The third day of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009 is set to bring a host of excitement to Jumeirah Beach. Japan, Russia, Brazil and Switzerland have all qualified after Tuesday’s games, so on Wednesday all eyes will be on the final group matches which determine who will join them in the quarter-finals.
The biggest of Wednesday’s games will be the crunch match between European champions Spain and Côte d’Ivoire in Group B, while Group A is wide open with all four teams still in with a chance of qualifying. Elsewhere, Argentina and last year’s runners up Italy will be fighting to qualify from Group C.
Game of the Day
Spain–Côte d’Ivoire, Group B, 13:30 (local time)
The Spain-Côte d’Ivoire match is extremely important for both sides, as whoever wins will qualify for the knockout stages. Spain suffered a shock defeat on penalties against Asian champions Japan in their opening game, before returning to winning ways against El Salvador in their second encounter. This match will not be easy for the European champions, as they are facing a stubborn African side who notched a hard-fought win in their first match. Yet the Spaniards' experience may give them the edge against the tournament debutants.
Group A is the most evenly balanced group so far, and going into the final day, every team still has a chance of qualifying. After Tuesday's defeat at the hands of Uruguay, Madjer and his Portuguese team-mates will be trying to regain some pride when they play the Solomon Islands, while hosts United Arab Emirates take on the South Americans in another intriguing match-up.
Although all eyes in Group B will be on Spain and Côte d’Ivoire, section leaders Japan will not be expected to struggle in their game against El Salvador. The Asian champions have already qualified with two successive wins, while El Salvador are already out of the running.
The fate of Italy in Group C is now out of their hands: the Azzurri have to beat Costa Rica while hoping Argentina fail to get a repeat of their win against Russia in Marseille 2008. That was the only time the pair have met in this competition, with the South Americans coming away with a 5-3 success. Russia, for their part, will be attempting to cement their position at the top of the group and underline their status as the tournament's dark horse.
As for Group D, title holders Brazil will hope to head into the quarter-finals as group leaders after their confrontation with newcomers Switzerland. Meanwhile, group rivals Bahrain and Nigeria square off with only a token victory at stake before both bid farewell to Dubai.
Player to Watch
Swiss striker Dejan Stankovic stole the limelight with four goals against Nigeria. The quadruple haul brought his total to six so far, putting him on top of the scoring charts and helping the tournament debutants to the knockout stages in the process. However, Stankovic is sure to face stiff competition for the competition's top-scorer prize from Brazilian sharpshooters Buru and Bruno.
“The match against the Solomon Islands was like the first final for us and Uruguay will be the second. We’ve learned a lot from our second match and we’ll play well against Uruguay. I have asked the players not to think about the results of the other teams, but to concentrate on our match. I believe we’ll win and qualify for the quarter-finals.” United Arab Emirates coach, Marcelo Mendes
Spain-Côte d’Ivoire (13:30)
Japan-El Salvador (13:30)
Costa Rica-Italy (15:00)
Portugal-Solomon Islands (16:30)
United Arab Emirates-Uruguay (19:30)