The first two quarter-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 offer a striking contrast on paper: Paraguay-Iran is an unexpected clash of ambitious outsiders, while Russia-Spain is one of the sport’s classic fixtures. FIFA.com takes a look at Saturday’s intriguing pair of matches.
Match of the dayRussia-Spain, Coliseo el Pueblo, Cali, 18:00 (local time)
It does not take a genius to work out which side has deprived the Russians of glory four times in the final of the UEFA Futsal Championship, most recently in February of this year, or who defeated them in the quarter-finals of the 2012 Futsal World Cup in Thailand. There is no doubt that Spain could be described as Russia’s bogey team in recent years, but Sergey Skorovich’s men have racked up four practically perfect performances at Colombia 2016, and go into the much-anticipated last-eight duel full of confidence.
They know better than anyone, however, that they will require more than self-assurance to oust La Roja, whose clinical finishing and guile at major competitions is well documented. The Spaniards will rely on their individual talents and first-rate tactics, and hope that their vast experience in the latter stages of this prestigious tournament can see them through to the semi-finals.
The other matchParaguay-Iran, Coliseo Bicentenario, Bucaramanga, 15:30 (local time)
Bucaramanga welcomes two teams that emerged victorious from the lottery of a penalty shoot-out in the previous round. Paraguay shattered the dreams of hosts Colombia, while Iran shocked futsal heavyweights and reigning champions Brazil. While the South Americans and Asians have both shown they have the composure to deal with high-pressure moments, they have very different ways of going about their business.
Paraguay operate on enthusiasm and physical strength, backed up by solid technique. Iran, meanwhile, rely more on playing as a unit, and on the experience and confidence that come with winning 11 continental championships.
Player to watchAlireza Samimi (Iran)
Brazil are unlikely to forget the name of Alireza Samimi in a hurry. Whether he was saving volleys, one-on-ones or long-range shots, the Iranian goalkeeper put in one of the greatest performances of his career, precipitating the historic elimination of the five-time world futsal champions. Clearly growing in stature as the tournament progresses, Samimi will be keen to keep another set of South American forwards at bay on Saturday.
1 – This is the first time in five attempts that Paraguay have reached the quarter-finals of the Futsal World Cup. La Albirroja have previously fallen three times at the second-round hurdle, in 1989, 2008 and 2012.
“We’ve maybe won more trophies than Russia, but they’ve got to be regarded as favourites when you compare the performances of the two teams since the beginning of the tournament. The Russians have really been quite impressive. That said, I’m confident in my team. We’ve already overcome greater challenges in the past,” Spain coach Venancio Lopez.
Match schedule*Saturday 24 September
*Paraguay-Iran (15:30, Bucaramanga)
Russia-Spain (18:00, Cali)