Asian Futsal Cup
The 2016 AFC Futsal Championship culminated in yet another victory for Iran, who beat host nation Uzbekistan in the final. Yet while the winners were not unexpected, this was a tournament full of upsets, typified by the disappointing performance of defending champions Japan, who lost in the quarter-finals and failed to secure a place at the FIFA Futsal World Cup for the first time since 2000.
While the Iranians, Thailand and Australia celebrated their return to the Futsal World Cup, which is scheduled to be held in Colombia in September/October, Uzbekistan and Vietnam rejoiced at their first-ever qualification for the prestigious competition. FIFA.com rounds up all the action from this year’s AFC Futsal Championship.
Return to form
Iran have dominated the Asian futsal scene since the inaugural continental contest was staged in Malaysia in 1999, clinching top-three finishes at all 14 of the tournaments that have been held to date. Indeed, the Iranians have emerged victorious a staggering ten times, while finishing second once and third three times; they have consequently participated in more World Cups than any other country.
At Uzbekistan 2016, Team Melli got off to a typically strong start, comfortably winning all three of their Group B matches. They subsequently thrashed Kirghizstan 7-0 in the quarter-finals and Vietnam 13-1 in the semis, prior to coming from behind to defeat the hosts 2-1 in a closely contested final.
While Iran will be making their seventh appearance at the Futsal World Cup, debutants Uzbekistan will be hoping to build on their excellent continental displays, which enthralled local fans throughout the competition. Goalkeeper Umarov Rustam was in particularly eye-catching form, keeping a clean sheet in a quarter-final triumph over Iraq and making a decisive save in a penalty shoot-out with Thailand in the last four to qualify his team for the final.