Futsal's finest battle for world crown
Six top-class futsal teams are to compete in the ninth edition of the Intercontinental Cup between 6 and 9 April in the Brazilian city of Brusque. Spain's Boomerang Interviu, the reigning champions, have been drawn in Group B along with Japanese side Predator and Brazil's Carlos Barbosa, while Group A sees last year's beaten finalists Malwee/Jaragua of Brazil pitted against US outfit ServCorp and Paraguay's Universidad Autonoma de Asuncion. The winners of each group will face off in the tournament's grand final.
The holders will be looking for a good start when they kick off their title defence against Predator, coached by 27-year-old Toru Kitano. The Spaniards might the tie as favourites, question marks surround how they'll adapt to the Brazilian climate and the draining effects of trans-Atlantic travel. There will certainly be precious little time to take a breather, with Boomerang currently competing for honours on three separate fronts. Their Intercontinental Cup bid may take precedence at the moment, but the Spanish side are also chasing their domestic league title and have reached the final of the UEFA Futsal Cup.
For his part, Boomerang coach Jesus Candelas feels his side's sternest challenge could come from Carlos Barbosa in their second group game. "They are in the midst of reshaping and rebuilding their side, and have moved quickly to sign some of Brazil's hottest young talents," said Candelas. "This game could define the outcome of the tournament, given that they are fully capable of making life difficult for us."
The defending champions arrive in Brazil on the back of a painful 6-1 league defeat at the hands of Azkar Lugo, leaving Candelas and his players doubly determined to put this aberration behind them and demonstrate their true class. The manager is certainly aiming high, and made no secret of the fact that his side's goal will be "to win the tournament and prove to the fantastic Brazilian fans that Spain are not only the best at international level, but at club level too".
Carlos Barbosa, meanwhile, the team Candelas fears most, are keen to repeat their success of two years ago on Spanish soil and reclaim this prestigious trophy. And the Brazilians certainly arrive in great form, with coach Juninho overseeing delighted with the quality of football produced in the 4-1 friendly win over Tres Coroas Futsal last week.
South American grudge match
In Group A, Malwee/Jaragua have kept hold of the nucleus of the side that came up just short against Boomerang in last year's final. Star man and FIFA World Futsal Player of the Year, Falcao continues to steal the show, and he'll be aiming to add to his top scorer and best player awards from the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004.
The Brazilian outfit face US Champions ServCorp in their first game, this before taking on familiar foes Universidad Autonoma de Asuncion. The Paraguayan side have proved worthy ambassadors for their country's futsal league, reaching February's Copa Libertadores final, where they succumbed to Malwee.
Autonoma, who arrived in Brazil earlier this week to allow themselves to adapt to their new surroundings, took advantage of their free time to spy on Malwee's friendly game against youth side Cestao. "We're aware that it's going to be a difficult tournament acknowledged coach Juan Carlos Orihuela, who will be looking to help Universidad gain revenge for their Copa Libertadores defeat. "There's no doubt that the big favourites are Boomerang Interviu, Carlos Barbosa and Malwee/Jaragua, but we mustn't underestimate the other teams who are all champions of their respective leagues. The world finest sides will all be here,"
Last but not least in Group A are US side ServCorp, who hail from the city of Provo (Utah). With Brazilian coach Rubens Fernandez, aka 'Rubinho', at the helm and several of his compatriots in the squad, ServCorp are confident of putting a few noses out of joint in Brusque. The Americans earned their ticket to the Intercontinental trophy with a 4-2 win over World United in the final of the USA's Futsal National Championship.
9th Intercontinental Cup
6-9 April 2006. Arena Multiusos, Brusque, Santa Catarina (Brazil)
Universidad Autonoma de Asuncion (PAR)
ServCorp F.C. (USA)
Boomerang Interviu (ESP)
Carlos Barbosa (BRA)
Boomerang Interviu - Predator
Malwee/Jaragua - ServCorp
UAA - ServCorp
Carlos Barbosa - Predator
Carlos Barbosa - Boomerang Interviu
Malwee/Jaragua - UAA
5th-place play-off: 3rd Group A - 3rd Group B
3rd-place play-off: 2nd Group B - 2nd Group A
1st Group A - 1st Group B
1997 - Moscow (Russia) - Dinamo Moskva (Russia)
1998 - Moscow (Russia) - Atletico/Pax de Minas (Brazil)
1999 - Moscow (Russia) - Ulbra Claro Digital (Brazil)
2000 - Moscow (Russia) - Caja Segovia (Spain)
2001 - Moscow (Russia) - Ulbra Claro Digital (Brazil)
2004 - Barcelona (Spain) - Carlos Barbosa (Brazil)
2005 - Puertollano (Spain) - Boomerang Interviu (Spain)