However the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 concludes, the tournament will go down as a watershed. For the first time, the trophy will not be lifted by Brazil or Spain, with either Russia or Argentina – both of whom will be making their maiden appearance in the final – set to claim the crown in Cali this Saturday, 1 October. Iran also have the opportunity to break new ground by securing third place up against Portugal, who are looking to repeat their feat of 2000 by rounding off the podium.
Final*Russia-Argentina, Coliseo el Pueblo, Cali, 1 October 2016, 14:30 (local time)
*The Russians have resembled a juggernaut en route to the final. They started off by sweeping all before them in Group B, in which only Thailand managed to briefly hold their own against them before succumbing 6-4, while Egypt and Cuba were summarily dismissed 6-1 and 7-1 respectively. The eastern Europeans were even more rampant against Vietnam in the Round of 16, prevailing 7-0, before producing another powerful display in their 6-2 victory over Spain in the quarter-finals. Lastly, Iran, who had upset Brazil, were beaten 4-3 in the semis. The secret to Russia's success? A perfect blend of gifted individuals with a wide range of attributes, united by their spirit, confidence and winning mentality.
The Argentinians, for their part, have gone from strength to strength after surviving some struggles in the early stages. They opened their Group E campaign by labouring to a 1-0 win over Kazakhstan, before defeating Solomon Islands 7-3 in a game in which they had more trouble than expected. Argentina then rounded off the group stage by being held to a 2-2 draw by Costa Rica. The South Americans put their fans through the wringer again in the last 16, being taken to extra time by Ukraine before running out 1-0 winners. However, it has been plain sailing since then, with a 5-0 thrashing of Egypt in the quarters followed by an equally impressive 5-2 triumph over Portugal in the last four. La Albiceleste boast the best defensive record in the competition and look to be peaking at the right time.
Match for third place*Iran-Portugal, Coliseo el Pueblo, Cali, 1 October 2016, 12:00 (local time)
*As 11-time Asian champions, Iran's credentials are beyond question and they have a habit of ending matches with smiles on their faces. That said, their long relationship with the Futsal World Cup has been somewhat tumultuous and they will be without captain Mohammad Keshavarz and Ghodrat Bahadori as they target their first-ever podium finish.
Ricardinho had an off night against Argentina in the semi-finals and Portugal paid the price. The Seleção das Quinas will now be intent on rediscovering the attacking prowess and defensive solidity they had shown in their previous five encounters, in which they shone, in order to head home on a high.
Player to watch*Robinho (RUS)
*The diminutive star is the sole Russian player who is yet to score so far, although it has not been for a want of trying. The winger, who at 5'6 (1.67m) is the smallest player in the Russia squad, has been making things happen for his team from the outset of the competition, but has consistently come up short in front of goal. Has he saved the best for last?
The stat6 –The number of current members of the Argentina and Russia set-ups who were in the thick of the action the last time the countries met, in a 2-2 draw in the second round at Brazil 2008. Of the players still going strong, Vladislav Shayakhmetov was on the pitch for the Russians, while Cristian Borruto, Fernando Wilhelm and Maximiliano Rescia were all involved for the Argentinians. On top of that, Diego Giustozzi, now the *Albiceleste *coach, and his assistant Matias Lucuix were both in the starting line-up.
The words"Russia have had an excellent World Cup. Our priority will be to stay faithful to our style of play. I will try to give my players the tools to make sure that they are ready for the final," Argentina coach Diego Giustozzi.
Match scheduleIran-Portugal (Coliseo el Pueblo, Cali, 12:00)
Russia-Argentina (Coliseo el Pueblo, Cali, 14:30)
All times local