Debutants Switzerland have battled their way to the final of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009, largely thanks to the prolificacy of Dejan Stankovic. The lethal striker has used his imposing physique to great effect, scoring no fewer than 15 of his side’s 26 goals.
“I feel really good about being the top scorer of the competition, but all I’m thinking about right now is the final,” said Switzerland’s man of the moment, all smiles after hitting four of their seven goals in the semi-final defeat of Uruguay. “It was a tough game but Sunday’s match will be even harder. But if we can play like we did today, though, I think we can pull off something big.”
After securing their place in the final, the Swiss players celebrated loudly as they returned to their dressing room, many of them scarcely able to take in what they had just achieved. Among the many well-wishers offering their congratulations to the tournament new boys was Ernesto Bertarelli, the owner of the famous Swiss yacht Alinghi, who is in Dubai with his crew as they prepare for the America’s Cup.
“First the World Cup and then the final. It’s incredible. It’s amazing,” exclaimed a disbelieving Stankovic after helping put the Uruguayans to the sword. “I know it’s Brazil but nothing is impossible and we are ready for the challenge. We’re up against the best team in the world but I think we’ve got a chance. We are ready.”
The confidence of Switzerland ahead of their daunting meeting with the three-time world champions is founded on the spectacular progress they have made in Dubai. “We have learned something in every game,” said Stankovic, a firm candidate for the adidas Golden Shoe, but who would gladly swap that individual accolade for the team title on Sunday.
A return meeting
Encouragingly for the Swiss and their in-form sharpshooter, he already knows what it takes to score against the Brazilians, having put two past goalkeeper Mao when the sides met in the group phase on Wednesday. And though the Europeans went down 4-2, they believe they have the ability to thwart the tournament favourites in the final.
“We have to keep playing the way have been doing up to now and show the same strength," said young keeper Nico Jung. "We need to concentrate right from the start. We don’t have anything to lose because we are the debutants and Brazil are defending three world titles. We are not scared. Bring them on.”
Jung shared the goalkeeping duties in that group game with his first-choice team-mate Valentin Jaeggy, but confirmed that the two have not been comparing notes ahead of the final. “He hasn’t said anything to me about that. When you’re a keeper the key is to have lots of confidence in yourself, and I do.”
The last word on the eve of Switzerland’s big day deservedly goes to Stankovic. “I’m happy," he declared. "Reaching the final is very important for us, for the competition and for Swiss beach soccer fans. The key to our success has been the hard training we’ve been putting in. There are no secrets. We are a team, we stick together and that helps us reach our objectives. We have fun playing and that’s very important.”
Switzerland can expect to have plenty more fun against the best side in the world, and whatever the outcome, it should be quite a spectacle.