Brazil qualify in style
© AFP

Three-time world champions Brazil were in unstoppable form on the sands of Pocitos beach, in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, defeating the host nation 10-1 in the final of the South American Beach Soccer Championship. Uruguay will join A Seleção in representing CONMEBOL at this year's FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, as will Argentina, who edged out Ecuador in the play-off for third place. The showpiece event is scheduled to begin on 16 November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Despite falling just short of clinching a spot at Dubai 2009, Ecuador caused a real stir on their first appearance at an official beach soccer tournament outside of their borders. Indeed, at the Sudamericano, which took place between 11 and 15 March, it was an Ecuadorian, forward Virley Stanley Conforme, who was voted the competition's best player.

This success was a team effort and we're now aiming to win the World Cup in November. 
Brazil's Andre

The remaining individual awards went to Brazilians, with Mao taking the best goalkeeper prize and Andre the top scorer's honour. "I'm very happy to have won the tournament and to finish top scorer," said the latter after the final. "This success was a team effort and we're now aiming to win the World Cup in November."

Alexandre Soares's charges left observers in no doubt as to the finest team on show, going through the tournament unbeaten, scoring 39 goals and conceding just six in their five games. Even the final was a one-sided affair, with three goals from Andre, two apiece from Betinho, Daniel and Benjamin, and one from Camilo sealing an emphatic victory, with Uruguay's consolation effort coming from Matias Cabrera.

Despite such a heavy reverse, Charrúa coach Venancio Ramos refused to lay the blame at his players' feet. "We're very pleased about the tournament's organisation and the fans' behaviour. The Uruguayan public really paid tribute to the players," said Ramos. "We're happy because we asked them to obtain professional results even though they are amateur players."

Albiceleste squeeze through
Argentina, who finished fifth at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Marseille 2008, got off to an unexpectedly poor start with an opening 6-5 defeat by Chile. However, back-to-back wins over Peru and Uruguay, 9-3 and 1-0 respectively, ensured they reached the last four, where they were beaten 3-1 by the eventual winners.

Thus needing to beat tournament revelations Ecuador in the match for third place in order to reach Dubai 2009, a thrilling encounter was level at 8-8 after the regulation 36 minutes had expired. Deep into extra time, with a shootout just 44 seconds away, a hopeful punt from Argentina keeper Marcelo Salgueiro took a wicked bounce before finding its way into the net - booking the Albiceleste's place in Dubai and breaking Ecuadorian hearts in the process.

"We're really very happy about this win. We had to fight right to the end to pick up the victory. Now we can focus on our preparations for the World Cup in Dubai," said forward Ezequiel Lopez Hilaire, scorer of a brace against Ecuador.

Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela came fifth, sixth, seventh and eight respectively in the first edition of the Sudamericano to feature eight national teams. Another positive note was a total attendance of nearly 10,000 over the four-day event, further evidence of the discipline's fast-growing popularity in South America.