On the final day of the group stage of the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004, all eyes will be riveted on Group D. For while Argentina and Portugal are in pole position, all four teams still have a chance - however slim - of continuing their campaign. FIFA.com previews the action in all the groups.
Thailand - Australia: A matter of honour
Both of these sides go into the last day's action knowing qualification is now beyond them. After two defeats in two games, the Thais and Australians are already eliminated, but both will surely be keen to restore some damaged pride and exit Chinese Taipei on a high note. Preying on Australian minds will be the fact that, in order to register their first three points of the competition, they are going to have to score their first goal. Coach Scott Gilligan emphasises the importance of this objective to them: "We're going to give everything we've got to try and beat Thailand, but to do it, we'll have to retain our concentration throughout and play well." For the Thais, who looked solid against Brazil, confidence is not an issue. Witness the words of Glaucio Castro: "The margin of our loss to Brazil was a little unfair, so I'm pretty confident we can beat Australia. Our main aim is to win a match at the Futsal World Championship, as we are desperate to avoid a repeat of Guatemala (Thailand exited the tournament without winning a game; ed). That's what we'll be playing for."
Officials: Victor van Helvoirt (NED), Juan Carlos Sciancalepore (ARG), Kazuya Isokawa (JPN), Karoly Torok (HUN).
Argentina - Iran: Argentina out to prevent an upset
While Argentina are in a commanding position after two wins in two games, they are not yet assured of qualification. Indeed, a sizeable potential banana skin lies in their path, as their next opponents quite simply need a win to reach the second round. If Iran can win the game by a two-goal margin or more, they will be through, while the Albicelestes could even find themselves eliminated from the tournament if Portugal also see off Cuba in the other group game. On the basis of the performances of Iran and Argentina so far, this scenario seems highly hypothetical, but it could just happen. Consequently, the Iranians will be going all-out for victory, as coach Mohammad Ansarifard confirms: "I am convinced that we can step it up a gear against Argentina. We must do whatever it takes to win." In the Argentine camp, coach Fernando Larranaga is also displaying a confident, if cautious approach: "We're going to reach a new level of play in our next game. We need to be totally focused against Iran. Our aim? Nothing less than a win."
Officials: Jyrki Filppu (FIN), Massimo Cumbo (ITA), Pedro Galan (ESP), Robert Porritt (AUS).
Brazil - Czech Republic: Intriguing tussle for first place
Both sides are safely through to the second round, so Brazilians and Czechs will be competing for top spot in Group B. Technically impressive during their two matches so far, Brazil seem best equipped to hold on to their slender advantage. Against Australia, however, the Czechs displayed flawless defensive organisation that the Auriverdes may find tough to circumvent. Furthermore, in Michal Mares the Eastern Europeans have discovered a top-notch goalscorer. Brazil's coach, Ferreti, is certainly not taking them lightly: "This is a very important game for us. We are going to use it to fine-tune our defence, which was shocking against Thailand. We simply must improve in this area." For Michal Striz, it will be more a question of keeping one eye on the next round: "This match is bound to provide us with valuable experience, but it will also provide me with a chance to give some of my fringe players a runout. We have to conserve our energy, but make no mistake: we also intend to give a good account of ourselves against Brazil."
Officials: Carlos Del Cid (GUA), Ching Hau Sheen (TPE), John Konstantinidis (USA), Vladimir Maso Goitisolo (CUB)
Portugal - Cuba: Portuguese looking to silence doubters
After an easy win over Iran in their opening game (4-0), Portugal were expected to be as good as through by tonight. Things have not gone quite according to plan, however. Beaten fairly and squarely by an excellent Argentina side (1-0), Orlando Duarte's charges now know that they have to defeat Cuba to be certain of reaching the next round. Although a draw or even a narrow defeat will not necessarily eliminate them, the Iberians are loath to get out their pocket calculators, so will be going for the win. For Cuba, their wafer-thin chance of qualification rests on a landslide victory over Portugal (by at least six goals) and an Argentinian win over Iran. As the former amounts to almost a mission impossible, the Caribbean outfit will be content if they can confirm the progress hinted at in the second half against Iran. For coach Orlando Duarte their motivation is clear-cut: "We have to win, and we will do everything in our power to do so." By way of a final footnote, this encounter is almost certainly the last chance to watch one of the revelations of this FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004, the Cuban goalkeeper, Wilfredo Carbo.
Officials: Nolido Paixao (BRA), Nestor Valiente (PAR), Mohamed Ibrahim Farag (EGY), Yaya Djiba (SEN)