Sat, Nov 20, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Futsal championships tokick of at NTU in Taipei

AP , TAIPEI

Defending champion Spain will face a strong challenge from three-time winner Brazil when the FIFA Futsal World Championship kicks off tomorrow in Taipei.

This is the first time that the championship will be held in Taiwan, and a local team will also take part in the tournament.

Other Asian qualifiers are Japan, Thailand and Iran, which went through to the quarterfinals in Guatemala in 2000.

The opening ceremony and opening game, featuring Taiwan and Egypt, kicks off at 3pm at National Taiwan University.

Spain might have a hard time proving its 2000 victory was no fluke after three of its top players will miss the 16-nation tournament because of injuries.

Nine other members of the 2000 squad won't be playing because they have left the team, Spanish coach Javier Lozano said.

"My current side may not be as compact as the one four years ago, and we have not yet reached the level of performance I am aiming for, but when this year's tournament kicks off, Spain will be ready," Lozano said.

Futsal, or indoor soccer, is played with five players per side over two 20-minute periods. The playing area is the size of a basketball court.

This year's tournament is the fifth since the competition began in 1989. The Brazilians won the first three championships. Spain won the final in Guatemala four years ago.

Brazil holds the record for goals in the competition with 210 scored over the previous four championships, an average of 6.6 goals per game. Rival Spain is No. 2 with 131 goals, followed by the Netherlands with 75. But the Dutch failed to qualify this year.

The tournament, which ends on Dec. 5, also features teams hailing from Egypt, Australia, Thailand, the Czech Republic, Paraguay, the US, Iran and Cuba.

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