THE DAY REPLAYED – A fantastic atmosphere awaited the teams in the Praia da Baia Stadium in Espinho as the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015 got underway. Around 3,500 fans packed into the stands and they got what they wanted – a Portuguese victory over Japan in the Group A opener.
But that was just part of an action-packed opening day of the tournament, which witnessed a glut of great goals, thrilling matches that hung in the balance until the final whistle and electrifying moments of beach soccer, as well as some entertaining side shows.
Things got off to a scorching start thanks to Italy’s dazzling win over Costa Rica, where the Azzurri underlined their credentials as title contenders. Next up, Japan gave hosts Portugal a real battle before succumbing 4-2, putting the former on top of Group A ahead of Argentina, who beat Senegal 4-3 on the South American country’s independence day. Last to come out smiling were Switzerland, who overcame AFC champions Oman in the day's final game.
Portugal 4-2 Japan
Argentina 4-3 Senegal
Italy 6-1 Costa Rica
Switzerland 5-2 Oman
Gori and Ott hat-trick heroes
Beach soccer is rife with stunning goals, but the first of this year’s World Cup was something truly special. Gabriele Gori needed just 34 seconds to bulge the Costa Rica net, setting the tone for a memorable performance that was crowned with a hat-trick. In so doing, he became the early top scorer in the tournament alongside the Swiss Noel Ott, who also notched three goals, against Oman.
Baia’s still got it
Vitor Baia is one of the ambassadors of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and made a point of attending the Portugal-Japan match. And he showed he has lost none of his goalkeeping skills, expertly defending a fierce shot that flew into the VIP stand, triggering a spontaneous ovation all around the stadium with 3,500 voices chanting “Baia, Baia”.
Going back to the action on the pitch, the Italian coach showed he has the utmost confidence in both his goalkeepers against Los Ticos. Stefano Spada played the first period, Simone Del Mestre the second, and the two of them split goalkeeping duties in the third. Also noteworthy was the novel option taken by Japanese goalkeeper Shingo Terukina, who played the whole game against Portugal without gloves.
Speed on the sand
Portugal’s former world record holder and Olympic champion in the marathon, Rosa Mota, was in the stadium cheering for the hosts, as was another of Portugal’s heroes from the world of athletics, Francis Obikwelu. The Olympic medallist and national record holder at 100 and 200 metres was challenged to show his sprinting ability on the sand during one of the breaks, to the delight of the crowd. A slight stumble in the middle of his sprint ruined his “time”, but Obikwelu promised he would be back to beat his own record.
27 goals were scored on the opening day, an average of 6.75 per match, a touch below the figure at Tahiti 2013 two years ago: 7.6.
“Winning the game and scoring three goals was the perfect start, but it wasn’t easy, despite the result. Costa Rica have very fast players.” Gabriele Gori, Italy player
“It was amazing to see the reaction of the fans when I saved a Japan free-kick. They were fantastic, celebrating every goal Portugal scored with all their might. It was an important win, but we have to tighten up our defence.” Andrade, Portugal goalkeeper
“I’m very proud of my team and not at all disappointed. We created lots of chances against Portugal, but we didn’t take advantage of them.” Marcelo Mendes, Japan coach
“Our attitude was first class and we played well. When Senegal scored their third goal we knew we were in for a difficult last few moments, but we showed great composure to see out the victory.” Gustavo Casado, Argentina coach
“We have a lot of young players who don’t have experience at this level, so I’m pleased with our display. We will continue to make progress and try to win the second game.” Ibrahima Ndiaye, Senegal coach
“We always try to score as many goals as possible, and the more spectacular the better. We want to do even better in our next match.” Mo Jaeggy, Switzerland player
Friday 10 July
All times local