Farewell, Chinese Taipei
Eight teams have begun the unwanted task of packing their bags for home after the first round of the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004. All four Asian representatives - Iran, Japan, Thailand and hosts Chinese Taipei - are joined by Oceania outfit Australia, African champions Egypt and two teams from South and Central America, Paraguay and Cuba. FIFA.com reviews the tournament from the eliminated teams' point of view.
Australia: No whipping boys but below expectations
Australia, the pride of Oceania, came to Chinese Taipei for the FIFA Futsal World Championship with great expectations. Scott Gilligan's men were determined to make the second phase of the tournament at the fifth attempt, but the enterprise appeared doomed from the start and the Aussies remain without a win at the world showdown since 1992 when the 'futsalroos' defeated Costa Rica 8-6 in Hong Kong. The opening match in 2004 produced a predictable defeat to the skilful Brazilians, although the 10-0 scoreline was a far more demoralising affair than the playing and coaching staff had hoped. The second game proved decisive: the Australians held their own for a long time against the Czech Republic, but a relatively early fifth team foul in the first half threw the Aussies out of their rhythm and handed the lead to their opponents. Vizzari then struck a post before Manson failed to convert a clear-cut opening, and Australia were forced to go on the offensive, desperate for victory to compensate for the heavy defeat against Brazil. However, Czech schemer Michal Mares netted a hat-trick within the space of five minutes to deliver the knockout blow. Australia at least found the target against Thailand, but the 3-2 scoreline represented a third defeat in a row. Coach Gilligan was left to lick his wounds afterwards: "It's very difficult for us. We all work hard but we simply need more games at this level. We were never out of our depth and we should have got a result against the Czechs. I'd love to stay in this job, I have a good supply of young players with real potential."
Egypt: Early exit after unlucky defeat to Ukraine
African champions Egypt departed after the first round but left a positive impression from their first two matches before a painful hiding dished out by world champions Spain. The Egyptians' morale had been visibly sapped by an unlucky 5-4 defeat to Ukraine in the second group match, and after going behind early on to the powerful Spanish, the players' belief in a miracle and a place in the next round had dissipated. Egypt opened with a 12-0 stroll against the outclassed hosts but it was already clear the Ukraine clash would be decisive. The Africans made a superb start and at 3-0 early in the second half looked odds-on to win, but their East European opponents showed desire and nerves of steel. Gehad Sayed, one of the stars of the tournament, blotted his copybook with an own-goal before a defensive lapse allowed Ramis Mansurov to net Ukraine's fourth. The Africans came agonisingly close to an equaliser in a frenetic closing phase, but all they had to show was a consolation through Wael Abdel Mawla, who finished as top scorer in the first round. Egypt coach Mwafak Badry's was dejected afterwards. "I didn't expect this result, but I think it's understandable," he said after watching his men collapse to a 7-0 defeat against Spain. The potential is certainly there in Egypt, as shown by two good displays.
Cuba: Star keeper not enough to progress
Cuba goalkeeper Wilfredo Carbo leaves Chinese Taipei with a clear conscience as one of the men of the tournament. In the opening match against Argentina he saved everything the favourites could throw at him for a full 30 minutes. No matter whether it came low, high or fiercely-struck, Carbo instilled doubt in Argentine hearts with a world-class performance. Garcias finally got one over the line for the opener before Barbona and Planas gave the scoreline a more realistic look at 3-0. Carbo came away with the fine match stats of 28 saves from 31 shots on his goal. In the second match against Iran, Carbo watched his team-mates score three times - but picked the ball out of his own net on eight occasions, less due to his mistakes and more down to lapses of concentration in defence leading to a 4-0 deficit at half-time. Cuba enjoyed their best phase at the start of the second period and struck twice, but Clemente Reinoso's men hit the post when a comeback looked possible and thereafter increasingly left themselves vulnerable to counter-attacks. The Iranians fulfilled their part of the bargain to perfection, but all in all Cuba played far better than in the first match. The islanders rounded off their campaign with a 5-0 defeat against Portugal, but the summary was mainly positive. Said coach Reinoso philosophically: "We're still waiting for our first victory at the world championship. We gave it all we had, but it wasn't to be. The players tried their best, but if we want to reach the next level in futsal we have to spend longer on preparation."
Paraguay: South Americans tripped up by USA
The draw was not kind to Paraguay as they landed in a tough group with Italy, the USA and Japan. Nonetheless, many observers felt the team had a reasonable chance of claiming second place behind Italy and making the second round. A promising if tight 5-4 opener against Japan was followed by a surprise inability to cope with the Americans' robust physical tactics. Paraguay fell to a painful 3-1 defeat against their larger northern neighbours which practically wiped out their chance of claiming a coveted place in the second phase. Coach Adolfo Ruiz complained bitterly at his players' carelessness: "The USA's third goal was the key to their victory. We'd just got going, we'd pulled one back at 2-1 but they caught us napping just 30 seconds later." Paraguay had to win their final match against Italy but even the frustrated South Americans' attempt to mix it physically could not prevent a 4-2 defeat. "Basically, we started well," Ruiz commented. "The players maintained their concentration, but Italy's second just before half-time drained our energy." The coach offered a positive summing-up. "We knew in advance it would be tough to make the next round, but we never stopped believing in ourselves."