Matchday 6 preview: Summit meeting and second chances
Second round of matches in Groups E and F
Comfortable winners over USA, Argentina face a challenge against Serbia
Spain and Japan set for Group E leadership battle, Paraguay aiming for first win
Friday 17 September (all times local)
Group E Spain-Japan, Klaipeda (18:00) Angola-Paraguay, Klaipeda (20:00)
Group F IR Iran-USA, Vilnius (18:00) Argentina-Serbia, Vilnius (20:00)
Coaches often say that the opening match of a tournament is always the toughest, because their teams usually go into it cold and they have little idea how they will play. Spain showed some first-night nerves in the first half of their Group E opener against Paraguay, until Francisco Solano set them on the road to an emphatic victory. In their second outing, La Roja will take on Japan with top spot in the section at stake.
Japan will hope to have learned lessons from the recent 2-0 friendly defeat they suffered at the hands of the Spanish. The Asian side’s main threat is Arthur Olivera, who struck four goals in the 8-4 defeat of Angola. A combative yet free-scoring outfit, the Japanese are keen to improve on their run to the last 16 at Thailand 2012, though they will need to tighten up at the back if they are to do that.
The loss to the Japanese was Angola’s FIFA Futsal World Cup™ debut and they had every reason to be content with their day’s work. “It was our first appearance at the World Cup and the team was nervous, but we’ll work hard to make sure our next match goes better,” said Angola’s Guga, reflecting the African side’s World Cup ambition.
That next match is against Paraguay, who no doubt expected more from their meeting with Spain than a deflating 4-0 defeat. The South Americans will need to be much sharper in front of goal against Angola if they are to maintain realistic hopes of qualifying from Group E.
Playing in their first FIFA Futsal World Cup since 2008, USA had a return to forget as they went down to an 11-0 defeat, albeit against reigning world champions Argentina. Their pride hurt, the Americans will need to dig deep if they are stay in contention for a place in the last 16 and go some way to matching their run to third place in 1989 and to second place three years later.
IR Iran are in a very different place after a confidence-boosting win over Serbia. Dominant in the first period, the Iranians clung on in the second. After their third place at Colombia 2016, big things are expected from IR Iran again. They will start favourites against USA, but will have to make do without the suspended Hamid Ahmadi, with Hossein Tayebi almost certain to miss out too through injury.
If there were any doubts about the form of defending champions Argentina, it took them only seven minutes and five goals against USA to show the extent of their ambition. La Albiceleste have arrived in Lithuania intent on nothing but retaining their title.
“Serbia will be much tougher opponents. They fronted up against IR Iran and they’ll make things harder for us,” said Matias Lucuix, aware that bigger challenges lie ahead in Group F. The first of them will come against the Balkan side, who are taking part in their second World Cup, having reached the last 16 on their debut at Thailand 2012. Edged out 3-2 by IR Iran in their opener, the Serbians will be striving for more consistency this time out, though they will have to do so without the suspended Slobodan Rajcevic.
“Twelve of Japan’s 14 players were making their World Cup debut. It was a vital win for us and an historic one too – the first time we’ve won our opening World Cup match. It’s buoyed our belief that we can grow in this competition.” - Japan coach Bruno Garcia
Two women will referee the Group E match between Spain and Japan: Valeria Nicole Palma (Chile) and Maria Estefania Pinto (Argentina). This is a first in the history of the FIFA Futsal World Cup.