Matchday 9 preview: Argentina-IR Iran takes top billing
Final group-phase matchday at Lithuania 2021
Argentina and IR Iran in battle for top in Group F; Spain already through also
Japan and Paraguay to fight it out for second place in Group E; last chance for USA and Serbia
Group E Japan - Paraguay, Vilnius (18:00) Spain - Angola, Klaipeda (18:00)
Group F Argentina – IR Iran, Vilnius (20:00) USA - Serbia, Klaipeda (20:00)
Although Japan and Paraguay both know that a point will take them into the Round of 16, they will want to avoid going through as one of the four best third-placed teams. With four goals to his name, Japan’s Artur is right in contention for the adidas Golden Shoe and is the main threat of a team that showed up well on their last outing, against Spain. Meanwhile Paraguay’s hopes depend on their ability to keep it tight at the back and take their chances up front.
Bottom of Group E with no points and a goal difference of -7, Angola will somehow need to fashion a big win against Spain to give themselves a chance of progressing. Coach Rui Sampaio is aware that his side will need to produce the perfect match and cut out the basic errors that plagued them in their first two outings. For their part, Spain, who are already through, will be keen to put the problems they had in beating Japan behind them.
“They’re really tough opponents,” said Argentina’s Matias Lucuix in reference to IR Iran, ahead of one of the biggest games in the group phase. It pitches the defending champions against the team who finished third at Colombia 2016, with the top spot in Group F at stake. While La Albiceleste are a free-scoring outfit, which, incidentally chalked up the country’s 150th FIFA Futsal World Cup™ goal in the win over Serbia, IR Iran like to keep things tight and play the game at their pace.
Beaten 11-0 by Argentina in their opener, USA acquitted themselves well in going down to the Iranians in their next game, causing the Asian side a problem or two. That improvement will give them hope ahead of their meeting with Serbia. Both sides are pointless going into the game and know that they need to win and then hope for the best, especially the North Americans, whose goal difference took a massive dent against the world champions. They will need Luciano Gonzalez to be on top of his game. Facing him will be Miodrag Aksentijevic, who was Serbia’s leading performer against La Albiceleste, a match in which the Balkan side played some enterprising futsal at times.
“It was different to our first game because we took the chances we created in the first half. We tend to create a lot but only put a few of them away. It’s a problem for us and we hope we can sort it out in the next few games.” Paraguay coach Carlos Chilavert, speaking after the 4-1 defeat of Angola