Joy and pain on day of drama
© Foto-net

To the delight of the fans in Rio, joint favourites Spain and Brazil will contest the final of the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2008, although the Iberians’ semi-final was a heart-stopping affair which went right down to the wire. The hosts defeated Russia 4-2 in the day’s first match, before holders Spain finally overcame European rivals Italy 3-2 in the most dramatic fashion imaginable. The Auriverde and the Roja now do battle in Sunday’s final, with world and European runners-up Italy facing the Russians for third place.

Russia - Brazil 2-4
Goals: Pula, Damir Khamadiev for Russia; Schumacher, Falcao, Vinicius, Gabriel for Brazil
Brazil defeated Russia in an enthralling match on Thursday morning to claim the first spot in the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2008 final. Taking the game as a whole, the Europeans actually had the better of the possession and the play, but the South Americans were the more effective, and ruthlessly exploited individual errors made by coach Oleg Ivanov’s men.

Schumacher and Falcao handed the hosts an early cushion, before Pula pulled one back for the Russians and Vinicius restored the Brazilians’ two-goal advantage in the run-up to half-time. Khamadiev made it 3-2 after 26 minutes and an upset briefly seemed on the cards as the sides tore into each other and created chances at both ends. However, Pula was caught in possession shortly before the end and Lenisio fed Gabriel, who calmly slotted home to seal the victory.

The player

Lenisio (Brazil)
The hosts’ number 10 made a magnificent contribution to his side’s 4-2 win, finishing with two assists.

The stat
5
– The number of times Brazil have now reached the final of the FIFA Futsal World Cup. The South Americans won their first three appearances, but lost their fourth to Spain at Guatemala 2000. The Auriverdes exited at the semi-final stage in 2004.

What they said
It was a very intense game, our toughest match of the tournament. Now we have to focus on the Final. Marquinho, Brazil player

Spain - Italy 3-2
Goals: Daniel, Fernandao, Adriano Foglia (own goal) for Spain; Foglia, Grana for Italy
Holders Spain dramatically overcame Italy in a breathtaking second semi-final. After beating their European rivals in the finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2004 and the 2007 European championship, the Roja made it three in a row to book a meeting with Brazil for the 2008 world crown.

Coach Venancio Lopez’ men began with their customary swagger and panache, Daniel beating keeper Alexandre Feller in a one-on-one situation to open the scoring after just five minutes. The Iberians eased back for a spell and the Nazionale Azzurra enjoyed the lion’s share of the ball, although the world champions always had the match under control. Keeper Luis Amado was only once called upon to demonstrate his outstanding agility, pulling off a superb save to deny Grana after 12 minutes.

The spirited Italians upped the pressure in the second half and Adriano Foglia brilliantly struck a deserved equaliser. Neither side produced a winner within the allotted 40 minutes and the game went into extra-time. Fernandao and Grana traded goals, but just as the teams and the crowd were mentally preparing for a sudden-death shoot-out from the six-metre mark, tragedy struck the desperately unlucky Adriano Foglia. A shot off the post rebounded from the Italian’s leg and over his own goal line to settle the issue in the Spaniards’ favour in the very last second of extra-time.

The player
Luis Amado (Spain)
The keeper made a string of exceptional saves in the second period to keep his team in the match, almost single-handedly ensuring the world champions' survival into extra-time.

The stat
7
– the number of goals scored at the tournament by Spain's hitman Fernandao, his side’s leading scorer.

What they said
We mustn’t start feeling sorry for ourselves now, although I can’t begin to describe what’s going through my head at the moment. Grana, Italy player