In a short space of time Russia's beach soccer team has gained a formidable reputation. Since 2007, their first year among the European elite, they have more than held their own with the big boys. And though they failed to emerge from their group during their FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup debut that year, they performed admirably, only losing on penalties to eventual finalists Mexico and Brazil. At Marseilles 2008 they reached the quarter-finals, going down to an unstoppable Brazil team on their way to another world crown.
Nikolay Pisarev's men were unbeaten at the qualifying tournament in Castellon. They recorded victories over Andorra, England, the Netherlands, France and Portugal on their way to the final against Spain. Despite being on the ropes for long periods in front of a partisan home crowd, Russia took the game to a penalty shootout, where lady luck would finally desert them in a dramatic 13-12 reverse.
No longer considered a soft touch in international competitions, Russia's impressive progress in recent years will have opponents on high alert. Their hopes of success in Dubai were boosted when they took revenge on Spain in the Euro Beach Soccer League shortly after the qualifiers, Pisarev's men seeing off the Spaniards in the semis before claiming their first title at the expense of the powerful Portuguese.
Facts and figures
Vladimir Pavlikov, Ildar Aliev (2007)
Andrey Bukhlitskiy (goalkeeper), Yury Gorchinskiy (defender), Ilya Leonov (defender), Egor Shaykov (forward)
Russia managed five wins before a draw in the final, scoring 35 goals and conceding 14.
The numbers game
14 - The number of goals Russia conceded at the qualifying competition, the fewest of any team in the tournament.