Five youngsters illuminating Lithuania

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21 Sep 2021
  • A Brazilian had the crowd on its feet with his patented party piece

  • A Portuguese kid is “definitely a man on the court”

  • One boy wonder only took up futsal three years ago

Youssef Jouad

Morocco arrived in Lithuania having lost all six of their FIFA Futsal World Cup matches. They arrived in Lithuania, nevertheless, with a 21-year-old whom coach Hicham Dguig knew would be central to ripping up that run. Jouad didn’t steal the headlines in the 6-0 win over Solomon Islands in their curtain-raiser, but he opened the scoring, and was arguably their top performer, in both the 1-1 draw with Thailand and 3-3 draw with Portugal. Excellent both offensively and defensively, the winger certainly has a bright future. Will his present include a trip to the quarter-finals? “He's an exciting young player, he’s versatile and plays with freedom, whilst he has demonstrated here what his true potential can be,” said FIFA futsal instructor Graeme Dell. “To come to a World Cup as the youngest player on your team creates high expectations, but he has already supported the faith placed in him by Hicham Dguig. Futsal needs to find its next role models and Jouad has an opportunity to be one of those.”

Leozinho

He may cringe hearing it, but if Leozinho keeps unleashing hypnotising sorcery, they won’t stop calling him ‘The new Falcao’.

His goal against Panama – with the goalkeeper on him he intuitively dragged the ball back and dinked it over him – drew grand applause from everyone inside Klaipeda Arena. The patented lambreta that snuck him past two Panamanians had the entire crowd on its feet. “He’s the future of our sport,” Brazil captain Rodrigo told FIFA.com. “I have the privilege of playing with him at Magnus. He can do breathtaking things with the ball. He has magnificent potential.”

Khusniddin Nishonov

Uzbekistan required victory over Egypt to have any chance of reaching the knockout phase. Nishonov set them en route to it after just two minutes, somehow fusing thunder with curl. His infallible defensive capabilities then stood out to keep the opponents’ goal-count down and help the White Wolves make history. “He’s very good in one-versus-one situations,” said FIFA futsal instructor Miguel Rodrigo. “He has a good shot on him, as we saw against Egypt. He is the future but also the present of the Uzbekistan national team, already established in the starting five. He is a player you can bank on on the court.”

Nguyen Van Hieu

Ready for an astonishing fact? When the last FIFA Futsal World Cup took place, Van Hieu had never even played the sport. He took it up in 2018, was a Vietnam international just 12 months later and is now dazzling at Lithuania 2021. And the winger who looks like a schoolboy had old pros feeling their age on Matchday 5. Van Hieu thwarted a Panama attack with an excellent tackle inside his own half, whizzed the length of the court, shrugged off two challenges, rounded the goalkeeper and cut the ball from an acute angle. “Van Hieu is the talent of Vietnamese futsal,” coach Pham Minh Giang told FIFA.com. “His playing philosophy is very up-to-date. He is a very promising player.”

Zicky

The hulking pivot arrived in Lithuania with a hulking reputation to justify: he was fresh from becoming the first teenager to score in a UEFA Futsal Champions League final, and beating Ferrao and Douglas Junior to win the award for that competition’s best player. Now 20, he’s wholly lived up to it. Unshakable with his back to goal, boasting sea spider’s legs, which angle through non-existent gaps to steal the ball, and skilful for a player of his frame, Zicky excelled in Portugal’s 4-1 win over Thailand and 3-3 draw with Morocco. “They call him ’miudo’ (kid) in Portugal, but he’s definitely a man on the court,” Taynan told FIFA.com. "He’s impressing a lot with his physical and technical ability. He’s going to surprise a lot of people at this tournament."