South American qualifiers for #FutsalWC 2021 about to get underway
Top four secure tickets to World Cup
Brazil and Argentina, strong favourites for regional tournament
The South American qualifying event for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™ gets underway this weekend featuring reigning world champions Argentina and five-time world champions Brazil.
📍 Host city: Carlos Barbosa (Brazil) 🗓 Dates: 1-9 February ⚽️ At stake: Four places at Lithuania 2021 🧐 Qualifying format: the first round will feature two groups of five, with countries playing each other on a round-robin basis. The top two from each pool are guaranteed World Cup berths as well as places in the semi-finals. In addition to the final, matches for third, fifth, seventh and ninth place will also take place.
Everyone expects Brazil to take one of the group’s two tickets, not least Rodrigo, who confirmed as much recently to FIFA.com. One of the team’s leaders since Falcao's retirement, the defender said: "We’re very strong and will be going into the tournament in the best possible shape to try to win back the title."
Paraguay would appear to be the pick of the remaining quartet. With the experienced Carlos Chilavert at the helm of a squad containing seven veterans of the 2016 World Cup, La Albirroja have more than enough in their locker to reach their fifth consecutive world finals.
Meanwhile Colombia, who have the gifted Angelott Caro in their ranks, could also spring a surprise, especially after the experience of hosting the last World Cup. Ecuador and Peru, for their part, will need to be pitch perfect if they are to realise their qualification dreams.
With the nucleus of the squad that claimed an epic world title win in 2016 still intact, Argentina start as runaway favourites in this section. In conversation with FIFA.com, wide player Constantine Vaporaki said his side had lofty ambitions again this year: "Our first objective is to reach the World Cup, but after that, we want to win the qualifying tournament."
Aside from La Alibiceleste, keep a close eye on Uruguay and Venezuela. The former finished third in the last edition of this tournament and were quarter-finalists in the 2017 Copa America, while the latter reached the final phase of both tournaments and have the benefit of a competitive domestic league.
For all that, it would be unwise to write off Chile, which have demonstrated steady progress under Argentinian coach Vicente De Luise, one of the pioneers of South American futsal. In that context, Bolivia will need to get the very best out of their players to be in the mix.
Did you know...?
This will be the third edition of the South American qualifiers: Argentina (2012) and Brazil (2016) won the previous two.
Along with Spain, Argentina and Brazil are the only teams to have played at all eight previous editions of the Futsal World Cup.
The other South American sides to have graced the World Cup are Paraguay (six times), Uruguay (three) and Colombia (two).
Of the team of referees selected to officiate at the qualifying event, three will be women: Maria Estefania Pinto (Argentina), Valeria Palma (Chile) and Anelize Schulz (Brazil).