A spectacular city of contrasts on the Persian Gulf where east meets west, Dubai has grown exponentially over the last few years. Its sandy beaches have become one of its many tourist attractions, while its deserts stretch out infinitely in the background. It is truly a city where there is sand at every turn.
And with the sand, the people of Dubai have worked wonders, constructing an artificial archipelago off the coast in the shape of a palm tree, for example. So it comes as no surprise that Dubai has been chosen to host some major sporting events.
From 16-22 November, Jumeirah Beach will be the setting for the fifth FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Brazil have won this annual tournament every year since 2006, and in Dubai, will be looking for their fourth consecutive title. Of the four previous beach soccer tournaments organised by FIFA, the Auriverde have only failed to win one – the inaugural edition, which was claimed by France. But Les Bleus will not stand in their way this time around, having failed to qualify.
In fact, the Canarinha have not been beaten in the competition since their semi-final defeat to Portugal in 2005, where they lost on penalties after a 6-6 draw. Portugal are thus the only team to have prevailed against Brazil in the history of the tournament. Much of the credit for the Europeans' record at the event must go to coach Jose Mateus, who has overseen more matches than anyone else in the competition's history. Mateus has coached Portugal every year since the tournament started - a total of 21 matches, including the biggest-ever win, a 14-2 defeat of Solomon Islands.
Six teams have appeared in every edition of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup: Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Japan, Portugal and Spain. And Brazilians Julio Negao and Benjamin hold the record for games played, each with 23.
Hot on the heels of the veteran pair are Portuguese talents Madjer and Alan, each with 21 tournament appearances under their belts. The pair are also the tournament’s top two scorers to date. Alan has netted 26 times (joint-second along with Brazilians Benjamin and Bruno), but will have to score a hatful in Dubai to get close to Madjer, who has been on target a staggering 54 times.
But it is not just Brazil and Portugal who can find the net. Spain will also want to leave their mark in Dubai, and none more so than Amarelle and Nico, the only La Roja players to have scored in all previous tournaments.
Costa Rica, Switzerland and Côte d’Ivoire are the debutants this year, while UAE, though they qualified automatically as hosts, can be expected to provide stiff opposition, having twice been crowned champions of Asia. UAE also showed their potential in friendlies this year against Japan and Bahrain, Asia’s two other representatives in Dubai, winning 4-2 and 4-1 respectively.
Seven days of drama and action lie ahead, as the 16 finalists prepare to contest 32 games in search of beach soccer's biggest prize. Will Brazil once again shine brightest, or will they finally be dethroned? All will be revealed on 22 November. In the meantime, stay connected to FIFA.com for all the latest news and action from Dubai.