The official draw for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2011 took place in the historical city of Rome today.
Hosts Italy will play Iran on the opening day of the competition, which will take place from 1-11 September 2011.
The draw ceremony was held in the presence of Giancarlo Abete, President of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Carlo Tavecchio, Vice-President of FIGC and President of the Lega Nazionale Dilettanti (LND).
The draw itself was conducted by Joan Cuscó, member of the FIFA Futsal and Beach Soccer Committee, and Jaime Yarza, Senior Manager of Futsal and Beach Soccer Competitions at FIFA.
“Beach Soccer is growing strong in the whole world, and the growth of participants is the best proof of that," said Cuscó. "The competition will be really hard-fought as all the teams are doing a great job, and you cannot say who is better than who.
"We are really excited for this upcoming edition of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2011, and we look forward to the involvement of the people in Ravenna to make it unforgettable.”
Christian Karembeu, a 1998 FIFA World Cup™ winner, and Ramiro Amarelle, MVP at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2008 in France, were also in attendance to act as draw assistants to determine the groups of the tournament, which can be seen below.
Italy, Iran, Senegal, Switzerland
Argentina, El Salvador, Oman, Portugal
Venezuela, Nigeria, Russia, Tahiti
Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine
The winners and runners-up in each group will qualify for the knockout stages, with all games played on the beautiful beach of Ravenna.
Italy coach Massimiliano Esposito was pleased with the hosts' group. “It’s been a good draw, in my opinion. It is obviously a tough group but I prefer this one rather than any other, indeed," he said.
"We know the Swiss as we played against them recently, and we are fully aware of how difficult it will be to beat them. I think it’s a matter of mentality. It’s up to us, as if we are concentrated and we do a good job, we can get far, but, if we are not good, we will be out soon.”
And Karembeu was in agreement: "I think it is a much more hard group distribution than the previous one. There are so many powerful teams. The Europeans are always strong, and especially Italy, whose people I know very well, will have the extra boost of a devoted crowd to become their sixth man on the sand.
"They love this sport, they were the ones to fight to develop it and this is their chance to win and make their dream come true.”