World Futsal (5-a-side) Championship, Taiwan

16 NATIONS, initially divided into four groups of four, contested the fifth edition of football’s indoor World Championships. Three-time winners, Brazil, made an impressive start, comprehensively beating the Czech Republic, Thailand and Australia, before remaining unbeaten in the quarter final stages to reach the semifinal. Facing them for a place in the final were reigning champions, Spain, who eliminated Portugal 3-1. Portugal put up a credible performance in the tournament beating Iran and Cuba and drawing with Argentina but it was not enough to match their third place overall in the 2000 Cup.

In the other half of the draw, previously unplaced Italy not only destroyed the opposition in the opening group phase, but also advanced to the semifinals with a win over Spain. They had to overcome a FIFA inquiry, however, Brazil having accused them of the use of an ineligible player, goalkeeper Alexandre Feller, of Brazilian origin. The objection was overruled, Feller only having represented Brazil in unofficial matches previously. Italy’s surge in form may be explained by the fact that not only was their goalie born in Brazil, but also a further 12 of the 14-man squad. Their semifinal opponents were Argentina who reached that stage with ultra-defensive tactics, resulting in two previously unheard of 0-0 draws. Italy found a way through, though, forcing the Argentineans into the offensive. The surprise team of the tournament ran out 7-4 winners and faced title holders, Spain, who overcame Brazil in a penalty shoot-out, in Sunday’s final. Spain dominated the final, retaining their title 2-1.