Considering this is their first appearance in the FIFA Futsal World Cup finals and the fact that they do not have a national league, Libya have been acquitting themselves remarkably well in Brazil. The north Africans even created a little bit of history in their opening Group D match against Uruguay on Wednesday, pulling off a 3-3 draw to buck a losing trend that has seen every African side before them go down by at least four goals in their tournament debuts.
"We are part of a process that has developed really quickly thanks to the support of the FA," Fathi Alkhoga, their two-goal hero against the Uruguayans, tells FIFA.com. "In fact, we've come on so much that we've won the Arab and African championships in the last two years. I'm sure that our appearance in this World Cup will give futsal a huge push in my country."
It was Alkhoga's late, late header, the culmination of a flowing five-touch move, that secured the Libyans a point against the South Americans.
"We were all very nervous in the build-up but we relaxed more and more as the game went on," explains the 24-year-old. "On a personal note the goal meant a great deal to me and it has given me more confidence. When I scored I took the opportunity to dedicate it to all the people of my country."
Spain hand out a lesson
Libya came back down to earth with a bump in their next outing, losing 3-0 to holders Spain on Friday. Yet even that defeat represented some kind of progress. The two previous times African teams faced off against reigning champions they went down by seven goals or more.
In Alkhoga's opinion, there is a simple reason for the gulf in class. "African futsal is still developing and we are part of that process. We want to learn and we want the rest of the world to think highly of our futsal."
Although the outlook might be positive, Alkhoga was disappointed to have come off second best against the Spanish. "We were missing two of our most important players but, even so, we should have played better. Let's hope we can get back to our best in the next game."
Up next for Libya are Iran and the outcome of that clash will go a long way to deciding their fate. "They are a great team," continues Alkhoga, "but I'm expecting an exciting match because it's the African champions against the Asian champions. Anything can happen."
One thing for sure is that the Libyans are enjoying themselves in Rio. "The people are friendly and we like the food and the music. We feel right at home." For them to extend their stay in Brazil, however, Alkhoga and his team-mates need to pick up points in their forthcoming encounters. And to do that they need to keep on defying the statistics, something the pivot is sure they can achieve. "We learned a lot in losing to Spain and nothing is impossible."