Matchday 4 at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013 – the middle fixture for teams in Groups A & B – is set to be decisive, not least of all those who suffered defeat in their opening matches. Four winners – Spain, Solomon Islands, Argentina and hosts Tahiti – take the court with a degree of comfort. However, United Arab Emirates and USA will be thinking about home if they suffer defeat, while El Salvador tackle Netherlands with the victor maintaining their tournament ambitions, and the vanquished seeing their hopes quashed.
Match of the day
USA - Tahiti, Saturday 21 September, Group A, 19:00 local time
The To’ata stadium in Papeete proved to be a celebration of all things French Polynesia when Tahiti played their opening match on Thursday. A traditional Haka pre-match lifted a hugely excited crowd, who rarely have the chance to display some national pride in such an environment. On-field Tahiti raced to an impressive 3-0 lead against United Arab Emirates, only to concede two quick goals against the run of play turning the match from a one-sided affair to an even contest. If they can produce their early form against UAE they will be well on their way to extending their international unbeaten run to nine, and with it a maiden berth in the knockout stage. USA, though, proved their quality in their opening outing with a somewhat unlucky 5-4 defeat against European powerhouse Spain. The Stars and Stripes must win if they are to stay alive in the competition on their return following a six-year absence.
Spain will once again open the day’s proceedings, this time against United Arab Emirates. Their win over USA means a second victory will be enough to book passage to the knockout stage. UAE enter the contest in a very different position following their defeat against Tahiti. Athletic goalkeeper Mohamed Aljasmi will need to repeat his agile performance from the opening game if the west Asians are to prevail against a Spain side that seem capable of scoring via a number of outlets.
The second match sees the two group leaders - Argentina and Solomon Islands - meet in a match pivotal to the outcome of the group. Argentina look an organised and capable outfit befitting of their South American crown, and were worthy winners over El Salvador. Solomon Islands had a tougher time dispensing with Netherlands with an unusually low-scoring 2-0 margin. The Bilikiki, however, are hardened performers at this level and are no doubt further buoyed by uniquely playing in a FIFA tournament within their own continent.
The matchday will conclude with El Salvador facing Netherlands in a contest neither can afford to lose. Netherlands were without luck in their FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup debut striking the frame of the goal several times. Conversely El Salvador, fourth in a breakthrough showing two years ago in Ravenna, looked slightly flat in their opening performance.
Player to watch
USA’s Lewie Valentine is living evidence that 34 years of age is not too old to make an effective debut on the biggest stage of them all. A distinctive figure with a mop of bronzed frizzy hair, the California native is an influential figure with his imposing physique and powerful shooting.
3 – Despite finishing fourth at Ravenna 2011, El Salvador are now on a three-match losing streak at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, and one more defeat will end their 2013 aspirations.
“Tahiti is going to have the support of the home fans, their country is really behind them. We are going to have to overcome that and come ready to play and ready to fight.” USA coach Eddie Soto