Monday 18 January 2016, 09:29

Road to Colombia 2016 mapped out

Between 10 September and 1 October this year, Colombia is set to host the eighth edition of the FIFA Futsal World Cup, where a total of 24 national teams will be competing for the title currently held by Brazil – who at Thailand 2012 claimed the crown for the fifth time.

And though the road towards the next Futsal World Cup has already begun in some confederations, the final phases of all the regional qualifying competitions will take place this year. brings you the info on how, where and when it will be decided which 23 nations will be joining World Cup hosts Colombia.

A breathless February The high-octane action will get underway in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion where, between 5 and 13 February, the ten CONMEBOL nations – including world champs Brazil – will go toe-to-toe for the three berths available via South American qualifying. Initially divided into two groups of five, the top two from each section will progress to the semi-finals. The two finalists and the winner of the match for third place will take the World Cup berths, unless Colombia finish on the podium, in which case the team finishing fourth makes the cut.

Taking place almost simultaneously will be the OFC Futsal Championship, which runs from 8 to 13 February in Suva, Fiji. Topping the bill are the Solomon Islands, Oceania’s representatives at the past two Futsal World Cups, who will be favourites to take the only available qualifying berth. The format is simple: the six participating teams will all play each other in a round-robin competition, with the table toppers crowned regional champions and earning the ticket to Colombia 2016.

The AFC Futsal Championship, for its part, will be held between 10 and 21 February in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The preliminary zonal rounds took place from September to November 2015, thus completing the list of 16 teams still in the hunt for five places at the Colombian showpiece. Thailand, hosts of the last World Cup, successfully made it to the final qualifying competition, where the 16 teams will be divided into four groups of four – from which the top two in each section will reach the quarter-finals. The four winners will make it into the semi-finals and with it qualify for Colombia 2016, while the four losing quarter-finalists will battle it out for the fifth and final berth.

And that’s not all... The 22nd of March will be an important date in the race to be the seven European representatives at the next Futsal World Cup. On the back of October 2015’s Preliminary Round and December 2015’s Main Round, that is the day on which the first legs of the Play-off round, the third and last phase of UEFA qualifying – with the second legs on 12 April - will takeplace. Among those involved will be two-time world champions Spain, traditional heavyweights Italy, Portugal and Russia, and up-and-coming nations Kazakhstan, Slovenia and Poland.

Coming up between 15 and 24 April is the Africa Futsal Cup of Nations, in Johannesburg, South Africa, featuring eight national sides – among them the host nation and also Egypt, Africa’s best-performing team at Thailand 2012 – which will compete for three available qualifying berths. Just as in the South American qualifying event, the participants will be divided into two groups, with the top-two teams in each section going into the semi-finals. The two finalists and the winner of the third-place match will travel to Colombia 2016.

The final four spots at the Futsal World Cup will be decided at the CONCACAF Futsal Championship, taking place in San Jose, Costa Rica, between 8 and 15 May. To date, only holders Mexico and hosts Costa Rica have their involvement confirmed, with the other six competing nations to emerge from the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) qualifying championship (22-26 January, Cuba, 2.5 places available); the North American Football Union play-off (United States and Canada will play off over 5 and 6 May); and the Central American Football Union (UNCAF) qualifying championship (27-31 January in Guatemala; 2.5 places). The play-off tie between the third-placed finishers in the CFU and UNCAF championships will be held over 5 and 6 May.