All eyes on Group D
Argentina, Portugal, Iran and Cuba were chosen together in arguably the toughest of the four groups, D, at the Draw for the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004, conducted by FIFA deputy General Secretary Jérôme Champagne in Taipei City on 5 September.
Click for the draw results
Group A: Chinese Taipei, Africa (Egypt or Mozambique), Spain, Ukraine
Though Ukraine and reigning world-champions Spain appear to be strong favourites to progress to the second round, it would be a mistake to write off the African representatives and the competition hosts. With the backing of the home crowd, Chinese Taipei could be quite capable of stretching their "group-mates". There will be great interest in seeing how Ukraine cope with this pool, since they are one of the rising powers of Futsal and recently earned a highly-creditable draw with the runners-up at the last FIFA Futsal World Championship, Brazil (the sides drew 3-3 on 1 September in a four-team friendly tournament in Teheran). Spain and Ukraine met at the 2001 UEFA European Futsal Championship, when the Spaniards ran out 2-1 winners after extra-time.
|FIFA deputy general secretary Jérôme Champagne explained the draw procedure before he conducted the draw in the Grand Hotel in Taipei City on sep 5 2004.|
Brazil have once again been handed what should-be a straightforward route to the second round. Nevertheless, despite winning three of the four previous FIFA Futsal World Championships, the Auriverdes will have to pay particular attention to their main group rivals, the Czech Republic. Australia sailed through the Oceania Zone (scoring 20 goals without reply in five matches), where they faced little by way of strong opposition, but can expect to meet far tougher adversaries in this first round and will have to create a major surprise to progress to the next stage. Thailand, meanwhile, will wear the tag of group underdogs.
Group C: Italy, USA, Japan, Paraguay
There is no doubt as to how this group is expected to finish. Italy should top the pool without much difficulty, with the USA and Paraguay battling it out for second spot, and Japan having their work cut out to take anything from the other three. The Squadra Azzurra not only seem head and shoulders above their group rivals but are one of the favourites for overall glory. The clash between the USA and Paraguay, two countries who are fairly evenly matched, will therefore probably be the highlight of this group.
Group D: Iran, Portugal, Cuba, Argentina
This is unquestionably the most balanced first-round group and it is very hard to pick out a favourite. Argentina, Iran and Portugal will all have high hopes of clinching one of the top two places, but Cuba cannot be ruled out either. Some may say that the summit of their ambitions should be to throw a stick in the spokes of one of the other teams, but it is not impossible for the Cubans to book themselves a place in the next round. Coincidentally, Argentina, Cuba and Iran were also paired together in Group D of the first round in Guatemala 2000.
Chang Chan-Wei (General-Secretary of the Chinese Taipei Football Association, Group A)
"We've been drawn in a very strong group featuring the world champions, and, in Ukraine, one of the major European powers. However, we must look on this draw as an opportunity to gain experience of playing the top international teams, even if we know we have little chance of reaching the next round."
|Spanish coach Javier Lozano and Carlos Alberto Gonçalves, vice-president of the Brazilian Futsal confederation are long time friends respecting the fair play.|
"I'm happy with the draw. Having said that, I don't whether to laugh or cry about facing Ukraine in the first match. That game will more than likely determine the winner of the group. Whichever team wins, therefore, will be able to approach the following games in a much more relaxed frame-of-mind."
Gao Yong (Ex-manager of the Chinese Taipiei women's team)
"Futsal is undoubtedly gaining in popularity in Chinese Taipei, but it will not be easy for our team to take on Spain and Ukraine. Our best chance of getting a win will surely be against the African representatives."
Scott Gilligan (Australia manager, Group B)
"Our target is to reach the second round. We know it will be hard to take anything off Brazil, but I think second place in the group will be between ourselves and the Czech Republic. It will be crucial for us to beat them, and I think we are well capable of doing just that."
Orlando Duarte (Portugal Manager, Group D)
"We've been placed in the hardest possible group. In my opinion, Iran and Argentina are the best teams in the group, with Cuba a little beneath that level. We are very familiar with all of these opponents and we will do our best to make the next round."
The draw ceremony had opened with a dance show by a local group and was followed by speeches by Chinese Taipei Football Association President Mr Huang Shih-Cheng, Minister of Sport Chen Chuan-Show, Mayor of Taipei City Ma Ying-Jeou, and FIFA Executive Committee and Futsal Committee member Jungi Ogura. Some pieces from the Chinese opera 'Monkey King' were then performed before the draw, held by Jérôme Champagne, got underway slightly behind schedule.
The fates of the 16 qualified teams were determined by Huang Yu Chuang, a former player with the Mu-Lan women's team, Chen Chun So, President of the Chinese Taipei Futsal Committee, Wong Shi Shian, a footballer turned actor and singer, and Wu Shiung Wu, another ex-footballer. After the draw, the Mayor of Taipei City returned to the stage to close the ceremony.