the competition. The Americans have an unbeaten record so far, downing China 7-1 and Iran 4-2 in 1992 and Malaysia 10-2 in 1996 before drawing 1-1 with Japan in 2004.

What they said
"The most difficult part for us starts this Saturday against Russia. It's going to be a defensive game and we need to be patient and stop them hitting us on the break." Betao, Brazil player. 

All the fixtures

Japan-Solomon Islands

Rio de Janeiro

Have your say
Can Russia pull off a surprise against Brazil? Click on ‘Add your comment' and give us your opinion?

Follow the matches from the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2008 live on, either via the EMIRATES live MatchCast or with live TV images. After the final whistle, you can also enjoy highlights of all the matches.