The 19 November rest day at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009 could hardly have come at a better time for Uruguay. Not only do Los Charrúas have an extra day to prepare for Friday’s quarter-final match against Spain, but they can also recover from staying up all night to watch their countrymen edge out Costa Rica in a qualifying play-off for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
La Celeste’s beach-soccer talents must now focus on their own pursuit of glory, however, as outlined by Ricar, the side’s top scorer so far at the Dubai showpiece: “Russia look very strong and of course Brazil are always favourites. But I’m backing my team-mates. Uruguay are serious contenders, and if we keep improving like we have been, then we can go all the way to the final.”
Up next are La Roja, a team Uruguay will meet for the first time at this competition, despite both sides having appeared at every edition of the showpiece event. “We know all about Spain. They’re another of the global powerhouses and they’ve got very good players,” said Ricar.
“But I think that we’ve already shown that we can be more than a match for any opponents. If we get our game going and show the same spirit as we did against Portugal, we’ll have every chance of success against Spain.”
Speaking of team spirit, the famous garra charrúa that has personified Uruguayan players through the ages has been in evidence from the off at Dubai 2009, the team bouncing back in style from a shock opening defeat by the Solomon Islands. “That loss really hurt us. Before we arrived, we’d thought that Solomon Islands would be the weakest team in the group,” said Uruguay’s No3.
“That confidence worked against us and we paid heavily for it. We weren’t able to come back from 7-6 down, but in the end, that defeat really motivated us to give everything we had against Portugal. Beach soccer is growing so fast and that’s why every game is difficult: there are no easy opponents anymore.”
Keeping the momentum
“The win over Portugal was very important,” continued Ricar, who has appeared at every FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, including 2005’s inaugural event. “In my opinion, Portugal are the second best team in the world after Brazil. They’ve got loads of stars and we managed to beat them. We were much more focused and much more switched on in that game, because we had to win to stay in the hunt.”
For the 2006 runners-up, a win over Spain would secure a place in the last four. Moreover, the Spaniards are weakened by the injury problems dogging their leader Ramiro Amarelle. “We know all about Ramiro, he’s a world-class player. Let’s just hope he doesn’t find his form now,” joked Ricar. “But even so, we’ve got Diego, and we can rely on him. He’s one of the best keepers in the world.”
“Ever since we started preparing for the World Cup, back on the sands of Pocitos beach in 2ºC temperatures, we set ourselves the goal of reaching the final again, like we did in 2006,” said the 27-year-old wide-player.
“We lost that game 4-1 against Brazil, but reaching the final again would be like hitting the jackpot for us, and winning it would be a dream come true.”