Matchday 7 sees the teams in Groups A and B play their third and decisive matches of the initial phase of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016. Hosts Colombia must defeat Panama if they are to keep their dream alive and advance to the Round of 16, while Uzbekistan are confronted with a tricky challenge in the shape of an on-song Portugal side, not dissimilar to the one facing Cuba versus Russia. Elsewhere, Thailand and Egypt will have no margin for error in their winner-takes-all clash in Medellin.
FIFA.com takes a look at Friday’s crucial fixtures.
Match of the day
Panama-Colombia, Group A, 20:00 (local time)
Colombian fans had high expectations prior to the tournament, especially after their heroes had clinched fourth place at Thailand 2012, in what was their Futsal World Cup debut. Los Cafeteros now find themselves with their backs against the wall, having collected just two points so far from two nervy, suspenseful encounters. The South Americans are therefore left with no choice other than to win their final Group A match against Panama, who are currently well-positioned to qualify for the knockout stages.
The other matches
Uzbekistan lost 3-1 to Panama, who were then comprehensively defeated by Portugal (9-0). There is consequently little room for optimism ahead of the AFC representatives’ duel with the European heavyweights, but they will nevertheless do their best to overturn the form book.
After enjoying an opening-day victory over Cuba (7-1) in Group B, Egypt fell back down to Earth with a bump against Russia, who took advantage of the Africans’ poor passing, defensive lapses and misfiring attack to win 6-1. Thailand, meanwhile, bounced back from an initial loss to secure three points in their second match. With a place in the last 16 at stake, both teams will fancy their chances in what promises to be a closely contested game.
In Group B’s other match, Cuba will need to stop the free-scoring Russians from finding the net and putting the result beyond doubt early on. On top of that, Eder Lima and his team-mates are unlikely to take their foot off the pedal should they secure a healthy lead; it could well be a long night for the Cubans.
Player to watch
When Ricardinho is in the mood, Portugal tend to reap the benefits. The clinical 31-year-old was in sensational scoring form against Panama, firing home no fewer than six times. Indeed, only three players have ever scored more goals than him in a single Futsal World Cup match. Can the Portuguese magician conjure up a similar performance versus Uzbekistan?
6 – Talent, desire and tactical discipline can sometimes count for nothing when experience is lacking. In their first-ever appearance at the Futsal World Cup, Uzbekistan have thus far conceded a respectable total of six goals in two matches, while notching four of their own at the other end.
“My players often come back from a bad game with a good result in their next one. That’s why I’ve got a hunch that they’ll play fantastically well against Egypt, after their rather disappointing performance against Cuba,” Thailand coach Miguel Conde.
Panama-Colombia (20:00, Cali)
Portugal-Uzbekistan (20:00, Medellin)
Egypt-Thailand (18:00, Medellin)
Russia-Cuba (18:00, Cali)
(All times local)