Futsal titans astride world stage
© Foto-net

It’s the denouement Brazilian futsal fans were hoping for, as the host nation prepare to do battle with holders Spain in Sunday’s FIFA Futsal World Cup 2008 final. The Auriverde have a score to settle with the Iberians, who have thwarted their title ambitions at the last two tournaments, in the final eight years ago and at the semi-final stage in Chinese Taipei 2004.

However, Spanish memories of the Brazilians are not uniformly positive either, as the Europeans lost the final to the South Americans in front of their home crowd back in 1996. FIFA.com runs the rule over two nations that share a long history of rivalry at the very highest level.

Brazil - Spain, Rio de Janeiro, Sunday 19 October, 10.30 am (local time)
The emotional temperature at the Maracanazinho in Rio de Janeiro will be at boiling point on Sunday. Thousands of fans will flock to the hall adjacent to the venerable Maracana to witness the final of the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2008. Hosts Brazil are slight favourites to claim the title, and the local crowd’s passionate support could just provide the edge.

However, there is genuinely little else to choose between the two teams vying to hoist the FIFA Futsal World Cup trophy into the air. Especially during the first two group phases, both teams offered ample evidence of their supreme quality, and both are deserving finalists.

Brazil are the best attacking team at the tournament and have thrilled the crowds with occasionally breathtaking futsal. It is hard to point at any particular defensive weaknesses, as their record of just six goals conceded is the best of all 20 FIFA Futsal World Cup contenders. If anything, the hosts are occasionally vulnerable to swift counter-attacks, as evidenced by their semi-final against Russia.

Their Spanish opponents are supremely well-drilled, but also boast potent goalscoring power in Fernandao and Javi Rodriguez. Coach Venancio Lopez’ most important player is tactician and strategist Kike, the coolest of leaders even when the heat is on.

The neutrals will enjoy watching the clash between the creativity of the Selecao and Spain’s well-marshalled defence, with keeper Luis Amado directing operations from the back. The Roja are unlikely to deviate from their tried and trusted strategy of biding their time, before pouncing whenever their opponents make a mistake or Lopez orders an offensive thrust.

The key factor
Both teams will do their utmost to take the lead, as the side scoring the opening goal will be at a great advantage in the final, thereafter dictating the pace and rhythm while launching potentially devastating counter-attacks. Mental strength is also bound to play a pivotal role, as was undoubtedly the case in the semi-finals.

The player
Schumacher, Brazil
Coach Paulo de Oliveira’s number eight is the fulcrum around which all else revolves in the Brazilian futsal team. Schumacher has had an outstanding tournament, with ten goals and two assists in eight matches so far. At 1.87m (6ft 1in), the three-time FIFA Futsal World Cup participant is a beacon of solidity in defence, topping off an array of talents with exceptional vision.

The stat
4
Spain star Javi Rodriguez will contest his fourth FIFA Futsal World Cup final in a row. He and his team-mates lost the 1996 final as host nation against Brazil, but he laid his hands on the trophy in 2000 and 2004 after victories over the Selecao and Italy respectively.

The words
It’s very special for me to play in the final at the age of 32. I think Brazil are favourites, because they’re right at the top of their game. I’m expecting a very close match, and the World Cup will be decided by little details. Daniel, Spain player

We’re recovering from the game against Russia and getting ready for the final. We need to keep our cool and turn in a top performance on Sunday. Falcao, Brazil player