THE DAY REPLAYED – Four-time FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup winners Brazil were taken all the way to penalties by a brave Ukraine side on Friday. The stern look on the faces of the Seleção players afterwards reflected what had been an unexpectedly nerve-racking afternoon for the tournament favourites.
“They know they didn’t play well at all,” coach Alexandre Soares said to FIFA.com in the wake of their 2-1 spot-kick win, which followed a 3-3 draw in normal and extra-time. “It’s good to know that we can still win when we have a bad day against what was a very good side, but we need to work hard to make sure this doesn’t happen in the knockout rounds. I don’t ever want to see [goalkeeper] Mao be our best player again.”
It was thanks to their goalkeeper’s five-star display, which was capped by the penalty save that eventually won them the game, that the Brazilians extended their undefeated run at the competition to an incredible 26 games, a sequence that stretches back to a shootout loss to Portugal in the 2005 semi-finals.
The next opponents for Soares’ relieved side are Mexico, who beat Japan by the odd goal in five to move to the top of Group D with three points to Brazil’s two.
Euro Beach Soccer League Superfinal champions Russia cemented their increasingly fearsome reputation with a crushing 8-4 defeat of Nigeria. Coach Mikhail Likhachev was not entirely pleased with his side’s performance, however: “We only played well in the first period. In the second and third periods our concentration and organisation left something to be desired.”
Setting the pace in Group C along with the Russians are first-timers Tahiti, who saw off fellow debutants Venezuela 5-2, with two of the goals coming from their player-coach Teva Zaveroni.
Nigeria 4-8 Russia
Japan 2-3 Mexico
Brazil 3-3 Ukraine, 2-1 on penalties
Tahiti 5-2 Venezuela
Goal of the day
Egor Shaykov, 11:26, Nigeria-Russia
Russia drove the Nigerians to distraction with their quick one-twos, one of which teed Shaykov up for a spectacularly acrobatic volley from the left-hand side of the area.
Dance to the music
One of the highlights of the 12-goal extravaganza served up by Russia and Nigeria was the spectacle provided by one particularly enthusiastic Beach Eagles fan. Brandishing an Italy flag, he gave vociferous backing to his countrymen, even when they were trailing 6-1, and joined the cheerleaders on the sand for an impromptu dance, prompting one of the locals to jump down from the stands and follow his lead.
A sea of blue and yellow
The game between Mexico and Japan was nearing its conclusion when the Stadio del Mare was swamped by a colourful contingent of Ukraine fans, all decked out in yellow and blue and bearing a huge national flag as well as scarves and posters of the players. Occupying one side of the stadium, they sang the national anthem as one, triggered the habitual Mexican wave and were almost rewarded for their efforts with a historic victory over the mighty Brazil.
From Tahiti with love
Prior to taking their FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup bows, Tahiti and Venezuela played out perhaps the most heartwarming moment of the tournament so far, with the Tahitians presenting their opponents with traditional floral garlands before the kick-off. The Oceania champions, who will be hosting the event in 2013, were clearly moved by the occasion, with a member of their delegation bursting into tears as their national anthem was played.
Bouncing back to you
Nigeria’s fourth and final goal against Russia was undoubtedly the most unusual of an incident-packed day. It came about when Russia keeper Alexander Filimonov tried a shot on goal from his own area. His fierce drive struck Beach Eagle defender on the Ogbonnaya Okemmiri on the head, and while he fell to the ground from the force of the impact, the ball returned from whence it had come, sailing over the stranded Filimonov and into the back of the net.
3 - The number of FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup matches in which Brazil have now been taken to a penalty shootout. Prior to downing Ukraine from the spot, the Brazilians had lost to Portugal in that 2005 semi-final shootout and beaten Russia in the group phase in 2007 after a 2-2 draw in normal time.
Saturday, 3 September 2011
Have your say
All 16 teams have now been in action. Which has impressed you the most?