World Champions Russia are just one win away from claiming their second successive FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. If they see off Spain on Saturday and win their sixth straight match at Tahiti 2013 to take the crown, they will surely offer collective thanks to their wing star Dmitrii Shishin.
The unassuming Shishin has delivered whenever Russia have found themselves in a tough corner, and there have been plenty of them in this tournament. His late sealer against Tahiti on Friday took him to top of the goalscorers list in the tournament, one clear of Brazil’s Bruno Xavier.
It was a goal that dripped with class, and arguably was the difference between the teams when the contest was up for grabs in the dying minutes The Tahiti goalkeeper threw out firmly past halfway but Shishin did what few other players could do and instinctively delivered a side-footed volley back over the custodian for a stunning goal of rare quality.
Despite scoring at an average of two goals per game at Tahiti 2013, Shishin refutes the notion that he is in career-best form. "I am in good form but I cannot say that it is my best form,” he told FIFA.com still covered in sand and sweating profusely after his exertions. “My team-mates passed the ball well so I only scored because of them. I try to do everything I can for the team."
Shishin admitted that the semi-final against Tahiti, when Russia had to come from behind, was an emotionally and physically draining occasion. "It was a very crazy match, we have put all our emotions into it,” he said. “The fact that we won such a difficult game makes us heroes especially when all the spectators were against us. Now our team is in very high spirits.”
If Russia are to overcome a well-organised Spain, they will likely need to do so without several key personnel. Both Yury Gorchinskiy and captain Ilya Leonov are expected to miss the match through injury. Coach Mikhail Likhachev describes Spain as “very strong who play as one unit”.
The Russians can fall back on the experience of winning in Ravenna two years ago, which is one clear advantage they have over their rivals. "By winning the World Cup two years ago, we have become more experienced,” Shishin says. “Now we have such a connection between the players, and everyone understands each other so we are in good form.
"We will try to win this World Cup. We will do everything within our power to win but only god knows who will win."