Friday is a rest day at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil 2008, giving FIFA.com the perfect opportunity to assess all the ups and downs of a breathless ten days of action in the first group phase.
Group A: No surprises
Through: Brazil, Russia
Out: Japan, Cuba, Solomon Islands
It came as no surprise to see Brazil unleash their considerable might on their opponents. The hosts racked up a total of 49 goals in four matches, including a 7-0 demolition of Russia, who had been expected to push the Brazilians hard. Despite that setback, the Russians qualified with ease, even outscoring the Auriverde by one goal thanks in the main to a record-breaking win over Solomon Islands. The Pacific islanders finished with the worst record of the 20 teams, while Japan, who battled to the end, and Cuba, who secured an historic first win, showed signs of improvement as well as potential for the future.
Outstanding performers: Falcao, Lenisio and Schumacher (BRA); Dmitry Prudnikov and Pula (RUS); Eduardo Morales (CUB)
Group B: Paraguay work a miracle
Through: Paraguay, Italy
Out: Portugal, Thailand, USA
Paraguay pulled off the biggest shock of the tournament to date in beating 2004 runners-up Italy and winning the section. Spurred on by the goals of Rene Villalba, the Albirroja checked into the second phase for the first time in 19 years. Aside from their off-day against the South Americans, it was business as usual for the Azzurri, who were at their most impressive in beating Portugal 3-1, a result that ultimately condemned the occasionally silky Portuguese to an early exit. An entertaining Thailand side proved easy on the eye although their lack of experience showed, while USA were simply outclassed by all their rivals.
Outstanding performers: Rene Villalba (PAR), Alexandre Feller, Grana and Sergio Zanetti (ITA); Arnaldo and Ricardinho (POR); Eakapong Suratsawang (THA)
Group C: As expected
Through: Ukraine, Argentina
Out: Guatemala, Egypt, China PR
Ukraine and Argentina fulfilled the pre-tournament predictions by seizing the top two spots with a blend of tactical discipline, grit and versatility. Guatemala were the surprise package, winning two games and very nearly giving the Albiceleste a headache in the final match. A talented Egypt side showed plenty of promise and went down fighting in their three defeats, and new boys China PR also have a bright future ahead of them.
Outstanding performers: Valeriy Legchanov and Valeriy Zamyatin (UKR); Marcelo Gimenez, Matias Lucuix (ARG); Carlos Merida (GUA); Ahmed El Agouz and Hema (EGY)
Group D: Asian promise
Through: Spain, Iran
Out: Czech Republic, Libya, Uruguay
After suffering a scare against Iran in their group opener, Spain increased in stature as the first phase progressed, establishing their credentials by keeping three successive clean sheets. Meanwhile, the Asian champions proved their 3-3 draw against the holders was no fluke, stringing together a trio of wins to claim second place. Their victims in the all-important decider were Czech Republic, who have much to look forward to in the short term. Fourth-placed Libya need to add some tactical steel to their exquisite talents, while Uruguay gained some valuable experience that ought to stand them in good stead.
Outstanding performers: Javi Rodriguez, Kike and Daniel (ESP); Vahid Shamsaee and Mohammad Taheri (IRN); Roman Mares (CZE); Mohamed Rahoma (LBY)