- Los Ticos claim fourth Concacaf title
- USA return to World Cup after missing last two editions
- Guatemala and Panama the region’s other two representatives in Lithuania
Costa Rica lived up to their billing as the region’s leading futsal side by winning their fourth Concacaf title, and third in a row, in the discipline. Victory earned them a place at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™, where they will head a quartet of contenders from their region.
Los Ticos took the title with victory in the final over USA, who enjoyed their best performance in the competition since 2004, when they were champions. The Stars and Stripes can now look forward to their first World Cup since Brazil 2008.
Just like four years ago, the podium was completed by hosts Guatemala, who got the better of Panama in the match for third place, in the process ensuring a fourth consecutive appearance at the global event. Los Canaleros, for their part, will be participating in their third consecutive edition.
Neither Mexico, who graced Thailand 2012, nor Cuba, who were at Colombia 2016, could secure a return to the world stage. The tournament’s surprise package were Suriname, who, on their third attempt, finally made it past the group stage before going out in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Costa Rica.
Carlos Quiros’ Costa Rica never looked in danger of surrendering their crown, winning all five of their games while boasting the most potent attack (30 goals) and meanest defence (five against).
Moreover, they were only behind on two occasions throughout the tournament, against Panama in the semis and USA in the final, although they would go on to win both those games.
In a solid and well-balanced side, Milinton Tijerino and Cesar Vargas, voted Best Player and Best Goalkeeper respectively, stood out from the rest. And if that were not impressive enough, the team also picked up the Fair Play Award.
Since becoming USA head coach in September 2019, Dusan Jakica has had only one goal in mind: to guide his team back to the World Cup.
This he did in style after the Stars and Stripes won their section with two wins and a draw, before booking their place in Lithuania with victory over Dominican Republic in the quarters. The team’s subsequent triumph against the hosts in the semis was testament to its character, but not even that was enough to stop Costa Rica in the decider, where they suffered their only defeat of the campaign.
In a very even squad, special mention goes to goalkeeper and captain Diego Moretti, as well as Raphael Araujo, Luciano Gonzalez and Tomas Pondeca – with the latter voted Best Young Player at the event.
Being hosts, third place was not exactly what Guatemala were hoping for but Estuardo de Leon’s charges nevertheless handled the pressure well, prevailing in tight games to top their group before sealing qualification on penalties against El Salvador in the last eight.
They recovered from the disappointment of their semi-final defeat to USA on penalties to beat Panama by a single goal in the match for third place. Their fourth consecutive top-three finish at the event was due in no small part to contributions from leading players like Roman Alvarado, Edgar Santizo and Jose Mancilla.
Panama, by contrast, missed out on a podium finish for the first time since 2008, when they also finished fourth, the difference being that back then it was not sufficient to secure a World Cup berth.
Once again, Los Canaleros were grateful to the finishing skills of Carlos Perez. A veteran of the 2012 and 2016 World Cups, the pivot finished as tournament top scorer with eight strikes in five games, including hat-tricks against Suriname and Mexico.
USA are the Concacaf side with the most appearances (six) at the FIFA Futsal World Cup. Next on the list are Costa Rica, Guatemala and Cuba (all five), Panama (three) and Canada and Mexico (one apiece).