Canada faces CONCACAF champ Costa Rica with FIFA Futsal World Cup berth on the line

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Canada is one win away from qualifying for the FIFA Futsal World Cup this fall in Uzbekistan.

But to get there, the Canadian men will have to get past reigning CONCACAF champion Costa Rica in quarterfinal play Wednesday at the CONCACAF Futsal Championship at Polideportivo Alexis Arguello.

The Canadians go in as underdogs given Costa Rica is in search of its fourth straight CONCACAF title and fifth overall. But Canadian Loïc Kwemi, who plays for Evolution Futsal Club Montreal, leads the tournament with six goals after the group stage.

Canada has not qualified for the FIFA Futsal World Cup since the inaugural competition in 1989, when it failed to advance after going 1-2-0 in the group stage.

Canada beat Nicaragua 6-3 in its final group B match Monday to advance to the knockout rounds along with the United States as the two best third-place finishers in the opening round. Canada opened with a 5-5 draw with Cuba before losing 7-3 to Panama.

Costa Rica won Group A defeating Haiti (8-3), Suriname (3-1) and Mexico (4-2).

The other quarterfinals Wednesday are Group B winner Panama versus the U.S., Group C winner Guatemala versus Mexico and the Dominican Republic versus Cuba.

Futsal is a five-a-side indoor game played in two 20-minute halves. Like hockey, teams can make changes on the fly.

The 12-team CONCACAF Championship runs through Saturday.

The Canadians are making their fourth appearance at the CONCACAF championship, having also competed in 2012, 2016 and 2021. CONCACAF last held its futsal championship in 2021 when Canada lost a penalty shootout 4-3 to Panama in the quarterfinals after the game finished knotted at 1-1.

The U.S. (1996 and 2004) and Guatemala (2008) are the only other teams to have claimed the CONCACAF futsal crown.

The Canadian roster ranges in age from 20-year-old Mahdi Djellab to 36-year-old goalkeeper John Smits. The coach is Kyt Selaidopoulos.

Sporting Montreal has seven players on the Canadian roster with another two coming from 9 de Octubre FC Toronto, which won 5-3 when the two sides met in Calgary on April 2023.

Portugal is the reigning FIFA futsal champion. Brazil has won the title five times and Spain twice. Argentina won in 2016 and was runner-up in 2021.

Argentina, Brazil, France, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine and Venezuela have already qualified for the 24-team FIFA Futsal World Cup, joining host Uzbekistan.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2024.

The Canadian Press