The current leaders of Group C, Ukraine, are one of only six teams yet to taste defeat at FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil 2008. And if there was any doubt about their credentials pre-tournament, these were quickly dispelled after a 2-2 draw against much–fancied Argentina.
This impressive display against the fourth-placed team from Chinese Taipei 2004, allied to emphatic victories against fellow Group C opponents Guatemala (6-2) and Egypt (5-1), has put the eastern Europeans in pole position for a place in the next round.
And though a draw in their final group game against bottom-placed China PR would ensure Gennadiy Lisenchuk’s team's progress, the coach has no intention of relinquishing top spot without a fight. "We’ll be going all out to keep hold of first place. It’s going to come down to goal difference so we’ll be looking to score as many goals as possible against China. That’s our aim going into the game in Rio. We want to win Group C," Lisenchuk told FIFA.com.
So far so good
Lisenchuk has every reason to be satisfied with his team’s performances to date. His charges have, after all, scored 13 times in their three games (averaging 4.3 goals a game) making them the fifth highest scorers at the elite tournament here in Brazil.
This positive balance is due in no small part to the contribution of 26-year-old Time Lviv striker Sergiy Cheporniuk - the squad’s leading marksman with three strikes to his name. "We’re very pleased with the way things have gone so far in the tournament, especially with the fact that we are top of the table," Lisenchuk told FIFA.com.
Lisenchuk believes that thorough pre-tournament preparation is one of the reasons behind his team's early success at Brazil 2008. "We worked very hard on improving areas such as attacking, defending and marking," said the Ukraine coach. " We studied our opponents and detected their strengths and weaknesses, which has proved very useful when we played them out here. Basically, the impressive results are all down to the hard work we put in."
Against China PR the aim is clear: win, and by as many goals as possible to avoid the Albiceleste pipping them to first place on goal difference. Argentina, though, will have their work cut out against a Guatemala team still in with a chance of making the second round.
Final four the target
"Our main goal at the moment is reaching the next round. If we get that far, then we’ll be looking to finish amongst the top four sides in the tournament. We always just take it one game at a time," said Lisenchuk.
Should Ukraine end up topping Group C, they would almost certainly be drawn with hosts Brazil in Group E of the second phase. It is a prospect that does not unduly worry Lisenchuk, though he freely admits the Seleção are the team to beat: "In my opinion, Brazil are the biggest favourites, followed by Spain, Italy, Russia, Argentina and ourselves."
Whoever their opponents might be, the dapper Ukraine coach will be hoping his charges continue the tournament as they have started - in emphatic fashion.