Ukraine and Portugal rue poor fortune, USA and Czechs garner valuable experience
Four more teams have packed for home after the second stage of the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004. Both the Czech Republic and the USA lost all three second round fixtures as lack of experience told, but Portugal and Ukraine were left cursing their luck after failing to make the semi-finals by a whisker. On a positive note, all four could point to a rapid rise in standards over the last few years. FIFA.com reviews the tournament from the eliminated nations' point of view.
Ukraine: Missed chances cost place in semis
The evidence from a 6-0 reverse against Brazil and a 3-1 victory over the USA showed Ukraine were prone to wastefulness in front of goal. In the win-or-bust showdown against Argentina, the East Europeans shot at the target 18 times but failed to trouble the scoreboard operator; the fundamental reason they missed out on the last four. "My players did very well today, but it was all for nothing because we didn't take our chances," lamented coach Gennadiy Lisenchuk. Nonetheless, his men exited the event with heads held high after some impressive displays including the 5-4 first-round victory over Egypt when the side showed huge resilience to come back from a 3-0 deficit. Ukraine's focus now turns to the European Championship in February 2005 and an opening clash with hosts Czech Republic.
Portugal: Iberian hopefuls thwarted by keeper from next door
"We've got much better technically. I couldn't have asked for more from my players. We were clearly better than Spain in the second half, but we had no luck at all," downcast Portugal coach Orlando Duarte summarised after watching his team exit the tournament. The Portuguese staged a 20 minute bombardment of their Iberian neighbours' goal, but a certain Luis Amado broke Portugal hearts with a string of outstanding saves. The keeper threw out an arm here, a leg there, in fact wherever and whenever danger threatened. Overall the Portuguese enjoyed an outstanding tournament and a star was born in the shape of defender Ivan, a key figure in the historic 0-0 draw with Italy, the first ever goalless draw at the World Championship. The Portuguese ran up grandiose victories against the Czechs and earlier against Iran, and will be upbeat as they look ahead to the 2005 European showdown in Ostrava where they open with a rematch against Italy.
USA: Time for older generation to bow out
Second round results indicated the USA progressed as far as their abilities would allow. Following a 2-1 reverse against Argentina and a 3-1 defeat to Ukraine, the Americans went down with all guns blazing in an 8-5 goal fiesta against Brazil. Summarised coach Keith Tozer: "I think we've seen our game may be a little static, although we have quality in the side. Obviously I can't be satisfied with our results." On balance, Tozer saw the event in a positive light as his team came on well despite the fact a number of his players had only completed 15 or fewer games of futsal. The coach turned his gaze to the future. "Let's see where we get our international stars from over the next few years. We put up the oldest team at this tournament [with an average age of 30 years and six months]. I think we need a U-19 and U-20 set-up."
Czech Republic: On the fringe of the European elite.
On the eve of the second round, Czech boss Michal Striz observed: "You could say it's an advantage that we're up against the devil we know, but look at what that means. Spain, Italy and Portugal are the crème de la crème in Europe." A few days later, the coach's words resembled an unpleasantly accurate prophecy as his side fell 2-0 against Spain, 8-4 against Portugal and 3-0 to the Italians. The coach refused to be downhearted: "We knew exactly where we stood against the other three teams in our group. We're amateurs, the others are pros and the physical factor made the difference. We'll start preparing for the European Championship now. I hope we'll keep on improving from today onwards." The Czechs' happiest memory of Chinese Taipei will be an entertaining first round meeting with Brazil ending in a creditable 4-1 defeat in one of the most lively games of the tournament.