Following their departure at the group stages at Rio de Janeiro in 2007 and a quarter-final exit in Marseille last year, Russia will be aiming to go even further this time around at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2009.
Russia booked their ticket to the world event by virtue of finishing runners-up in the European qualifying tournament after losing the final to Spain on penalties. That excellent run led some critics and fans to tip them as the dark horses for the title here in Dubai.
They are certainly living up to expectations so far, after beating Costa Rica 5-1 in the first game of the tournament. That positive result will give the Russians a massive morale boost ahead of their games against last year’s runners-up Italy and Argentina.
FIFA.com met Russian striker Egor Shaykov after the match against Costa Rica and he revealed his team's hopes for Dubai 2009, “We’ve only one aim and that is to finish first in the group. Then we’ll continue to play to finish first in the tournament, otherwise there would be no point in coming here.”
Shaykov scored five goals in Marseille but did not hit any of the five goals against Costa Rica today. However, the 29-year-old says he is not concerned who scores as long as the team win.
“To be honest it’s not important for me to be on the scoresheet because it’s not me that scores but the team. As far as I am concerned it’s a team game not an individual one. As long as we win and score lots of goals then it’s even better for me,” said the striker who will be hoping to make his mark in Russia’s next game against Italy. The Italians edged a tight match against Argentina today and according to Shaykov, Russia will not find it easy against their fellow Europeans on Tuesday.
The tall striker declared “It doesn’t matter who we play. Whether it is Italy or Argentina, we aim to win all our matches. We have studied the group and the other teams we will play in the tournament.”
When asked how much faith he would put in beating Italy, he responded calmly, “We’ll have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.”
He added that the Russian fans had given them great support in the first match even though a lot of the usual supporters who follow the team in other tournaments were missing, and hopes they will have even better support for the next two matches.
Shaykov concluded, “Reaching the final of the European qualifiers was a massive boost for us. Our aim was to finish in the top five and then to qualify for the World Cup and we did that. Here we want to prove to everybody we’re the best and win the title.”