Brazil and Portugal take the top prizes as futsal makes its Olympic debut
Brazil and Portugal emerged victorious in the inaugural men’s and women’s futsal competitions at the Youth Olympic Games 2018, which proved a huge hit among the Buenos Aires public. Portugal’s Fifó was the standout individual player of the Games, scoring an incredible 21 goals – including four in the women’s final, where she and her team-mates outclassed Japan. In the men’s final, Brazil took the honours as they defeated Russia in the gold-medal match.
Replacing the traditional 11-a-side game at the YOG, futsal enjoyed an explosive debut on the Olympic stage, dazzling the crowds with its scintillating skills and high-octane intensity.
The first time Brazil met Russia in the men’s competition group stage, they had emerged 6-1 winners, and while the margin of victory in the final wasn’t as great, the destiny of the gold medal was rarely in much doubt.
That early defeat apart, the Russians had found their passage to the final relatively comfortable, eventually overcoming Egypt 3-1 in the semi-finals to book their ticket. Brazil, meanwhile, secured their place in the gold-medal match thanks to a 3-2 victory over old rivals Argentina; it was, in fact, the only occasion when they scored fewer than four goals in the entire competition.
Boys from Brazil too strong for Russia
Brazil took the lead against the Russians with less than two minutes on the clock, thanks to an own goal from Danil Karpiuk, whose botched clearance ended up beating his own keeper Denis Subbotin. Brazil continued to dominate possession, with Russia restricted to rare counter-attacks, and the South Americans doubled their lead at the start of the second period through Breno. Moura made it 3-0 before Daniel Samuisenko pulled one back for the Russians. Brazil’s keeper then got onto the scoresheet with a long-range effort that found its way into an empty Russian net, after the Russians made use of the “flying keeper” rule to launch a counter-attack.
Among those cheering Brazil from the stands was Marta, the six-time FIFA women’s world player of the year and an Olympian with two silver medals to her name from Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. “I have great memories of the Olympics with Brazil,” she said. “I’m very happy to have been able to watch such a good tournament here and that Brazil have ended up as winners.”
“Futsal had never featured at the Youth Olympic Games before,” added Wesley Reinaldo Santos de Franca, Brazil’s number 10. “I’m so happy that it’s been included on the programme and that we managed to win the first-ever gold for Brazil.”
In the bronze-medal match, Egypt mounted a remarkable comeback against Argentina to win a nail-biting encounter 5-4 after trailing the host nation 3-0.
Goals galore for prolific Fifó
In the women’s tournament, Portugal’s No 9 – Ana Sofia Goncalves (better known as Fifó) – spearheaded her team’s unbeaten campaign, scoring 21 of their 57 goals in six games, in which they conceded just five times. Ending on a personal high, she bagged all four of Portugal’s goals in the 4-1 victory over Japan in the final. The first of those – a brilliant long-range lob – came after just eight seconds.
Carolina Rocha then produced a mazy run before notching her eighth assist of the tournament to enable Fifó to double her tally and Portugal’s lead. Within 14 minutes she had completed her hat-trick when she ran onto a pass from Carina Luis. She needed no help from anyone for her fourth goal, a fine solo effort that saw her run the length of the court. Japan grabbed a consolation goal through Rinka Yokoyama but the result was never really in doubt.
“We’ve been preparing for this tournament for a long time. I was already happy just being able to come to Buenos Aires, but now there are no words to describe how I’m feeling after winning the gold,” said Rocha.
Also blazing a trail for her country was Gelareh Nazemideylami, who became the first ever Iranian female referee to officiate at a FIFA futsal tournament.
In the bronze-medal match, Spain, who had been edged out 3-2 by Japan in the semis, bounced back strongly to produce an 11-0 demolition of Bolivia. “We were really disappointed to lose against the Japanese,” said Marta López, who notched two assists against Bolivia. “But we knew we had to recover and regroup, and I’m proud of the way our efforts have been rewarded with this medal.”
“Futsal put on its best face here; I think this has been a fantastic tournament,” said Argentina’s Fernando Wilhelm, winner of the golden ball during his team’s triumphant campaign at the 2016 Futsal World Cup. “Our sport is high tempo and spectacular to watch. And it’s easy for the fans to understand, even if they’re watching for the first time.”