THE DAY REPLAYED – The semi-final line-up at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015™ was decided on a thrilling Thursday afternoon, with holders Russia teeing up an intriguing tie with hosts Portugal and Italy booking a last-four slot against Tahiti.
What better way to start the day’s entertainment than with a meeting between the two most successful sides in the history of international beach soccer? And while expectations were high ahead of Russia’s encounter with Brazil, the fact is that both sides lived up to them, playing out a spectacular match that will live long in the memory.
Though the Russians stormed into an early two-goal lead, it took the Brazilians a mere 50 seconds to wipe out the deficit. The two sides continued to trade blows right through to the dying stages of extra time, when the defending champions snatched a goal with nine seconds remaining to keep their hopes of a third straight title alive and condemn the Brazilians to their first ever quarter-final defeat in the competition.
Waiting for Russia in the next round are the hosts, who produced an impressive performance in defeating Switzerland 7-3 to keep their dreams of a maiden world title intact. The highlight of a game that electrified the home fans was a sensational strike by the irrepressible Madjer, a goal that will go down in the history of the competition.
The tie between Italy and Japan was an altogether more tactical affair, with the Europeans snatching a winner less than two minutes from time to prevail by the odd goal in five and maintain their record as one of only two teams to win every one of their games so far in Espinho.
The other side with a perfect record to date are their next opponents Tahiti, who were made to give their all in beating a courageous Iran side 5-4. Faltering only in the closing stages, the Asians bid a reluctant farewell to Portugal.
Brazil 5-6 Russia AET
Portugal 7-3 Switzerland
Italy 3-2 Japan
Tahiti 5-4 Iran
Torres injury takes shine off hosts’ day
Not everything went to plan for the Portuguese on Thursday, with defender Torres suffering a broken jaw after an accidental clash with team-mate Coimbra, an unfortunate injury that rules him out of the rest of the tournament. “We’re all very sad about it, but I’m sure he’s going to take a seat on the bench and be our biggest fan,” said Torres’ defensive colleague Bruno Novo.
Mao signs off with a first
The opening last-eight tie ended in disappointment for Brazil, who for the first time in their history failed to make the semi-finals. One bright spot for A Seleção was goalkeeper Mao’s first world-finals goal in his 40th outing in the competition.
Fans in a frenzy
With Brazil versus Russia and Portugal versus Switzerland the first two ties on the quarter-final bill, there was much expectation among the fans in Espinho, so much so that some of them started queuing for their seats at six in the morning, a whole eight and a half hours before the first match kicked off. The wait was well worth it, with the eight sides in action serving up a spectacular and memorable day of beach soccer action.
25 - the number of the first match to go to extra time at Portugal 2015. Following a group phase in which every game produced a result in normal time, Brazil and Russia needed a few extra minutes to decide their tie, with the two-time reigning champions eventually winning the day.
“It was a massive disappointment to concede to Russia in extra time. We’re going to support Portugal now because it’s a country that means a lot to us. I hope they make the final.” Brazil goalkeeper Mao
“It feels amazing to beat Brazil in extra time in the last eight. Unfortunately I missed the winning goal because I was looking to see how much time there was left. I definitely knew about it when it went in, though.” Russia defender Anton Shkarin
“The result doesn’t reflect just how difficult Switzerland made it for us, but I’m sure it’s going to be even tougher against Russia. We have to make sure we don’t make mistakes.” Portugal defender Coimbra
“It was my first World Cup and it feels great to be up there with the leading scorers in the competition. I just wish my goals would have helped us to win.” Switzerland pivot Noel Ott
“We did pretty well in defence, but they were more skilful. We’ve gained in experience and we’re going to come back even stronger.” Japan winger Shotaro Haraguchi
“I’m very proud of my team. We did a good job at the back and we were determined to make the semis.” Italy goalkeeper Simone del Mestre
“I spoke to the boys before the start of the third period and I asked them to take things a bit more calmly. We were so desperate to win that we got ourselves a bit worked up. Our next objective is to make the final.” Tahiti pivot Naea Bennett
“We played really well and the only reason we didn’t win is because we didn’t take our chances. We’re going to go away and work even harder for the next World Cup.” Iran defender Ali Naderi
Next matchday, Saturday 18 July (all times local)