Beaten in the 2010 Grand Prix de Futsal final by big rivals Spain, Brazil had nothing but victory on their mind ahead of this year’s competition, which they hosted in Manaus last week. And while A Canarinha found the going tougher than they would have liked on home soil, they ultimately achieved their goal, a superb extra-time strike by star man Falcao clinching a 2-1 win over Russia in the final and their sixth Grand Prix title in seven attempts.

After defeating Iran 4-2 in the match for third place, neighbours Argentina climbed on to the podium for the fourth time in the history of the competition and the first since finishing runners-up in 2008. looks back at the highs and lows of the week-long tournament, which brought together 16 teams from five confederations, all of whom are hoping to feature prominently at next year’s FIFA Futsal World Cup, to be staged in Thailand.

Team triumph
Marcos Sorato’s champions barely put a foot wrong in front of their fans, winning all five of their games en route to edging out the Russians. In doing so they racked up 33 goals, more than any other side in the tournament, and also boasted the tightest defence, conceding just five times all week.

After easing through the group phase, they swamped quarter-final opponents Uruguay 12-0 and then had to dig somewhat deeper to dispose of Iran 3-0 in the semis.

Cheered on by 10,000 fans, the hosts were pushed all the way by Russia in the final, the underdogs even having the temerity to take the lead. Valdin’s equaliser took the game into extra time, however, with Falcao’s sumptuous strike settling the issue.

“It wasn’t easy to take on such tough opponents and come from a goal behind, especially when they’re so dangerous on the counter-attack,” commented coach Sorato afterwards. “The players kept their nerve and that was the key factor for us in winning a tournament that’s getting harder and harder, as we saw last year.”

Falcao, Brazil’s second-highest scorer with five goals (two behind Lukaian), spoke of his relief at scoring the winner, his first goal in three games: “I was definitely due an important goal and I’m delighted it came. The whole team rose to the occasion, though, especially Tiago and Valdin.”

Russians on the rise
Eighth last year, the Russians surprised no one with their ultra-solid showing in Manaus, having tested Brazil’s mettle in the semi-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil 2008. In notching four wins and two draws in normal time, the eastern Europeans scored 29 goals and let in 11, a record bettered only by the hosts.

“We had a great campaign with some excellent performances,” said their Brazilian-born naturalised goalkeeper Gustavo, one of the stars of a fine side. “Defeat in the final was down to little details, but the result doesn’t really spoil our tournament. Russia have definitely arrived in the world futsal elite.”

Argentina’s record was identical to the Russians, who beat them 3-2 in extra time in the semis, preventing them from contesting their first final since 2008. Nevertheless, La Albiceleste cemented their status as the second-best team in South America, having finished runners-up to Brazil at this year’s Copa America. Providing the firepower up front for them were Alamiro Vaporaki and Santiago Basile, who scored virtually half the team’s 26 goals between them.

After finishing fourth in 2010 it was no shock to see Iran repeat the feat. Runners-up to Brazil in 2007 and 2009, the Asian side have now reached the semi-finals four times in the last five Grands Prix and stood tall once more thanks to contributions from Ali Asghar Hassanzadeh, Mohammad Keshavarz Nasrabadi and Mohammad Taheri, all of them veterans of Brazil 2008.

Also deserving of honourable mentions are Guatemala, who beat Paraguay to fifth place, and Andre Vanderlei, who hails from Brazil but scored 11 goals for Belgium to end the tournament as the leading marksman. Three teams to disappoint, however, were the African trio of Angola, Mozambique and Zambia, who finished the competition in 11th, 12th and 16th places respectively.