Including Thailand 2012, which Argentina will attend buoyed by having won their continental qualifying competition, La Albiceleste are one of only three national sides – along with four-time champions Brazil and two-time winners Spain – to have reached every edition of the FIFA Futsal World Cup. To date, however, the Argentinians have never done better than their fourth-placed finish at Chinese Taipei 2004 though, except for at Spain 1996, they have always progressed beyond the first group phase.
While Argentina coach Fernando Larranaga was unable to call upon some of his European-based key players, the squad he assembled for the regional qualifying tournament – which had an average age of around 26 – did include four survivors of La Albiceleste’s Brazil 2008 campaign. Two of this quartet proved particularly influential, with keeper Santiago Elias voted the competition’s best custodian and Leandro Planas, who was injured just before Thailand 2012, exhibiting the class that has already taken him to four previous FIFA Futsal World Cups. Both were vital cogs in a side that demonstrated defensive discipline, clinical finishing and suffered just one defeat – 3-0 against Brazil in the group phase – on the way to taking the title. Second in their section behind A Seleção, Argentina sank Colombia 1-0 in the last four before beating Paraguay 7-6 on penalties in the final following a 1-1 draw.
“We went over there focused on clinching qualification, but the way results went gave us the opportunity to go for the title and we took full advantage,” coach Larranaga told FIFA.com after victory in the tournament in the Brazilian city of Gramado. “Our objective in Thailand will be to reach the semi-finals, though that’ll depend on which players we can select. If we take a full-strength squad then nobody should be shocked to see us in the last four.”
Facts and figures
Santiago Elías, Maximiliano Rescia, Pablo Basile
Argentina won four, lost one and drew one game – the final against Paraguay – scoring 18 times and conceding just six to end the qualifying tournament with the best defensive record. The squad’s top scorer was five-goal Pablo Basile.
The numbers game
16 – The number of wins Argentina have picked up at FIFA Futsal World Cup final tournaments, a tally which puts them fourth in the all-time standings behind Brazil (41), Spain (35) and Italy (18).