Ukraine and three greats of world football make it to Barcelona
The semi-finals of the 3rd FIFA Futsal World Championship, to be played in Barcelona’s gigantic Palau Sant Jordi on Friday, promise some highly exciting indoor football with Ukraine facing hosts Spain and Russia confronting title-holders Brazil.
Minnows Ukraine, up to now an unknown quantity in the futsal scene and obviously underrated by many of their opponents, are to play against Spain who defeated them 4:1 in their first-stage encounter in Murcia. Since then, flamboyant coach Gennadi Lyssentchouk's men have kept the upper hand scoring a total of 33 goals and forcing favourites Brazil to the verge of defeat. The Ukrainians' relentless attacking spirit, fuelled by the dazzling dribbling of the tiny Oussakovskii twins and the devastating shots of striker Oleg Bezugly, will create problems for Spain who look like going all the way through to the final after winning all their matches so far.
However, the title hopes of the European champions were somewhat thwarted during the second stage when they waivered against Russia and Belgiumunder the pressure of the high expectations of the home crowd. But after defeating Italy 4:1 led by pivots Santi, Lorente and Ferreira, Spain are expected to win their semi-final hands down against their opponents from Eastern Europe.
Brazil, world champions in 1989 and four years ago in Hong Kong, appear to be sailing into their third Futsal World Championship final in a row. Except for Ukraine, all the teams who had to confront Brazil were powerless against the world champions' strategy, style and skill. While the Brazilian attack notched up an astounding 43 goals, surpassing all the other teams, they conceded a mere nine, thus substantiating the claim of the Brazilian coach that the best strikers on his team - Manoel,Sandrinho, Fininho and Choco - are equally good on the defence.
The Russian selection, runners-up in the European Championship earlier on this year, just about made it through the first-stage after drawing with both the Netherlands and Argentina. They owe their qualification for the semi-finals mainly to a systematic win over co-favourites Italy who fell victim to the sober but constructive game of Konstantine Eremenko, Alexei Kisselev and their team mates.
The semi-final matches kick off on Friday 6 December at 5 pm (Brazil v Russia) and 7pm (Spain v Ukraine).