Landlocked Swiss set sail

Bahrain kicked-off their FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup campaign against European debutants, just as in the 2006 edition when they overpowered Italy 4-2 in their opening game. But, this day, Switzerland wanted no part in helping history to repeat itself.

And the first seconds of Dubai 2009 set the tone for the excitement awaiting the supporters here on Jumeirah Beach, as Rashed Salem’s drive cruised just north of the Swiss crossbar. Two minutes later, Bahrain notched the tournament’s first goal as Salem slammed home a penalty kick to put his side ahead.

Stephan Leu came close moments later for the Swiss, as his deceptively unassuming strike glanced off the bar. As the first period rolled on to the thumping beats echoing throughout the stadium, both sides showed flair and creativity as they worked to earn the first win of this year’s competition. Six minutes in, Dejan Stankovic brought the Swiss supporters to their feet as his perfectly-executed overhead strike yielded the equaliser and Switzerland continued to press, jumping to a 3-1 lead as the first period came to a close.

Rashed Salem got his second mid-way through the second period before Ebrahim Abdulla tapped in from close range, as Bahrain’s vocal fans broke into boisterous, celebratory chants. As the period wound down, goalkeeper Hasem Almannaei did well to punch a long-range Swiss strike over the bar, but Ayoob Mubarak’s bouncing shot found its way into the net as the Swiss took the lead with eight minutes left.

Almannaei did well to turn away Stephan Meier’s direct kick and moments later Bahrain sent a searching shot that glanced off the bar. Stankovic grabbed an equalizer with four minutes left before took the lead through captain Mo Jaeggy. Salem struck his third though to bring Bahrain back into the match, but Sandro Spaccarotella’s low shot slipped into the net to earn beach glory on day one for the Swiss.

Difficult group stage confrontations with Nigeria and Brazil are next on Switzerland’s dance card, but they can take pride in their performance and take comfort in the knowledge that the seeds of success have been planted.