Since their first appearance at a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2007, Russia’s improvement has been so remarkable that they took the world title for the first time at the 2011 tournament. They followed up ninth place at their inaugural finals by finishing sixth and seventh at subsequent competitions. At the last edition, the team outdid themselves by winning all six games to lift the trophy. Victory at the Euro Beach Soccer Cup in February 2012 and second place at the Beach Soccer League 2012 further underline Russia’s strength.
As expected at the European qualifying tournament for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013, Russia had little trouble setting themselves apart from the opposition. However, coach Mikhail Likhachev’s side did stumble in the first group phase against Poland, showing they are vulnerable when not fully focused. In the quarter-finals the Sbornaja demonstrated great fighting spirit to defeat a strong Swiss side, before cementing their status as one of the world’s best teams with forceful displays in the second group stage. Despite qualifying for Tahiti 2013, defeat in the final against Spain will have hurt the reigning world champions’ pride.
Mikhail Likhachev presides over an extremely talented squad, renowned for its team spirit and individual quality. Andrey Bukhlitskiy is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, while Alexey Makarov is a constant threat in front of goal. Their impressive recent results, combined with the fact they go into the tournament as defending champions, mean Russia are once again among the favourites. If they can maintain their concentration and avoid complacency, Russia will be an unwelcome opponent for anyone.