FIFA identified the potential of futsal by staging the first FIFA Futsal World Cup in the Netherlands in 1989. Excellent technique, speedy reactions and precise passing are as much part of the game of futsal as the special ball and the tight pitch. This attractive and booming sport, which is now played in over 100 countries, poses particular challenges for the players and produces highly skilled players such as Brazil’s Ronaldinho, who subsequently embarked on a stellar career on grass.
To date, the FIFA Futsal World Cup has made two stops in Europe (Netherlands 1989 & Spain 1996), two in Asia (Hong Kong 1992 & Chinese Taipei 2004), one in Central America (Guatemala 2000) and 2008, for the first time, in South America (Brazil). Thailand 2012 will be the third time it is hosted in Asia.
Brazil proved to be the dominant force at the first three editions, winning in the Netherlands in 1989, Hong Kong in 1992 and Spain in 1996. At the fourth event in Guatemala in 2000, they were stopped from lifting the trophy a fourth time, when Spain beat them in a thrilling final to become the new FIFA futsal World Cup champions. Spain followed up their first futsal championship title with a second title in 2004, this time pipping Italy at the post. In 2008, Brazil finally became futsal world champions for the fourth time after a narrow victory before their home crowd over two-time world champions Spain. There were also fine performances from less established football countries for whom the 5-a-side version offers a welcome opportunity to promote their domestic game and shine in the international spotlight. In the most recent edition, in 2012 it was yet again Brazil who, in a thrilling final in which they came from behind to beat Spain 3-2 after extra time, managed to retain the trophy.
Although FIFA acknowledges the importance of futsal as a game in its own right, it has resisted the temptation to diverge too far from the principles of 11-a-side football, designing the rules to ensure continuity with the classic outdoor game.