Hosts Portugal and two-time defending champions Russia are the headline acts in Saturday’s semi-finals of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015, which also feature 2008 runners-up Italy and Tahiti, who placed fourth two years ago.
FIFA.com sets the scene for the two last-four ties, with Brazil absent from this stage of the competition for the very first time.
Italy-Tahiti, 17:00 local time
The day’s opening semi-final is a clash of styles. The attack-minded Tahitians are never afraid of running risks, as shown by their haul of 23 goals, the joint-highest in the competition along with Russia and Portugal and to which no fewer than ten players have contributed. In contrast, Italy’s great strength lies in their tight defence, which has conceded just nine goals to date in Espinho, fewer than any other team. Nevertheless, the Italians have still managed to score 19 times, though those goals have come from only five players. The winner of this game will be the side better able to impose their style of play.
Players to watch
Stefano Spada and Simone Del Mestre (ITA)
Italy’s two goalkeepers deserve a lot of credit for their team’s solidity at the back. Coach Massimiliano Esposito likes to rotate his players, which means plenty of playing time for both Del Mestre and the veteran Spada, a survivor of the side that took second place in the 2008 world finals. So far, the two custodians have dovetailed to perfection.
100 per cent - both Italy and Tahiti have won all their games at Portugal 2015, the only two teams to do.
“I can’t wait to play Italy because I know a lot of their players. I’ve played in their league and I picked up a few things that could come in useful for this game. Our dream was always to be in the final. We’ve got the chance to make it, and I’ve got so much faith in my team,” Heimanu Taiarui, Tahiti defender.
Portugal-Russia, 18:30, local time
Featuring two of the three most prolific attacks in the competition, this tie should serve up plenty of goals. The Portuguese have conceded six goals fewer than the holders and have improved as the tournament has gone on, producing their best display so far against Switzerland in the last eight. That said, the Russians are in buoyant mood following their extra-time defeat of Brazil. Crucial to the outcome will be the extent to which both sides are able to shackle the opposition’s danger men.
Player to watch
Yury Krasheninnikov (RUS)
The 30-year-old is more than just a classy defender, as his six assists – a tally bettered by no one at Portugal 2015 – shows. In a team that has scored 17 of its 23 goals from assists, Krasheninnikov will have a vital contribution to make on Saturday.
20 - the number of times that Portugal and Russia have faced off on the sand. Strangely enough, however, this is their first world-finals meeting. The Russians have the edge in the head-to-head with 11 wins to Portugal’s eight, with the other game ending in a draw. The two teams have not crossed swords since 2013, when they enjoyed a win apiece.
“Russia will be very tough opponents because they’re superb in defence and also quick to exploit any mistakes up front. That’s why we need to be more focused than ever and make sure we don’t make any errors,” Coimbra, Portugal defender.