Surprise in South America as Uruguay miss out

Though the final of the South American qualifying tournament for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna 2011 has yet to be played, and the continent’s three berths for the showpiece event are still to be decided, one thing is for certain: the region will send at least one new face to Italy.

At every FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup since the inaugural edition in 2005, the same three teams have qualified to represent South America: Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. However, once the dust settled on the group phase at this year’s qualifying competition, it is Venezuela and Colombia that have made it through to the semi-finals alongside A Seleção and La Albiceleste. All of which means traditional forces Uruguay, runners-up at Rio de Janeiro 2007 and semi-finalists at Dubai 2009, miss out on the global finals for the very first time.

In a similar pattern to that seen at July’s Copa America, it appears that there are no longer any easy games in South American beach soccer either. Indeed, the first phase threw up surprises, evenly matched encounters and moments of quality from every team involved.

The Uruguayans, for example, lost out to Colombia on penalties after a 3-3 draw, while Chile, favourites to finish second in Group A behind Brazil, were caught out by both Peru and Venezuela – with the latter slipping up against Paraguay. The one thing that does not change, however, is the utter dominance enjoyed by Brazil, winners of the last four FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups, who won all four of their first-round games scoring 44 goals and conceding just six in the process. A Verde e Amarelo have now gone 25 qualifying matches without defeat.

We’ve achieved our first objective, which was to qualify in first place in Group B. Our next challenge is to book our place (at Ravenna 2011).
Francisco Petrasso, Venezuela coach



Even so, coach Alexandre Soares was keen to strike a note of caution before his side’s semi-final against Colombia. “We’re going into the most difficult game of this qualifying phase. A win would guarantee our place in the World Cup and we’ll take the field all guns blazing, to try and kill off the game as early as possible,” said Soares. “If I was the Colombia coach and saw that the game was getting away from us, I’d tell my lads to save their energy for Sunday (and the match for third place),” added the coach with a grin.

The other semi-final pits Venezuela against an Argentina side who, like Brazil, finished the first phase unbeaten. “We’ve achieved our first objective, which was to qualify in first place in Group B,” said coach Francisco Petrasso, whose side appear to be coping well with a rigorous transitional period. “Our next challenge is to book our place (at Ravenna 2011). I’m very pleased with the team’s performance, particularly as we’re currently making a lot of changes.”

The winners of Saturday’s semi-finals will guarantee their place at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2011. The final will be played on Sunday, as will the match for third place, with the latter deciding CONMEBOL’s last representative at the global showpiece in Ravenna - set to take place between 1 and 11 September.

Given the other continental qualifying competitions have already been played, the three South American sides will join host nation Italy; Ukraine, Portugal, Russia and Switzerland (Europe); Senegal and Nigeria (Africa); Japan, Oman and Iran (Asia); Tahiti (Oceania) and Mexico and El Salvador (North, Central America and Caribbean).

Fixtures:
Saturday, 6 August
11:15am local time (4:15pm CET) – Argentina vs Venezuela (semifinal)*
12:30pm local time (5:30 CET) – Brazil vs Colombia (semifinal)*

Sunday, 7 August
11:15am local time (4:15pm CET) – 3rd place match*
12:30pm local time (5:30 CET) – Final

* Winner qualifies for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011

Results
Thursday, 4 August
Chile (0) 4-4 (1) Peru
Brazil 7-0 Venezuela

Wednesday, 3 August
Ecuador 4-9 Colombia
Venezuela (1) 6-6 (2) Paraguay
Uruguay 3-5 Argentina
Brazil 10-4 Chile

Tuesday, 2 August
Argentina 2-0 Colombia
Peru 5-9 Paraguay
Uruguay 8-2 Ecuador
Venezuela 3-2 Chile

Monday, 1 August
Argentina 4-3 Ecuador
Chile 6-3 Paraguay
Colombia (1) 3-3 (0) Uruguay
Brazil 13-1 Peru

Sunday, 31 July
Venezuela 5-2 Peru
Brazil 14-1 Paraguay

Final Standings
Group A
Brazil, 12 points
Venezuela, 6 points
Paraguay, 5 points
Chile, 3 points
Peru, 2 points

Group B
Argentina, 9 points
Colombia, 5 points
Uruguay, 3 points
Ecuador, 0 points