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Road to Glory: Teams Gear Up for Intense Battles in the Pursuit of AFC Futsal Supremacy and FIFA World Cup Qualification
The stage is set for a thrilling journey as teams gear up for intense battles in pursuit of AFC Futsal supremacy and FIFA World Cup qualification. Thailand’s opponents were revealed during the draw ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Japan will commence its title defense in Group C. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran, eyeing a record-extending 13th title, leads Group D in the tournament scheduled for April 17-28, 2024.
In Group A, hosts Thailand face off against Vietnam, Myanmar, and China PR, while Group B features the Futsalroos alongside four-time runners-up Uzbekistan, 2016 quarter-finalists Iraq, and Saudi Arabia in their third AFC Futsal Asian Cup™ appearance.
Group C sees four-time champions Japan as top seeds, challenged by Tajikistan, Korea Republic, and Kyrgyz Republic, while Group D showcases Iran alongside Kuwait, Bahrain, and debutants Afghanistan.
The top four teams from the AFC Futsal Asian Cup Thailand 2024 will secure berths for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Uzbekistan 2024—marking the first time the global event takes place in Central Asia from September 14 to October 6, 2024.
The Futsalroos find themselves in a challenging group, setting the stage for a formidable test as they strive to overcome an eight-year qualification drought. Their adversaries in this quest include Uzbekistan, 2016 quarter-finalists Iraq, and formidable opponents Saudi Arabia. This marks the third appearance of the Futsalroos in the AFC Futsal Asian Cup™, and breaking through this tough group will require a resilient and determined cup final effort for each match.
Scheduled from April 17 to 28, the 17th edition of the tournament will feature 16 teams, including hosts Thailand, who automatically qualified. Teams will compete in a one-round league format, with the top two finishers in each group advancing to the quarter-finals.
The top four teams at the AFC Futsal Asian Cup Thailand 2024™ will qualify for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Uzbekistan 2024™. If Uzbekistan, already qualified as hosts, advances to the semi-finals, the fifth-placed team will be determined through playoff matches.
The draw results are as follows:
- Group A: Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, China PR
- Group B: Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Australia
- Group C: Japan, Tajikistan, Korea Republic, Kyrgyz Republic
- Group D: IR Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan
Following the draw, analysts asserted that Group A appeared to be a relatively straightforward challenge for Vietam. Despite Thailand’s reputation as a formidable global opponent, both Myanmar and China were perceived to be less formidable than Vietam. Consequently, the pathway to the next stage seemed wide open for Coach Giustozzi Diego Raul and his team.
Coach Giustozzi Diego Raul expressed confidence in his squad’s ability to face a diverse set of opponents compared to the 2022 tournament, citing the players’ significant progress since the previous event. He emphasized the team’s readiness to confront any previously challenging adversaries.
Despite the perceived ease of the group, Coach Raul acknowledged that Thailand remained a formidable rival for Vietnam in Group A. China, with their experience in 13 final rounds and strengthened by foreign players and a foreign coach, posed another significant challenge. Myanmar, despite playing in only their second Cup, demonstrated considerable growth, having topped their group in the 2022 regional championship.
Raul acknowledged Thailand’s home ground advantage and their historical dominance over Việt Nam but expressed optimism about his team’s prospects. He noted China’s development and identified Myanmar as a competitive force in all events. Confident in his team’s understanding of his tactics and playing style, Raul acknowledged the need for further preparation, including nine to ten practice matches in the coming period.
The team is set to convene for training in mid-March in HCM City and will participate in an international friendly tournament from March 28-31 against three quality teams. Additional training in Thailand and more friendly matches, as outlined by VFF Vice President Trần Anh Tú, will serve as the final touches for Vietnam’s Asian Cup campaign. Tú expressed confidence that the team’s meticulous preparation would position Vietnam to secure a World Cup ticket for the third time in history.
Futsalroos Head Coach Miles Downie expressed excitement about the upcoming tournament, saying, “We are very excited to have qualified for the 2024 AFC Futsal Asian Cup in Thailand and are looking forward to competing in April.
“I know this squad is excited by the opportunity that lies ahead to play against some of the best teams in Asia and pave the way forward for Australian Futsal.
“The upcoming National Futsal Championships in January will be an important event in determining what the squad looks like now that we know more about the opponents we’ll face in the tournament.
“I believe in the potential of our players, and we are committed to forging a path that not only leads to success on the court but also contributes to the growth and recognition of our nation in the global futsal community,” Downie concluded.
As the drawing unfolded in Malaysia, the Japan national team engaged in international friendly matches against the Argentina national team on December 14th and 17th, concluding their activities for 2023. The team’s plans for 2024 were unveiled on the 18th.
Their initial venture in 2024 will kick off with an overseas tour spanning from January 29th to February 7th. Following that, the AFC Futsal Asia Cup World Cup qualifiers will pose the first challenge. Despite Japan’s participation in four World Cups (in 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2021), a significant setback occurred in 2016. Traditionally recognized as one of Asia’s top two teams alongside Iran, Japan faced a setback in the 2016 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan, failing to qualify for the World Cup despite Asia being allocated five spots.
After the draw, Coach Kenichiro Kogure emphasized, “We must remember that we did not partake in the qualifying rounds for the last World Cup.” The 2020 tournament, initially slated for the following year, was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, leading to the cancellation of the Asian qualifying rounds (Asia Cup). Consequently, Japan relies on past results as they anticipate participation in the World Cup.
With limited experience in successfully navigating qualifying rounds and competing in the World Cup, even if they clinched the championship at the 2022 Asian Cup, there is no guarantee of securing a spot in the World Cup.
Should they qualify for the World Cup, the international friendly matches scheduled for September 6th and 8th at the First Gymnasium of the National Yoyogi Stadium in Tokyo, as announced in the schedule, will be deemed “send-off matches.” This scenario mirrors the 2012 team led by Coach Miguel Rodrigo, who, just before the tournament, reached the round of 16 at the World Cup for the first time in Japan’s history. In October 2012, they played against Brazil in Yoyogi and faced Ukraine in Hokkaido, a period that coincides with the current situation.
In 2012, the futsal scene experienced a surge in momentum with the “Kaz Fever.” This time around, Japan is charting a deliberate course, steadily progressing from the Asian Cup through domestic send-off matches to the World Cup, aiming to secure a position in the top eight for the first time. The aspiration is not only to achieve success on the global stage but also to ignite nationwide enthusiasm, sparking a “futsal fever.”
As Kogure’s Japan embarked on this journey in December 2021, the question now arises: What kind of conclusion will they script in this World Cup year?
This marks Afghanistan’s inaugural participation in the competition. The players of the current Afghanistan national futsal team have developed more experience following several years of engagement in national team pathways and diverse competitions. Notably, their consistent involvement in club leagues, both in Iran and other countries, stands out. In contrast to previous years when national futsal team players had limited exposure in foreign leagues, their increased participation this time around has resulted in enhanced efficiency and impact within the team.
For the first time, the Afghanistan national futsal team has readied themselves for the Asian Nations Cup qualifiers with unprecedented levels of preparation. A comprehensive 45-day training camp in Mashhad and Tehran, followed by a 10-day camp in Lebanon, included three preparation matches against the country’s national futsal team. Additionally, the team participated in the Kafa tournament in Tajikistan, engaging in five intense and high-quality matches. After the Continental Futsal Cup in Thailand, featuring four challenging games, the team spent a week in Thailand and organized three preparatory matches in Malaysia, Taiwan, and a top club in Thailand. This extensive preparation regimen marks a departure from previous approaches, making it intriguing to observe how the Afghanistan national futsal team will progress in the Asian Nations Cup.
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