Two old adversaries cross swords again in the final of the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004 on Sunday, as world title-holders Spain defend their crown against European champions Italy. FIFA.com previews the upcoming clash of the futsal titans and also looks into the third place play-off, an all-South American duel between Brazil and Argentina.
Spain v Italy: Italians hoping good things come in threes
Italy have beaten world champions Spain twice on the bounce, first in the 2003 European Championship semi-finals and most recently at the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004 second round. That is all very well, but Italy coach Alessandro Nuccorini flatly denies his men are favourites. "After that victory over Brazil, Spain are runaway favourites. We're playing them for the second time in the tournament so we know all about their quality. They're ahead of us in one or two areas. We've beaten them twice, and that could be an advantage, but it doesn't have to be. If I'm honest, I'd rather have played Brazil in the final. It's a minor miracle that we've got this far. My players are very tired, but let me assure you, they'll give everything in the final." The match itself will indicate whether Nuccorini's cautious remarks were a case of brutal realism or cunning mind games. Commented Italy skipper Salvatore Zaffiro: "We came here looking to reach the final. We're delighted at getting this far. I honestly can't say what will happen on Sunday, but I'd like to thank my team-mates for everything we've achieved so far. You have to be able to beat every other team if your goal is the trophy. It'll be a hard-fought battle." Spain, meanwhile, will be brimming with confidence after seeing off the mighty Brazilians, although they know 100 percent concentration will be required against the wily Italians. Coach Javier Lozano recalled the two recent defeats against Sunday's opponents: "Fate has handed us Italy again. It's a wonderful opportunity to avenge our second round defeat. They're extremely strong in defence and on the break, but we'll make it a very tough game for Italy." Star keeper Luis Amado and captain Andreu were both looking forward to remedying the "unlucky defeat" in the first meeting, sentiments echoed by Marcelo, a candidate for player of the tournament. "I've dreamed of winning a world championship since I was a child. Now we're through to the final and I'll put body and soul into winning the match. Then my dream could become reality. I'm glad it's Italy, because there's a score to settle. It'll definitely be a great final."
Referees: Juan Carlos Sciancalepore (ARG), Nolido Paixao (BRA), Jyrki Filppu (FIN), John Konstantinidis (USA)
Brazil v Argentina: Downcast stars must rise to one last occasion
Until yesterday, both sides had visions of lifting the trophy, but semi-final defeats have left their dreams in tatters. Brazil cruelly fell to Spain in a shoot-out while Argentina were never really in it against Italy. The clash of South America's big guns would normally whip up a frenzy of passion and desire in the dressing room, but on this occasion motivation could be an issue. Argentine boss Fernando Larrañaga admitted: "We have to concentrate on the psychological dimension. I have to get my players to forget the semi-final defeat and stop thinking about what might have been. I think that's easier for the coach than it is for the players. Whichever of us does the better job of motivating his players will probably edge the victory." Brazil coach Ferretti remained upbeat. "My players are all professionals, so it won't be difficult getting them motivated. We'll be totally focused for the match and it'll be another interesting game, I'm certain of that. The players' image and reputations are on the line. If they play well it could have a positive effect on their financial situation." So much for the theory, but putting it into practice is another thing, as Simi admitted: "It's going to be difficult getting excited about the third place play-off, because we came here to win the trophy, and this isn't the same thing at all."
Referees: Pedro Galan (ESP), Massimo Cumbo (ITA), Carlos Del Cid (GUA), Robert Porritt (AUS)