Ukraine booked its place in the second-round group stage of the FIFA Futsal World Championship yesterday by beating Taiwan 7-2 at the National Taiwan University Gymnasium in Taipei. Defeats at the hands of Egypt and Spain earlier in the competition meant that regardless of the result Taiwan could not qualify for the second round, but this didn't deter the hosts from putting up a spirited and at times fluid display of futsal.
Playing for pride and with nothing to lose, Taiwan kept the Eastern Europeans at bay for much the first half. Ukraine tested and teased Taiwan but its defense remained solid and wasn't rattled by constant Ukrainian probing.
The final breakthrough came in the seventh minute, when Ukraine's Ramis Mansurov netted his second of the tournament thanks to sloppy marking. Outpacing his marker, Mansurov found himself with only Taiwan keeper Yeh Hsien-chung to beat and blasted his team into the lead from just outside of the penalty area. Sergiy Kordize made it two three minutes later with an easy tap-in from less than meter from the goal line.
A long-range shot by Oleg Shaytanov in the 13th minute made it 3-0 and it looked as if Taiwan was again going to be the routed. Within seconds of the restart, however, Taiwan's Chen Chia-ho found himself in front of goal and much to the joy of the 1,850 fans scored the hosts' first goal of the tournament. It might not have been beautiful, but the goal lifted Taiwan's spirits and for the first time in the competition the team began to work as one solid unit.
Another goal by Shaytanov in the 18th minute made 4-1 and with seconds on the clock Mansurov scored his second of the game to increase Ukraine's lead to 5-1. Taiwan may have gone into the dressing room four goals down and looking slightly dejected, but the team that emerged for the second half was fired-up and certainly not willing to simply roll over and die in front of the Ukrainian juggernaut.
Taiwan's defense was on fire and tight marking stymied all Ukrainian effort to score. Two yellow cards in the opening three minutes of the second was a telling sign of Ukrainian frustration at its inability to break down Taiwan's wall-like defensive barrier. Against the run of play, a long pass from deep in his own half enabled Chang Chien-ying to break away from his marker and, to the surprise of the home crowd, he netted Taiwan's second in the 25th minute.
The match settled down for the remainder of the second half and Taiwan's defense continued to stifle all Ukrainian efforts to score. Try as they might, Taiwan couldn't put a stop to the Ukraine and Vitaliy Brunko made the most of a messy goalmouth situation in the 38th minute to put Ukraine 6-2 ahead. A rash dive by Taiwan's substitute keeper, Chen Yang-sheng, brought down Kordize in the penalty area and the number four tapped in Ukraine's final goal to give them a sizable, but far from easy 7-2 victory over a much improved Taiwan team. With seconds on the clock, Chen was himself involved in a penalty-area collision and was stretchered off with less a minute on the clock.
The result means that in three matches Taiwan conceded 29 goals, scored two goals and finished with zero points. While the team's position was predictable even before the competition began, its two goals were far more than Belgian coach Damien Knabben ever expected.