A major milestone in the countdown to the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016, Thursday’s Official Draw revealed the fate of the 24 national teams who will contest the competition.
Held in Medellin, one of the tournament’s three host cities, the event saw hosts Colombia drawn into Group A, where they will play all their games in Cali and will round off the opening day of the competition, Saturday 10 September, with a tough outing against Portugal. Completing one of the most difficult sections are Uzbekistan and Panama.
Five-time winners Brazil will make their debut a day later in Bucaramanga, taking on Ukraine in Group D, which also features Australia and debutants Mozambique.
Meanwhile, two-time winners Spain will kick off their campaign on Monday 12 September in Medellin, when they take on the Asian powerhouse Iran in Group F, a pool that also involves African champions Morocco and Azerbaijan.
Taking to the stage
Held at Medellin’s Plaza Mayor Conference Centre, the draw ceremony was hosted by popular sports commentators Ricardo Orrego and Marina Granziera, and began with the playing of the Colombian national anthem. Up next on the stage was a key player in the upcoming tournament: the official match ball, which was delivered to its plinth by Julio, a FIFA Futsal World Cup winner with Brazil in 2000.
Earning the day’s first ovation was another Brazilian idol, Falcao, who presented the official trophy following a video showcasing his incredible ball skills. The greatest futsal player in the world, Falcao had the honour of lifting the trophy almost four years ago in Thailand and will be looking to get his hands on it once more at the end of this year's final, to be played in Cali on Sunday 1 October.
Following welcome messages from Mayor of Medellin, Federico Gutierrez and Coldeportes director Clara Cruz Roldan, CONMEBOL President and FIFA Vice-President Alejandro Dominguez addressed the audience.
“On behalf of FIFA President Gianni Infantino and as the president of CONMEBOL, I would like to welcome you to the official draw of the FIFA Futsal World Cup,” he said. “I am sure the representatives of the teams are as anxious as we all are to find out who they will be up against and in which cities they will be contesting the group phase. I personally cannot wait to be back here in a few months to watch the games.”
Giving the last of the speeches, Ramon Jesurun, President of the Colombian Football Federation (FCF) and the Colombia 2016 LOC, said: “We have three cities that will be spectacular hosts. We also have an absolute desire to build further upon what this sport has accomplished at world level. Futsal produces exquisite quality and technique resulting in magic, and is a show that we will enjoy from beginning to end."
The high point of the evening
The near 400 guests and 80 members of the press were then treated to a performance by Colombian singer Martina, La Peligrosa, who filled the room with the sounds of her hit song Veneno por Amor (“Love Poison”). The pop star had several members of the audience out of their seats dancing, as well as the tournament’s official mascot, the bespectacled bear.
It was time then for the moment everyone had been waiting for, with FIFA Event Manager Jaime Yarza taking over as master of ceremonies. After explaining the procedure for the draw, he called the draw assistants on to the stage, with Medellin-born former Colombia international Juan Pablo Angel and Los Cafeteros’ first-choice goalkeeper David Ospina lining up on one side of the stage, and former futsal world champions Kike of Spain and Marquinho of Brazil taking up position on the other.
One by one, the names of the participating national teams were drawn out of the pots, with the groups gradually taking shape on the big screen in the auditorium. Following events closely, the audience let out the occasional gasp, not least when the identity of Colombia’s first opponents was revealed.
"Colombia has a very difficult group, but they have progressed a lot and I trust they will do well," said Kike. "They have chances to advance to the next round. Spain's group is not easy, because once again we face Iran and now we also have the African champions. We will see what the first matches bring to us."
"Brazil has a very balanced group, and can't take anything for granted", said Marquinho. When asked to comment on his candidates to sparkle at the tournament, the Brazilian did not hesitate. "Russia, Colombia, Portugal, Italy and Spain, they are always tough and in good shape."
Turning in a performance as electrifying and intense as futsal itself, Martina, La Peligrosa *captivated the audience once more with her powerful voice, bringing the event to an end with the song La Paligrosa*.
Group A: Colombia, Portugal, Uzbekistan, Panama
Group B:Thailand, Russia, Cuba, Egypt
Group C: Paraguay, Italy, Vietnam, Guatemala
Group D:Ukraine, Brazil, Mozambique, Australia
Group E: Argentina, Kazakhstan, Solomon Islands, Costa Rica
Group F:Iran, Spain, Morocco, Azerbaijan