Egyptian and Paraguayan hopes of upsetting the big guns in their final group games ultimately came to nothing as European class told and the underdogs were left contemplating the long journey home. The Africans were never in with a chance against the world champions, but the South Americans put up a stubborn fight against favourites Italy. Ukraine and the USA both progressed to the next round too, while hosts Chinese Taipei exited the tournament with heads held high.
Ukraine v Chinese Taipei: Hosts bow out with dignity
Ho Chia Chen was the Chinese Taipei hero as he opened the hosts' scoring account for the tournament after 14 minutes of their third match, before Ying Chien Chang brought the house down with another strike in the second half. Neither player could prevent a 7-2 defeat to Ukraine, but coach Damien Knabben's men exited the tournament with dignity and a newly enriched stock of experience, as evidenced by a third improved display in a row. "This is a historic moment for Chinese Taipei," the 63-year-old declared afterwards. "I think we thoroughly deserved it because the players gave everything they had." Ukraine supremo Gennadiy Lisenschuk fielded seven players from Shakhtar Donetsk in an ultimately routine victory. "Our goal was and is to make the semi-finals," the coach observed, "although it will be much harder from now on."
Paraguay v Italy: South Americans depart after fierce battle
Paraguay mounted a stubborn rearguard action but the effort was ultimately in vain as Italy triumphed 4-2 and advanced to the second round with a 100 percent record. The South Americans held their own for a long period against the side ranked first in the world, but coach Alessandro Nuccorini's men possessed the edge in class and Paraguay's dream of reaching the next phase ultimately lay in tatters. Nuccorini was unhappy at the physical nature of the contest: "That was the worst possible advertisement for futsal," he raged. "Four of my players are injured." Paraguay opposite number Adolfo Ruiz hit back: "We had to fight as the Italians were trying to scare us." Ruiz felt the match turned at the psychologically vital moment shortly before the break when the Europeans claimed their second goal. "We looked heavy-legged after that," the coach remarked. "We knew in advance it would be tough getting through to the next round, but we believed in ourselves right until the end."
Egypt v Spain: Africans no match for world champions
The Spanish line-up featured Julio and Javi Rodríguez, survivors of the opening match at the FIFA Futsal World Championship Spain 1996 when the hosts defeated Egypt 7-2. This time round, the world champions were determined to eliminate the minor but real risk of a first round exit and Javier Lozano's men set about their task at a breakneck pace. Marcelo netted after just three minutes to open the floodgates, and Kike, Andreu, Alberto Cogorro and Fran Serrejon all found the target before the interval. Marcelo and Andreu completed a brace apiece in the second period for a clear-cut 7-0 victory to end the Egyptians' involvement in the event. The Spanish kept a fifth clean sheet in a row and underlined their credentials as leading contenders for the world crown. "Egypt let us have far too many chances today and we took what was on offer," Lozano commented. Opposite number Mohamed Aly offered his congratulations: "You can see why they're the reigning world champions. My players were a little downhearted before the match and their first goal completed our misery."
USA v Japan: Draw seals American place in next round
The first draw at the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004 was enough to see the USA through to the last eight. The Americans adjusted their tactics after taking a first-half lead through Andy Guastaferro and forced the Japanese to chase the game. The Asian outfit gave it their best shot and piled on the pressure after the interval, but coach Sapo's side had nothing left in the tank after forcing the equaliser. "Japan have got better and better as the tournament has gone on and they're going to be a great team," US coach Keith Tozer declared, delighted with his side's showing: "We're fairly new to futsal so it's a great achievement to make the second round." Japan boss Sapo felt his men had performed with credit but failed to make the most of their opportunities: "I'm extremely proud of my players, but it's a shame we were unable to reap any reward from our hard work."