With the initial field of 16 now cut in half, the eight remaining sides at Tahiti 2013 are preparing to battle it out for a semi-final berth and move a step closer to becoming world champions. FIFA.com previews the round ahead.
The hosts have made a very good impression with their group-stage performances, though it remains to be seen how their relative inexperience and the pressure of playing at home will affect them in the knockout phase. In that regard, the loss to Spain in their final group game, though a painful lesson, could also prove highly significant.
Experience is one thing Argentina will not be lacking. Although one of the three sides to have competed at every FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, La Albiceleste have yet to go beyond the quarters. Only time will tell if their slip-up against the Netherlands in their final group game was a mere blip or something more serious.
Defending champions Russia will start as clear favourites against quarter-final debutants Iran. The Sbornaja are on a run of ten successive victories and will be buoyed by their opponent’s poor record against European sides. In eight previous showdowns with teams from the Old Continent, Iran have managed just a solitary win: a 5-4 defeat of Spain at Brazil 2007 that was followed by another four consecutive defeats.
Brazil versus Japan is already something of a beach soccer classic, with the pair having squared off on four previous occasions. Indeed the fixture is the second-most common in the history of this competition, superseded only by Brazil-Portugal.
History is firmly on the side of the South Americans, however, their having won all four of the previous encounters with the east Asians. That said, Japan will take heart from Friday’s victory over Paraguay, a result that ended a run of ten straight defeats to South American opposition.
The quarter-finals will also have an all-Latin fixture with the meeting of Spain and El Salvador. A flawless group phase would appear to make the Europeans slight favourites, as would their victory – a 7-3 triumph at Dubai 2009 – in the only prior meeting of the sides in this event. The Central Americans will not be lacking in confidence, though, having twice prevailed 3-2 against La Roja in 2011 and 2012 friendlies.
Player to watch
Ozu Moreira (JPN)
Here in Tahiti, the Japan captain has only enhanced his status as one of the stars of the sport. On top of his towering defensive displays, the 27-year-old has weighed in with three goals, including two in the defeat of Côte d'Ivoire that secured his side’s quarter-final berth. A nationalised Japanese of Brazilian birth, Moreira’s opponents in the last eight will be none other than A Seleção…
3 -Three is the number of teams through to the last-eight of Tahiti 2013 who were also present at the same stage two years ago in Ravenna. The trio are reigning champions Russia, four-time world champions Brazil, and El Salvador. Furthermore, there are two sides – hosts Tahiti and Iran – who will be competing in their first Beach Soccer World Cup quarter-final.
“I’ve coached for many years in Brazil and Portugal, which means I know exactly what level we’re at. Moreover, we’ve already played Brazil at this tournament so my players have the confidence to face Russia,” Iran coach Marco Octavio ahead of his side’s meeting with the defending champions.
*All fixtures take place at Papeete’s To’ata Stadium.