Day 2 of the FIFA Futsal World Championship sees the teams in groups B and D make their debuts in the competition. While Brazil are certain to try and stamp their authority on proceedings from the start, it will be fascinating to watch who comes out on top in the first matches from the last, and easily the most difficult group.
Australia - Brazil: friends re-united
This promises to be an exciting encounter for these two Futsal nations, who have formed very close links in the last few years, not least with a large number of children crossing the globe to take part in Futsal training programmes all year round. That friendship will be put to one side once the teams take the pitch though, and up against the likes of Falcao and Manoel Tobias, Australia will be eager to show the progress they have made recently. "You never know, anything is possible," said their coach Scott Gilligan a few days ago, but a victory might be too much to ask of an Australian team who are here primarily to learn everything they can about competition at this level. And there can be very few teams better to learn from than the potential world champions who, after winning three consecutive world championships, surrendered their crown to Spain at Guatemala 2000. This year, Fernando Leite's Auriverde are all focused on taking back their title - starting with victory over Australia.
Czech Republic - Thailand: a match full of promise
With both these sides relatively unknown quantities, this is without doubt one of the most interesting fixtures early on at the FIFA Futsal World Championship. Appearing in this competition for the first time, Czech Republic look like archetypal outsiders, whereas Thailand have come a long way since losing all three of their games at Guatemala 2000. They are aiming for a quarter-final spot this time out, as opposed to the more cautious Czechs, who have their sights set on qualifying from the group. It will take all their renowned collective force to do so, and Thailand look sure to test that force with a cast-iron defence and counter-attacking flair. Given that Brazil are hot favourites to finish top of the group, the scrap for second place is certain to be intense.
Iran - Portugal: clash of the outsiders
If there is one team everybody is waiting to see at this year's FIFA Futsal World Championship, it has to be Iran. The Asian champions have appeared in the last three editions of the tournament and are not shy to announce they are targeting a berth in the semi-finals, a placing the rest of the futsal world know is well within their reach. Portugal, on the other hand, will be looking to build on their excellent third place at Guatemala 2000, and manager Orlando Duarte refuses to focus on any one game as he steers them through the competition. "Our qualification will depend on all three matches in the first round," he said recently. Of course, with Group D being by far the toughest of all, both teams will be keen to start well, and Portugal should take note that a few days ago Iran beat Chinese Taipei 7-0 in a warm-up game, which according to their manager only showed them at 50% of their capabilities. The potential surprise package of this year's competition will definitely not be short on confidence.
Cuba - Argentina: an explosive start for Argentina?
Along with Chinese Taipei, Cuba are the real underdogs here, and their first match could hardly be more difficult. Facing Argentina, it will surely be an exercise in damage limitation for the Caribbean side who, as the last team to arrive on the island, could pay the price for a long flight and the jet lag they will have been suffering these last few days. This is their third appearance at a FIFA Futsal World Championship™ after Spain 96 and Guatemala 2000, and the goal this time around will be to finally record a first win, an objective that Argentina will be doing everything in their power to postpone. "My only fear is that our preparation has been a bit short," confessed experienced Argentinean coach José Larranaga, who has taken part in every single FIFA Futsal World Championship to date. "But we'll get better with every game," he added. In this respect, Cuba look like ideal opponents to kick off the albiceleste's campaign before Portugal and Iran loom into view, but the Argentinean camp claim to be taking nothing for granted. "Of course we are better than this Cuban team, but in sport nothing is certain," says Larranga, with more than a hint of diplomacy.