Argentina wins futsal crown in Cali

Argentina claim their first ever FIFA Futsal World Cup title. Photo: Comité Olímpico Colombia

For the first time in the history of the FIFA Futsal World Cup, Argentina lifted the trophy. Los Albicelestes beat Russia in the final 5-4, with captain Fernando Wilhelm named as player of the tournament.

It is the first time the futsal tournament has been held in Colombia, and overall the event was filled with spectacles and many surprises. The matches were hosted in Bucaramanga, Medellín and Cali, where, unfortunately, the organisation saw lots of empty seats in the vast majority of the games.

Argentina may not have had any real stars in the team, but it didn’t stop them playing an energetic tournament. They piled on the pressure at every opportunity, constantly pushing for weaknesses in the opponent’s defence, more than making up for the lack of a star player like Ricardinho, Eder Lima or Falcão. Goalkeeper Nicolás Sarmiento proved man of the match in the final with some incredible saves. 

Favourites Brazil cruised through the group stage with easy victories over Ukraine, Australia and Mozambique, but to everybody’s surprise, the round of 16 proved the Waterloo for the five-time world champion. Iran, always an outsider for the podium in futsal, took Brazil out in a penalty shoot out after a 4-4 final score. That result meant that Falcão, the best player in futsal history, was forced into early retirement, since he had already announced it would be his last tournament. The moment didn’t go unnoticed. The Iranian players took the 39-year-old futsal magician on their shoulders in tribute to his career. Iran then went on to take the bronze medal, the first Asian medal in the 27-year history of the tournament.

Colombian squad left shattered as they are eliminated in the round of 16 of the FIFA Futsal World Cup. Photo: Comité Olímpico Colombia

Historically the tournament had been dominated by Brazil and Spain (2 titles), but the Iberian nation was another early victim, as they were eliminated by Russia in the quarter finals. Russia, with Eder Lima and Robinho as star players, devastated the Spanish team with a 6-2 final score. The Russians pushed past Iran in the semi-finals before meeting Argentina in the finals.

Colombia had a difficult tournament, a good 1-1 versus Portugal was followed by a disappointing 3-3 against Uzbekistan. The 4-3 victory versus Panama in the final game saw the hosts through to the round of 16, but the victory proved a costly one. Star players Angellot Caro and Jorge Abril – responsible for 75% of the goal production until then – were both suspended for the second round game against Paraguay. Their absence was keenly felt, with an unusual 0-0 on the board, after which Colombia were eliminated in the penalty shoot out.

For Colombia, their second round knock-out was a disappointing result, but the event organisers did their country proud. When FIFA frontman Gianni Infantino handed out the honours to the Argentine footballers, he also praised the organisation for its good work, and hinted at the possibility of holding the women’s World Cup in Colombia in 2023.

By Freek Huigen


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