Brazil confirm dominance in South America
Brazil's futsal team were in no mood for surprises at the VIII Odesur Games Buenos Aires 2006, where as expected they took the gold medal after an emphatic 6-0 victory over Paraguay in the final. Argentina, for their part, had the consolation of bronze thanks to their 2-1 win over Ecuador in the match for 3rd place. In claiming gold again this year, Brazil retained the title they won on home soil at the 2002 Odesur Games, the first edition in which futsal was officially recognised.
The tournament, which was played at the Polideportivo "Islas Malvinas" Stadium in the city of Mar del Plata, doubled up as the qualifiers for the PanAmerican Games Rio de Janeiro 2007, for which Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador sealed their places. Brazil, as hosts, qualify automatically.
Brilliant Brazil look to the future
Coming into the tournament, Paulo Cesar de Oliveira's Selecao were everyone's tip to come away with the gold medal, this despite having to do without Falcao, a player widely regarded as the best on the planet. In the end the Auriverde more than lived up to their billing, retaining the title with some truly impressive statistics: they won all six of their games, scoring 38 goals while conceding just three, and also kept three clean sheets. In addition, the competition's three top scorers were all Brazilian: Grabriel and Wilde with six apiece and Schumacher with five.
The champions' toughest game was their semi-final against arch-rivals Argentina, who they finally downed 3-1 after coming from behind. Through a combination of admirable patience and precision from distance, Oliveira's charges turned the game on its head in the space of four minutes with a quick-fire brace from Marquinhos. "We knew we were in for a very tough game, even more so after going behind, as they defend so well," Marquinhos said afterwards. "Luckily we were precise with our long-range shooting. Those two goals were hugely important to me, as they came in a semi-final, against Argentina and in their own back yard," added the 32-year-old winger.
The team's pivot Lenisio, who scored the third goal against the hosts in the semis and also the final goal against Paraguay in the decider, summed up what the win meant for Brazil: "It was a good competition for us as we had to deal with a variety of different situations. We learned a lot here, and I think that was even more important than the gold medal."
This latest triumph brings the curtain down on a great year for futsal in Brazil, where the fifth FIFA Futsal World Championship will be held in 2008. "Our aim was to come here and win all our games, which we did," said Oliveira. "In addition, we managed to add to the team's core of European-based players by bringing in others based here in Brazil. That means we should be optimistic about next year, when we will begin to intensify our preparations for the World Championship," the coach added.
Paraguay confirm status, Argentina progress
The Paraguayan delegation that travelled to Argentina for these Odesur Games were confident their futsal team would take home a medal, and Adolfo Ruiz Diaz's Albirroja did not disappoint, crowning an impressive tournament with a runners-up spot.
The team looked particularly impressive in the opening round, finishing top in Group A ahead of the hosts. Their forte throughout was their goalscoring prowess, which enabled them to finish as second top scorers in Mar del Plata with 25 strikes to their name. Jose Luis Santander, (5 goals), Fabio Alcaraz and Rene Villalba (4), finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively in the tournament's goalscoring charts.
Luis Maria Zubizarreta, a member of the Paraguayan delegation, declared himself pleased with his team's performance, saying: "We lost to a Brazil side that looked good in every department and contained their best players. They came here to win this tournament as part of their preparations for next year's PanAmerican Games. We're very satisfied to be leaving here with the silver medal."
Argentina, for their part, took bronze with a squad of young players who all play in their country's league. "I was roundly criticised for my decision [to call up only local players], but our preparation time was very limited. The results here showed I was right to have a lot of confidence in these players," said Albiceleste coach Fernando Larranaga. The key to his side's podium finish was their solid defence, which, with just seven goals conceded, was the second meanest of the competition.
Two other sides also deserve special mention. One are Ecuador who, under the stewardship of Remulo Sotomayor, finished a deserved fourth to secure a place at next year's PanAmerican Games and underline the considerable progress being made by futsal in their homeland. The other team who showed continued signs of improvement were Bolivia, who had two wins during the group stages and made life difficult for all their other opponents.