Global superpowers Brazil retained their title at the South American qualifying tournament for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna 2011, while Venezuela capped a fine campaign by clinching the third CONMEBOL slot at this September’s showpiece on Italian sands.
In Sunday’s match for third place at the competition in Rio de Janeiro, La Vinotinto bounced back from the previous day’s narrow semi-final reverse to Argentina by beating fellow tournament surprise packages Colombia 5-2. The win means that Venezuela will soon take part in their first ever FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, while Uruguay, runners-up at Rio de Janeiro 2007 and semi-finalists at Dubai 2009, failed to qualify for the first time after a shock first-round exit.
Hosts and four-time world champions Brazil sank fierce rivals Argentina 6-2 in the final, also played on Sunday on the Copacabana, in a fitting celebration of their 400th match. The success ensured coach Alexandre Soares’ Seleção finished the campaign unbeaten, scoring 56 goals in their six games in the process – an average of 9.3 per game.
Twelve of this impressive total were notched by Bruno Malias, the competition’s top scorer and winner of the best player award. “Everything I do is for my family, my wife Aline and my son Arthur,” said Malias. “And when I’m out on the pitch, these players are my family too and I give everything I’ve got for them. All these goals are for them.” Amarelinha keeper Mao, who conceded just ten times, was also chosen as the best in his position.
Clearly confident in the current squad’s chances of winning the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup for the fifth time in six editions, coach Soares stated: “This is the best team Brazil have ever had. I call them 'the Dream Team' – they’re a side that has everything.”
With the identity of the three CONMEBOL representatives now known, the full group line-up for Ravenna 2011 is complete. Holders Brazil have been drawn alongside Japan, Mexico and Ukraine, whereas Argentina are up against El Salvador, Oman and Portugal.
Debutants Venezuela will meet Nigeria, Russia and Tahiti, while host nation Italy, Iran, Senegal and Switzerland make up the final group. The top-two finishers in each section will progress to the quarter-final stage.
Top scorer and best player: Bruno Malias (BRA)
Best goalkeeper: Mao (BRA)