The Official Draw for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013 held on Wednesday in Papeete has set up a number of intriguing match-ups for the September tournament.
The 16-nation event will see visitors converge on French Polynesia for what will be the first FIFA tournament to be held in a Pacific Islands nation.
Naturally, much interested focussed on host nation Tahiti who will tackle AFC qualifier United Arab Emirates first up. Rounding out Group A will be European elite Spain and CONCACAF champions USA.
Tahiti coach Teva Zaveroni said he had “mixed feelings” after the draw. “I’m relieved in a sense as now we know who we are going to play against,” he said. “Now we need to work according to our opponents. Our objective is to reach the quarter-finals.”
There will also be strong regional interest in Group B which will feature a yet-to-be-determined Oceania qualifier. OFC qualifying takes place in August and Tahiti 2013 will be the first FIFA event to include two Oceania nations. Also in the group are Netherlands, CONMEBOL kings Argentina and El Salvador.
“We are good with the group we have been drawn in,” said Damian Dupiellet, president of the Argentina FA Beach Soccer Committee. “If you target the final, you need to beat whichever opponents you come up against. But, in Beach Soccer you always find “favourites” popping up unexpectedly, which is one of the best things about this sport.”
Elsewhere, Group D contains reigning champions Russia who will face Japan, Paraguay and Côte d'Ivoire.
However, perhaps the most significant quartet of teams is that featured in Group C which contains four-time FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup winners Brazil, Asian champions Iran, recently crowned African kings Senegal, as well as European challengers Ukraine.
Brazil representative Daniel Robles remains optimistic despite the draw. “We are confident and we want to get back the crown,” he said, also stating that the team’s aim was to win the tournament.
Group A: Tahiti, United Arab Emirates, Spain, USA
Group B: Netherlands, OFC qualifier, Argentina, El Salvador
Group C: Brazil, Iran, Senegal, Ukraine
Group D: Russia, Japan, Paraguay, Côte d'Ivoire