There's certainly no time for rest at the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004. After a breathless finish to the first group stage we are down to the final eight. Three more matches each with all teams playing on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. There are some mouthwatering games in prospect - many on the first day alone. In fact we kick-off with a game which you will not want to miss…
Brazil v Ukraine
This will be one for the purists. The awesome Brazilians, so slick in topping Group A, scoring 23 goals and conceding only two, face the canny Ukrainians. The East Europeans might just fancy their chances of playing their trademark counter-attacking game based around the guile of Serhiy Koridze. Ukraine coach Gennadiy Lisenchuk is optimistic: "It's going to get a lot more difficult in the second phase. It was our goal to go through to the second stage and then reach the semi-finals. We're still on course." The expectations on Brazil are sky high, but coach Ferretti knows what is required: "On Sunday the world championship can really start. We have two well balanced groups, Italy and Brazil are the favourites. For us this means that we have to keep our concentration throughout each match."
Argentina v USA
North America v South America in what promises to be an intriguing clash of styles. The much-fancied Argentines started slowly in Group D against Cuba, scoring the least goals against the Central Americans. But they played themselves into form against Portugal and then saw off the Iranians in some style. Albiceleste coach Fernando Larrañaga knows the ultra-organised style of the Americans could cause his side problems: "From now on we have only finals to play. We start playing against USA, that won't be easy for us, as they have a very physical team and they don't have an traditional approach to Futsal. We haven't met them often in the past. We have to play this match first, then we can think about playing Brazil." It was USA coach Keith Tozer's stated aim to reach to the second stage. They achieved that thanks mainly to their 3-1 against Paraguay. Now he knows the emphasis on defence will have to change: "I'm extremely proud of our team and I'm looking forward to the next match. We qualified thanks to our defence and goalkeepers. Now we come to the second stage and that won't be enough. We'll have to score more goals."
Spain v Czech Republic
The World Champions face an all-European group after their three straight wins in the first stage. The prospect doesn't worry Spain's coach Javier Lozano: ""I don't have any preference for our opponents. We'll take what comes. My team has similar qualities now as we did Guatemala 2000. We'll see what happens. For me, Brazil, Italy and Argentina can win this tournament." Their first opponents, the Czech Republic were impressive in qualification, leading Brazil for 12 minutes in their match to decide the winners of Group B. Coach Michal Striz is happy to be facing opposition from nearer home: "From the second round onwards you cannot choose your opponents, there are no more easy games. For us it's definitely an advantage to play against European teams, because we've played them before and so we know what to expect, but Spain and Italy are the two best European teams, it won't be easy for us."
Italy v Portugal
Another top quality match in prospect here between two strong European teams. Italy scored a clean sweep in Group C, looking a cut above their three opponents, while Portugal conceded just one goal -in their solitary loss to Argentina. Orlando Duarte, the Portuguese coach knows he's in for a battle: "There are four European teams in our group which shows the strength of European teams. We're in a strong group but the other group is strong too. We will try to win the competition but I said I wanted to be in Chinese Taipei at least until the semi-finals and that is still my aim - don't forget we came third in Guatemala 2000. But the World Championships are of a much higher standard than they were then. In Guatemala you had maybe three teams who could win it - Brazil, Spain and possibly Russia. Now any of the eight second round teams could win it." A team who many think could do just that is Alessandro Nuccorini's Italy side. Their last first round match could be an issue though with the games coming thick and fast: "After the match against Paraguay, we might have some injury problems. Two of our players had to leave the court and we have at least four important men injured. Furthermore, we've expended a lot of energy during this tough first round and we might pay for it later."