Sunday 11 September 2016, 05:11

Late strikes and drama as the curtain rises

THE DAY REPLAYED – It looked all set to be a stunning night for very different reasons. Colombia, leading after a strike inside the first minute from captain Angellott Caro, were within touching distance of a famous opening-day upset. But, with the final kick of an enthralling game, Portugal’s Cardinal stole the show – and broke some hearts – as he ensured the points were shared as the clock struck zero.

Russia and Thailand had already served up a superb advertisement for futsal earlier in Medellin. Both arriving with expectations, though the 2012 hosts more as dark horses than title-contenders, they contested a topsy-turvy clash, eventually going the way of Russia. But the 6-4 scoreline does not reflect the late Thai onslaught they had to endure.

Prior to that game, Egypt set out their stall in impressive style against Cuba. They were four to the good by the break, with Mostafa Eid capping off a seven-goal rout of the Caribbean side, who are still in search of their second win in five World Cup visits.

Panama got their tournament started in fine style also, seeing off debutants Uzbekistan 3-1. A tight first half swung the way of the Central Americans after the break, though the Asian side were able to grab a last-gasp consolation goal.

ResultsCuba 1-7 Egypt Thailand 4-6 Russia Uzbekistan 1-3 Panama Colombia 1-1 Portugal

Memorable moments*Lights, cameras, dance* Colombia’s rich history of dance was spectacularly on show ahead of the hosts taking their bow at the tournament. An opening ceremony infusing the elegance of football with that found so prominently in the likes of ballet and salsa were brought together by 20 dancers, accompanied by the icon Fernando Montaño of the Royal Ballet of London. The union of these two physical expressions – dubbed Foot-Ba – was bathed in a sea of lights, many contributed by fans and their phones, in a visual treat to officially kick off the tournament.

The Pharaohs’ untouchable start While it may have taken just 70 seconds for Egypt to kick off Colombia 2016 with their opening goal against Cuba, they couldn’t have gone about it in a much more emphatic fashion. Having kicked off the tournament, they did not allow the Caribbean side a single touch until Abdelrahman Elashwal had cannoned his shot off the bar and post before eventually nestling in the net.

Viking support Iceland’s heroics at UEFA EURO 2016 reached around the world, and it seems like fans in Colombia were just as delighted by them. So much so in fact that fans during Uzbekistan and Panama brought a touch Nordic intensity to the occasion, recreating the famous ‘Viking thunder-clap’ – complete with a loud shout, to enliven the stands.

Spanish scouting in Medellin All who took to the stands to take in Russia and Thailand’s clash were treated to an exceptional display of futsal in a lightning-fast game. One set of spectators were watching with particular intrigue, though – European champions Spain. They take to the same court on Sunday and, having faced Russia in the final of the UEFA Futsal EURO, there’s every chance they could meet one of the pair in the quarter-finals, so used their day off for an early peek at their potential opponents.

The stat 100 – Earning your 100th cap for your country in your opening match of a World Cup is memorable enough, but there is no way Cardinal is forgetting his night’s work in Cali. While it looked all set to end as a tainted evening for the Portugal veteran, his swivel and shot in the final split-second against Colombia to equalise will ensure it’s a memory to last a lifetime.

The words"We are a fast team and even if you want to stop these horses, they just don't stop." Agustin Campuzano, Panama coach

"I have a lot of small and a lot of young players in my team who lack experience on this stage, so I’m really happy how performed. Hopefully they can repeat it." Egypt coach Hesham Saleh

“After half-time we played with aggression and it worked. That made the Russians very angry, who punched back.” Thailand coach Miguel Conde

Next matchday*Tuesday 13 September*

Group A Panama-Portugal (18:00) Colombia-Uzbekistan (20:00)

Group B Egypt-Russia (18:00) Thailand-Cuba (20:00)