Cuba qualified for their first FIFA Futsal World Cup in Spain in 1996, finishing bottom of their section after three heavy losses including an 18-0 reverse at the hands of mighty Brazil. They returned four years later at the finals in Guatemala, but the result was the same: no points from three matches. It was a case of deja vu in Chinese Taipei in 2004, but the Cubans did look a more respectable outfit at those finals. This time around, in Brazil, they will be desperate to pick up their first points at a five-a-side finals and maybe even cause a sensation with a run into the knockout rounds.
The Cubans - led by coach Elddys Jesús Valdes - finished runners-up at the CONCACAF qualifying competition in June of 2008 in Guatemala. Managing to win their group on goal difference ahead of the hosts after two draws and a win, the Cubans edged out Panama 4-1 in their semi-final before falling to the hosts in the final in a penalty shootout after a 3-3 draw at the end of regular time. Eduardo Morales scored in the first minute of the final, putting a cap on an outstanding tournament.
With a dreadful record of nine losses from nine games at the FIFA Futsal World Cup, Cuba are hoping that recent investment in and attention to the game on the biggest of the Caribbean's islands will pay off. Coach Valdes will be keen to get his side, at the very least, a point at the 2008 finals. "This group has been together for five years now," said winger Fernando Chapman. "Of the 12 of us that went to the qualifiers, ten of us were at the finals in 2004 in Chinese Taipei. Our goal this time is to go past the first round."
Facts and figures
Eduardo Morales, Fernando Chapman
Eduardo Morales finished top scorer at the 2008 CONCACAF championship, scoring no less than nine goals at the finals.
The numbers game
0 - the number of points Cuba have picked up in their nine games on the world's biggest futsal stage.