Russian waves crash on Ticos
© AFP

Russia’s stingy defence, which allowed the fewest number of goals during the European qualifying tournament for Dubai 2009, was in near-perfect synch with its formidable offence, as the Russians made life on the beach difficult for the Ticos, as they cruised to an impressive 5-1 win.

It was Anton Shkarin’s birthday yesterday, but he waited a day before sending a belated gift to his team-mates, striking Russia’s second goal to help put Costa Rica at the wrong end of a simmering trans-Atlantic fued. Russia had been paired against CONCACAF beach soccer newcomers once before, losing 2-1 to Mexico on penalties in 2007, after the match ended 2-2 following extra time, but clearly made amends in Dubai.

Costa Rica’s captain Jose Calvo had the first opportunity of the match, but was only able to send his shot drifting wide of the far post. Enzo Mora was unlucky to handle the ball soon afterward to give Russia a penalty, which Yury Krasheninnikov pushed into the net, after approaching the ball with a stutter-step. Anton Shkarin then snapped his picture-perfect overhead kick to give Russia a two-goal advantage.

Russian captain Ilya Leonov struck a minute into the second period, tapping home from close range with no Costa Rican defenders anywhere in the vicinity. And the Ticos were under fire moments later, as goalkeeper Enrico Regidor twice leapt skyward to keep his side’s hopes alive.

Costa Rican expressions began to turn sour halfway through the match as a tough challenge yielded a direct-kick. Dmitry Shishin made no mistake with the ensuing effort, sending a perfectly-placed ball into the upper corner. And a nearly identical chance yielded yet another goal for Russia minutes later, as Rustam Shakhmelyan snuck his shot just inside the post.

The Ticos just did not seem to be able to find a way through while, at the other end, their keeper became coated in more and more sand as the relentless Russians continued to pepper the net from all angles. By contrast, Andrey Bukhlitskiy looked little troubled, even when forced to deal with a hard free-kick from Greivin Pacheco. Delbert Cameron got a consolation goal for the Ticos, but it was not nearly enough.

Russia have Marseille 2008 finalists Italy to confront tomorrow, while Costa Rica, the fifth CONCACAF side to appear at the finals of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, will need to make quick adjustments ahead of their match with Argentina tomorrow.