Brazil, Russia and Italy had cause for celebration as Groups A and B reached their conclusions, but the story of the day belonged to Paraguay. Ruben Subeldia's side, twice behind and seemingly on their way out of the FIFA Futsal World Cup, produced an admirable fightback to win 4-2 and finish top of their section. The Azzurri were on the receiving end of this result, but were consumed by relief when the final whistle at the Maracanazinho confirmed they would join their opponents in the second round, edging Portugal for the runners-up spot by the narrowest of margins.
Matters were uncomplicated in Group A. The hosts swept aside Cuba to take first phase, with Russia making light work of Japan to follow them.
The big game
Italy 2-4 Paraguay
When Sandro Zanetti fired the Azzurri into an early lead, few could have predicted the drama that was to follow. First, Jose Rotella equalised, but an own goal sent the Europeans in 2-1 up at the interval. Fabio Alcaraz restored parity just after the restart, before the game flowed from end to end. Staring elimination in the face, Paraguay needed to go for broke and fortunately for their supporters, Rotella emerged a hero, setting up the game's fifth goal for Rene Villalba and completing a 4-2 success himself to send his side through as Group B winners. Italy, meanwhile, progressed in second place courtesy of a superior goal difference over Portugal in matches between the three sides who finished on nine points.
The other games
At the start of play, many felt three points against Thailand would be enough for Portugal to progress. However, although they kept their side of the bargain, Paraguay's upset of Italy sealed Orlando Duarte's team's elimination. The Thais had looked set to snatch a point when Panuwat Janta made it 2-2 with two minutes remaining, but Cardinal struck a last-gasp winner for Portugal, albeit to no avail.
Brazil delivered another staunch notice of their title intent over in Group A, beating Cuba 9-0 to reach the next phase with maximum points in the pocket. Betao rounded off an eye-catching team move to seal the victory, underlining the alliance of a team decorated by glittering individuals. Impregnable defensively and irrepressible offensively, the Seleção advanced having scored 49 goals and conceded just once in four games.
Russia and Japan met in what was effectively a play-off to finish as the pool's runners-up, and although they kicked off level on points, a gulf separated them 40 minutes later. Oleg Ivanov's side ran out 9-1 winners in front of a Maracanazinho crowd which applauded each of their fluent, purposeful attacks.
Dmitry Prudnikov (RUS)
Damir Khamadiev may have posted a hat-trick, but it was the performance of one of his Russia team-mates which most caught the eye. Prudnikov launched several of his side's vibrant attacking waves, and his relentless endeavours were rewarded with two goals and an assist.
50 - The number of goals Russia managed in Group A. Remarkably, having failed to score against Brazil, they needed only three games, against Cuba, Solomon Islands and Japan, to reach the half-century.
What they said
"Brasil are a superior side, so I told my players to concentrate and play a good game. We're leaving this competition with more experience. We achieved our goal, which was to win one match, and used this opportunity to learn even more," Elddys Valdes, Cuba coach.
All the results
Brazil 9-0 Cuba
Russia 9-1 Japan
Italy 2-4 Paraguay
Portugal 3-2 Thailand