THE DAY REPLAYED - The five Spanish-speaking sides in action on day one of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009 all crashed to defeat. Uruguay, El Salvador, Spain and Argentina lost by narrow margins, while Costa Rica were easily beaten by Russia.
Two of those reverses came against sides who came into the competition with unimpressive records. The Spaniards surprisingly lost out on penalties to a Japan team with nine straight FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup defeats to their name, while the uninspired Uruguayans fell victim to Solomon Islands, who had only ever won two games in three appearances at the finals.
It proved a better day altogether for Portugal, who squeezed past tournament hosts UAE after conceding a 3-0 lead in the first period. Not surprisingly it was the magnificent Madjer who led the Lusitanian revival.
Brazil had a far easier time of it against Nigeria, although the current African champions did have the audacity to take the lead in the very first minute. Yet, by the time the final whistle had sounded the Brazilians had hit the back of the Nigerian net 11 times to rack up a record tenth consecutive win in the competition. The tournament favourites’ last defeat in the finals came on home sand back in 2005.
Switzerland 6-5 Bahrain
Uruguay 6-7 Solomon Islands
Argentina 2-3 Italy (aet)
Côte d’Ivoire 7-6 El Salvador
Russia 5-1 Costa Rica
Spain 5-5 Japan (Japan win 3-2 on penalties)
United Arab Emirates 5-7 Portugal
Brazil 11-5 Nigeria
Today’s honour goes to the Swiss pivot, who scored his side’s very first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup goal with the one and only overhead kick of the day. Stankovic added a second late on as the European debutants kicked off with an exciting win.
Islanders hang on: Tournament stalwarts Uruguay went into their Group A curtain-raiser against Solomon Islands as the clearest of favourites only to be undone by the deadly finishing of the OFC representatives. Trailing 7-2 at the start of the third and final period, La Celeste almost pulled off an amazing comeback. But after cutting the deficit to one goal with three minutes still remaining, the South Americans could not complete their late revival.
Damp squib: Though the narrow scoreline suggests that Italy’s meeting with Argentina was a tense, exciting affair, the opposite was true as the two sides failed to generate much in the way of excitement, though things did get a little better after a dour, goalless first period.
Five-star Ludovic: Côte d’Ivoire pivot Ludovic Ehounou could not have dreamed of a better finals debut against El Salvador, scoring his side’s opener from the kick-off and going on to hit four more, the fifth of them a last-minute winner as the Africans began in fine style.
Russia’s No1: Andrey Bukhlitskiy was the most impressive keeper in action on the opening day. The Russian gloveman was beaten just once, from a free-kick, as Costa Rica opened their goalscoring account in the finals.
Fireworks on and off the sand: The home fans were treated to some spectacular entertainment as UAE ran the mighty Portugal close on their tournament debut before the organisers lit up the night sky with a superb fireworks display. Should the hosts actually go on to win a game, the celebrations will surely be a sight to behold.
Business as usual: For the fifth year in a row, Brazil kicked off a win. However, after keeping their opponents down to just two goals in their four previous tournament openers, A Seleção proved far more generous to Nigeria, allowing the Africans to help themselves to five goals in all.
1,000 - Frank Velasquez’s second goal for El Salvador against Côte d’Ivoire was the 1,000th in the history of the competition. Despite the landmark strike and a battling performance, Los Cuscatlecos were still beaten by the Ivorians.
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