Spain take on hosts; Japan hoping to trip up Italy
The second round of matches in Groups A and C throws up some intriguing fixtures in the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004. In Group A, while world champions Spain are able to rest up some of their usual starting line-up against Chinese Taipei, the same cannot be said of Egypt and Ukraine. Defeat for either country will probably put an end to their dreams of reaching the next stage. In Group C, Italy will need to be on their mettle to dispose of Japan, as will the United States against Paraguay. FIFA.com takes a look at the upcoming matches.
Chinese Taipei v Spain: David v Goliath
Host Chinese Taipei's second group match looks like a case of mission impossible. The tournament's youngest team face no less than the reigning world champions in the form of Spain. In their opening 12-0 defeat to Egypt, the limits of the home side's young players were exposed and there is now a realistic fear of an even more dramatic score-line against the side from the Iberian Peninsula. Asked about his side's next opponents, Spain coach Javier Lozano's was at pains to find the right words: "I saw the whole match between Chinese Taipei and Egypt. What can I say? The players from Chinese Taipei can learn a lot from this tournament. I may well use the opportunity to rest up some of my players. I think that our opening victory was definitely our biggest challenge in the group stage." Damien Knabben, coach of Chinese Taipei, is under no illusions: "We knew even before the tournament kicked off that we're not at the same level as all the other teams. We're going to learn a lot from this tournament, but believe me; even in matches like the huge defeat against Egypt, you learn a lot. Definitely it will be another tough game for us as Spain are even better than Egypt. It is hard for our young, inexperienced players to compete against these world powers, as showed in our opening defeat. We will try to organise our defence in the next game but against world champions Spain, you know everything will be hard."
Egypt v Ukraine: Qualification on the line
After an unproblematic 12-0 victory against hosts Chinese Taipei, a much tougher task awaits Egypt in their second group game against the Ukraine. The Ukrainians proved themselves far from a pushover in their narrow 2-0 defeat to world champions Spain, so this match is likely to be the decisive encounter in Group A. In the last tournament in Guatemala in 2000, Egypt just missed out on a place in the semi-finals, after beating Thailand, Uruguay and Russia. Coach Mwafak Badry knows: "It would be nice if every game went like the one against Chinese Taipei. But we realise that the match against the Ukraine will be a totally different type of game. We are determined to qualify for the next stage, so we absolutely must win this game. We'll wait and see how it goes." The Ukrainians will certainly try to be wide awake from the kick-off in their second group fixture, because the tournament's dark horses simply cannot afford another defeat. Ukraine coach Gennadiy Lisenchuk is certain that his team will rise up to the challenge. "We've learnt our lessons from our defeat to Spain, and we're definitely going to do better this time. Our objective is still to secure a place in the top three. So it's clear that victories against Egypt and Chinese Taipei are crucial."
Italy v Japan: The Azzurri face a stiff challenge
After a far-from-easy 6-3 victory over the USA, Italy coach Alessandro Nuccorini expects Japan to prove even tougher opponents than the Americans. "Japan have a very strong team." Nuccorini believes that his team is under huge pressure in every match: "When you're top of the world, everyone wants to beat you; every match is like the final. Every time we run onto the pitch, the onus is on us." Above all, he expects his side to score less goals than in previous championships: "Every team in the tournament is very strong defensively; there are certain to be less goals." Adriano Foglia also expects a tough time: "Against the USA, we showed the strength of character we possess. The game against Japan won't be easy, when you think of how difficult Paraguay found it to beat them." Indeed, the Asian side were somewhat unlucky in losing their opening fixture 5-4 to Paraguay, but declare themselves full of confidence despite that reversal. Japanese coach Sergio Sapo commented: "The match against Italy won't be easy, but it won't be impossible to win. We do respect the Italians though, since they have better players than Paraguay or Japan. We played very well in the opening match but unfortunately we lost it because we made mistakes in the final moments. These mistakes proved fatal for us and these will not happen again in the next game. Tomorrow we will have a meeting where I will explain carefully to the players what these mistakes were and how to avoid them again. Certainly Italy are one of the favourites to claim the title and a formidable opponents for us, but Japan have plenty of qualities to challenge them. We will play with the same determination as we showed in the previous match and we will not make those mistakes. We will have chances to win should we give everything we have."
USA v Paraguay: Americans indulge in some positive thinking
After a 6-3 defeat to Italy, the United States are under substantial pressure against a Paraguay team accustomed to victory. American coach Keith Tozer does not want to linger on that defeat: "Of course we wanted to win the first match, but it wasn't an all-or-nothing game. We have two more chances. We're confident that things will go better on Tuesday." USA captain Sean Bowers agrees: "There are definitely things we need to tidy up, that much was clear during the game against Italy, but we feel that we can compete with any team in the world and we're going to take that attitude into the game against Paraguay." Paraguay coach Adolfo Ruiz paid tribute to the abilities of their next opponents: "We will think about the USA game after watching the tape of their match. They are a very physically strong team and we intend to play at a very high tempo. We need to make sure we take care of the small details. The USA like to play with one man up front and pass the ball into the channels down the sides. We have to be aware of that, close this area down and counter attack with speed." Die-hard Futsal fans may remember the match between the two teams in the inaugural FIFA Futsal World Champions Holland 1989. On that occasion, the Americans won 2-0.