When Brazil captain Vinicius hoisted the FIFA Futsal World Cup Trophy in front of a delirious crowd at midday on 19 October 2008, it was a case of ‘mission accomplished' for the Auriverdes, as the South Americans claimed the most prestigious trophy in the game for the fourth time.
The side coached by Paulo de Oliveira were truly impressive throughout the tournament on home soil, dominating their rivals at will from the start to the finish. The Brazilians won all seven of their first and second round matches on their way to a remarkable goal difference of plus 54, with 58 goals scored and only four conceded. Falcao & Co never looked in any danger in their semi-final clash with Russia as they inexorably homed in on their target.
The final against arch-rivals and holders Spain was the only match the FIFA Futsal World Cup hosts failed to win in normal time, but they proceeded to claim the trophy in a six-metre shoot-out, sending the crowd at the Maracanazinho in Rio de Janeiro into raptures.
Accolades for Brazil, respect for Spain
Both the tournament stats and the individual awards reflected the new world champions' superiority in almost every department. Falcao, Schumacher and Tiago swept the Best Player awards, while Falcao and team-mate Lenisio collected the adidas silver and bronze shoes respectively as second and third-highest scorers. Tiago was also named Best Goalkeeper at the tournament.
Runners-up Spain earned huge respect as the only team capable of matching the Auriverdes. After claiming the trophy twice in a row, coach Venancio Lopez and veteran stars Javi Rodriguez, Kike and Marcelo were forced to settle for the runners-up spot on this occasion, as the Brazilians shaded the shoot-out 4-3. Captain Rodriguez at least had the minor consolation of accepting the Fair Play award on behalf of his men.
Iran and Russia catching up fast
Iran and Russia were the surprise packages at the event. The Asian champions fell just one goal short of the semi-finals as Italy edged into the last four instead. Iran skipper Vahid Shamsaee showed huge potential and was named one of the ten best players by the FIFA Technical Study Group. His team-mate Mostafa Nazari also caught the eye and finished second in the Best Goalkeeper ranking.
Under coach Oleg Ivanov, Russia confirmed their emergence as a new power in the game. The Europeans were unable to neutralise the Brazilians in the last four and then fell to Italy in the match for third place, but the team spearheaded by the tournament's leading scorer Pula and gifted schemer Vladislav Shayakhmetov underlined their growing reputation as one of the best in the world. They are young too, and will assuredly be there or thereabouts at the next FIFA Futsal World Cup in four years' time.
* Experience versus youth*
Italy, runners-up in 2004 and at the 2007 European championships, once again claimed a place in the last four, falling only to bitter rivals Spain in the very last second of extra-time. Veteran 37-year-old keeper Alexandre Feller, captain Grana and Adriano Foglia were the best of a typically solid and vastly experienced Italian team.
Alongside the usual suspects, the tournament also threw up a crop of promising newcomers to the higher echelons of the world game. Ukraine emerged triumphantly from a group including Argentina, African runners-up Egypt and CONCACAF champions Guatemala. The men from Central America missed out on a place in the second round, but coach Carlos Estrada's youngsters showed encouraging promise for the future.
Mixed bag for big names
Portugal and Argentina will have cause to ponder and reflect on their performance at the tournament. The Europeans failed to make it beyond the first round, a setback after thoroughly positive showings at previous world and continental championships. The Gauchos cannot be happy either after missing out on a spot in the last four, certainly a disappointment following a creditable fourth-place finish in Chinese Taipei four years ago.
There were moments to admire from a clutch of the remaining contenders too. Czech Republic, Libya, Thailand and Cuba all showed promise, although they will be only too conscious of the gap that remains between themselves and the giants of the world game.
* ParticipantsEgypt, Argentina, Brazil, China PR, Guatemala, Iran, Italy, Japan, Cuba, Libya, Paraguay, Portugal, Russia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Thailand, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Uruguay, USA
* Final standings
1. Brazil (Gold)
2. Spain (Silver)
3. Italy (Bronze)
Fair Play award
Gimnasio Nilson Nelson (Brasilia), Maracanazinho (Rio de Janeiro)
387 (average 6.91 goals per game)
16: Pula (RUS)
15: Falcao (BRA)
11: Lenisio (BRA)