THE DAY REPLAYED – Russia and Tahiti beat Madagascar and Paraguay respectively on Sunday to secure the top two slots in Group D of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015 and advance to the quarter-finals.

The two-time defending world champions were not at their best, however, and were made to work hard by the African debutants in recording a 4-2 win. Meanwhile, Tahiti reproduced the form that took them to the last four on home sand two years ago, serving up flashes of brilliance in their 7-5 defeat of a tireless Paraguay side, with seven different Tahitian players getting on the scoresheet.

The situation is somewhat different in Group C, where Brazil lead the way with maximum points after seeing off a valiant Iran 4-3. A Canarinha found themselves 3-1 down in the early stages but fought back to move to the brink of a place in the next round. The Brazilians still have a testing final game to come against a Spain side that stayed in contention with a 3-1 defeat of Mexico in the day’s opening match. Despite losing both their games to date, El Tri still have a slim chance of going through to the last eight.

Results
Group C
Mexico 1-3 Spain 
Iran 3-4 Brazil

Group D
Madagascar 2-4 Russia
Paraguay 5-7 Tahiti

Memorable moments
He's got rhythm
Andres Villegas got into the spirit of things during the Russia-Madagascar game. Watching the match with his team-mates, the defender got to his feet when the cheerleaders hit the sand during the first interval and started to strut his stuff, much to the rest of the squad’s delight. The practical joker in the Tico pack, Villegas livens up journeys on the team bus by dancing down the aisle.

The acrobatic Mr. Moran
Paraguay’s Pedro Moran moved to the top of the Portugal 2015 scoring charts on Sunday courtesy of his hat-trick against the Tahitians, his second of the competition. Moran saved the best for last, completing his triple by meeting a pinpoint cross from the right with the perfect bicycle-kick and sending the ball into the far corner of the opposition net, a stunning strike that brought the fans to their feet.

This one’s for you, Teva
It was halfway through that game that Tahiti winger Teva Zaveroni picked up an injury following a heavy challenge and had to leave the pitch. Stepping up to take the resulting free-kick in his place, Tearii Labaste thrashed the ball home and dedicated the goal to his injured colleague.

Brazilians do it a cappella
The playing of the pre-match national anthems is a source of pride and motivation for athletes, not least Brazil’s sportsmen and women. The country’s beach soccer stars proved that point again in Espinho on Sunday, continuing to sing their national anthem after the music had stopped, with their fans joining in. Once the a cappella version was over, the rest of the stadium gave the singers a resounding round of applause.

The stat
25 minutes and 44 seconds - the amount of time that elapsed between Russia’s third and fourth goals against Madagascar, not something that happens often to the holders. “It happened because we were poor tactically,” said skipper Ilya Leonov afterwards. “We scored three quick goals in the first period and then spent our time trying to play keep-ball. We lost our focus a little.”

The words
“Mexico are not as physically strong as Iran but they are very shrewd in defence, which is why we found it hard to score. We knew that if we won we’d stay in contention, and that’s why we’re happy,”
Spain captain Nico.

“I think the reason why we’ve lost both games is because our rivals are stronger than we are. We also lack experience at this level,” Madagascar winger Tokindrainy Randriamampandry.

“We didn’t perform well in the first game because we didn’t play our normal game. We did against Paraguay, though, and we played a lot better. I’m happy we won for our little island,” Tahiti defender Heimanu Taiarui.

“It’s disappointing to be out of the competition, but we played two good matches. I’m proud of myself and my team-mates,” Paraguay pivot Pedro Moran.

“We didn’t start off well. Our minds were elsewhere. As the game went on, though, we got into our stride. Qualification is still in our hands,” Brazil coach Junior Negao.

Next matchday, Monday 13 July (Local times listed)
Group A
Portugal-Argentina (14:30)
Japan-Senegal (16:00)

Group B
Oman-Costa Rica (13:00)
Switzerland-Italy (17:30)