Continental duels: Brazil v Argentina, Spain v Italy
On the second day of the second round at the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004, four of the main favourites face off. While the two South American sides and Spain all have wins under the belts, Italy will be hoping to improve on their draw against Portugal.
Brazil v Argentina: A huge step, but for who?
Having kicked off the second round with victories, the eternal South American rivals go into this game with high hopes. This is a tough one to call, especially as the Brazilians have been in fine fettle since the start of the tournament while the Argentines have looked as solid as a rock. At stake is a probable, if not guaranteed place in the semi-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004. The last time these two teams met, at the Futsal Copa America, it was Argentina who prevailed (1-0). "These two matches are entirely different," insists Ferretti, the Brazilian coach. "When we played them at the Copa America, we were already assured of qualifying for the World Championship, whereas Argentina needed the win. They will no doubt play their usual game, i.e. wait for us to make mistakes, but we have to win this one to get one foot into the next round." His counterpart, Fernando Larrañaga, appears relaxed at the prospect of this clash: "I think that Brazil will be more worried than us because we beat them at the Copa America. They've definitely got the most skilful players on the planet, so we have to stay highly focused throughout the forty minutes. We will try to keep them under control as much as possible, as we know this second round could well be decided on goal difference." If his approach sounds a mite cautious, let no one be in any doubt that the Albicelestes will be looking to sneak a win.
Officials: Pedro Galan (ESP), Jyrki Filppu (FIN), Massimo Cumbo (ITA), Yaya Djiba (SEN).
Ukraine v United States: backs to the wall
If they are to avoid bidding Chinese Taipei goodbye tonight, both two teams need to claim victory in this encounter. The United States' position is decidedly more perilous, since they face Brazil in their last match, a team that nobody seems able to stop. After their own drubbing by Brazil (6-0), the Ukrainian coach Gennadiy Lisenchuk remains upbeat: "We knew beforehand that if we lost that match, our next two would be crucial. So we'll be going all-out to win this one." After a frustrating match against Argentina (2-1),the USA will be out to beat Ukraine and keep their dwindling dream of qualification alive. "We always play to win," assures Keith Tozer. "Like us, Ukraine are a very good team, but we know we're capable of beating them. They depend a lot on Koridze and are bound to have been affected by the 6-0 defeat. We'll be trying to take advantage." Their task will be helped if key player Greg Howes, absent from the Brazil game through injury, is fit enough to return.
Officials: Karoly Torok (HUN), Carlos Del Cid (GUA), Nestor Valiente (PAR), Kazuya Isokawa (JPN).
Spain v Italy: European summit
This clash between the champions of the world and the champions of Europe has perhaps come a little too early in the competition, but it will be important nonetheless in deciding who goes through to the semi-finals. Of the two, Spain are better placed, having just recorded their twelfth consecutive FIFA Futsal World Championship win. As coach Javier Lozano explains, they are especially motivated to make it 13 in a row and qualify early for the semi-finals: "I don't like to talk about revenge (Spain were beaten by Italy last year in the European Championship semi-final), but we know from experience that this will be a much harder match than against the Czech Republic. From today, every game will be like a final." For the Italians, anything other than a win will put their hopes of qualification in jeopardy, but Alessandro Nuccorini's charges will have their work cut out for them. The whole Italian squad has been deeply saddened by the death in an car accident of Corrado Roma, trainer of the Italian Serie A club Sepp Luparense, and their thoughts are with his family. The squad has been depleted by the injury to keeper Gianfranco Angelini who has been replaced by Marco Ripesi who will wear the No.15 shirt.
Officials: Juan Carlos Sciancalepore (ARG), Nolido Paixao (BRA), Seyed Sadreddin Moosavi (IRN), Adel Al-Shatti (KUW).
Czech Republic v Portugal:
While Czech Republic have exceeded expectations at this FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004, Portugal have once again flattered to deceive. After qualifying in fine style on the last day of the opening round, Orlando Duarte's charges could do no better than draw against Italy (0-0). That leaves them needing a win against the Czechs, as their last game in Group E is against the Spanish world champions. "The most important thing now is to rest well," declared Duarte after the match against Italy. "We know that this Czech side are a very strong, tight unit, but we will be giving it everything we've got. I think it will help us to know the result of the Spain-Italy game before we go out onto the pitch, as we'll have a clearer idea of what we need to do." For Czech Republic, this match will be a stern examination of their potential, but coach Michal Striz is confident: "Against Portugal, our tactics will be practically identical to the Spain game, but we must create more chances as we want to win this match. I think we'll find the Portuguese a little bit easier opponents than Spain."
Officials: Victor van Helvoirt (NED), Mohamed Ibrahim Farag (EGY), John Konstantinidis (USA), Robert Porritt (AUS).