Brazil the undisputed kings of sand
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There is no team in the world that can play beach soccer quite like Brazil. The South Americans proved that point once again at Dubai 2009, dominating the week-long tournament from start to finish to lift their fourth consecutive FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup trophy.

“We have a gift. There are a lot of talented youngsters back home who can come in and do just as good a job for A Seleçao,” said their captain Benjamin, the oldest member of the championship-winning team. “We won because of our togetherness, our respect for each other and the love that there is in the camp, and this fourth title is reward for all our hard work.”

Such was the gulf in class between Brazil and the rest of the field that not even tournament revelations Switzerland could contain them in the final. By the time the third period got under way, the Europeans were trailing 8-1, though that should not detract from a magnificent week’s work by a vibrant Swiss side making their first appearance in the tournament.

The newcomers engineered a late rally in that closing period, underlining their quality and determination. Their second place was richly deserved, as were the personal accolades for goal machine Dejan Stankovic, who made off with the adidas Golden Shoe and the adidas Golden Ball.

Taking the third spot on the podium were Portugal, who lacked their customary flair and were hampered by off-key performances from the likes of Alan and Belchior. Skipper Madjer was his usual irrepressible self, though, coming in second behind Stankovic in the individual awards and helping himself to six goals in a spectacular 14-7 win over Uruguay in the match for third place, the highest-scoring game in the history of the competition.

La Celeste reached the last four after recovering from an inauspicious opening-day reverse to the Solomon Islands. Displaying no little grit, the Uruguayans battled their way out of the group before ending the hopes of the surprisingly listless Spanish in the quarter-finals.

Minnows make waves
Uruguay’s 7-6 defeat to the Pacific islanders was just one of several shocks in the group phase in Dubai and led to Charrúa striker Ricar making the following observation: “The standard of beach soccer around the world has improved a lot and things have really evened out, so much so that any team can come along and beat you now.”

Despite the first-round upsets, there was a familiar look about the last-eight line-up, though the presence of dark horses Switzerland and Japan was a surprise for many. Under the tutelage of the returning Rui Ramos, the Brazilian tactician who took them to a fine fourth place at Rio de Janeiro 2005, the Japanese topped their group with three wins out of three, one of them coming against Spain. The Asians then went mightily close against the Portuguese in the quarters, their run only coming to an end when Belchior scored a late winner with just 52 seconds left on the clock.

Tipped by many as the side most likely to push the Brazilians, Russia also came to grief in the last eight, the victim of a three-goal salvo by the deadly Stankovic. Spain were a shadow of the side that impressed in Marseille last year and struggled in each and every one of their games on Jumeirah beach. Having only just shaken off an injury, their inspirational captain Amarelle arrived after the defeat to Japan in their first game, and though the Spaniards fought their way into the quarters, their luck ran out against Uruguay.

Solomon Islands fell at the first hurdle yet again despite their stunning first-day win, while the African duo of Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire and CONCACAF representatives El Salvador and Costa Rica also failed to make the knockout stages. Los Ticos enjoyed little luck on their tournament debut and were drawn in a tough section also featuring Russia, Italy and Argentina, three of the discipline’s biggest names. It was La Albiceleste who missed out from that trio, exiting the competition despite a penalty-shootout win over the Russians in their final group game. Agonisingly for the South Americans, had they won that match in normal time they would have gone through and the Italians would have gone out.

It proved to be a demanding week for the 16 teams, with 32 games being packed into the seven-day schedule. The qualifiers responded to the challenge, however, serving up lots of exciting beach soccer and a deluge of goals, 284 of them in fact, a tally second only to Rio de Janeiro 2006.

Following five editions, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup will now be held every two years, prompting Portuguese star Madjer to make a plea to the various confederations. “I hope they take on the responsibility of organising beach soccer tournaments until the next World Cup comes around. This sport isn’t like football and we need competitions to stay in shape and keep improving.” And no matter what new events come into being, you can be sure that FIFA.com will have all the news on them.

Participating nations
Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Portugal, Russia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay

Ranking
1. Brazil
2. Switzerland
3. Portugal
4. Uruguay

No. of goals
284 goals were scored in the 32 matches, an average of 8.8 goals per games.

Top scorers
16 goals - Dejan Stankovic (SWI)
13 - Madjer (POR)
8 - Buru (BRA)