The quarter-finals of Dubai 2009 take place on Friday and it is perhaps unsurprising that Brazil, Japan, Portugal, Uruguay and Spain are still alive, each of these experienced sides having appeared at the last four editions of the tournament. They are joined by Marseille 2008 finalists Italy, newcomers Switzerland, and ever-dangerous Russia. Argentina, another perennial participant, fell just short of making it to the quarter-finals, despite their victory over Russia on Wednesday.
Game of the day
Brazil – Italy, 19.30 (local time)
For the first time in the history of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, the two finalists of the previous edition are paired against each other in the quarter-finals. Defending champions Brazil will take on Italy in a replay of the Marseille 2008 final, the only prior encounter between these two sides. Brazil had a five goal advantage in that match until three late goals frayed Brazilian nerves. But the Seleção held on to earn a 5-3 triumph and their third successive FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
Both sides enter Friday’s match with nine of the same players from last year’s final, Brazil adding Dino, Daniel Souza and goalkeeper Alessandro, while Italy have been fortified with Marco Sguazzin, Pasquale Carotenuto and goalkeeper Simone del Mestre. Brazil are riding a wave of 22 consecutive victories and, in their 11-5 defeat of Nigeria on Monday, hit double figures for the seventh time in 26 games played at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
Russia and Switzerland are two sides that appear to be hitting their form at just the right time. The two nations have never played each other in a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, but the Russians grabbed a 3-2 win in qualifying action last year to deny the Swiss a trip to Marseille 2008. And in 2007, Nokolai Pisarev’s men secured an 8-2 victory in the first stage of the qualifiers. Excluding the participants in the inaugural contest, Switzerland are the first European debutants to make it to the knockout stages.
Tensions were running high for Portugal after their defeat by Uruguay, but Madjer’s lightning strike against Solomon Islands after just two seconds was the quickest in tournament history, as Portugal’s confidence returned. Though they will be without Shusei Yamauchi, the Asian champions will likely prove a formidable adversary, as one of only two sides to have escaped the group stages unbeaten. In their only previous meeting, Portugal beat Japan 4-0 in the group stages of Rio de Janeiro 2005.
Although they have taken part in every previous edition, Uruguay and Spain have never met in beach soccer’s showpiece event. Uruguay have twice finished in the top three in previous editions of the tournament and notched their first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup clean sheet on Wednesday. After a tough start, Spain cruised through their last two matches and appear ready for their next challenge.
Player to watch
Since Amarelle’s return from injury, Spain have not lost. With stiff competition up next in the form of the formidable Diego and Uruguay, La Roja will be relying on the adidas Golden Ball winner at Marseille 2008 to deliver when he is needed most.
5 – Russia’s stingy defence conceded just five goals during the group stage, the best performance at Dubai 2009. They will need to continue to be at their best when they face off against the prolific Dejan Stankovic and his Swiss cohorts.
“I think that Japan currently possesses a very high spirit and, from my point of view, they were one of the best teams in the group phase. The key thing about Japan is that they are good as a team, in addition to being skilled as individuals. But Portugal is also very strong and I think that we are going to win. Our expectations are very high. We are improving match by match and I hope that we reach our potential in the final,” Belchoir, Portugal player