Clash of the champions
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The second day of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011 looks all set to feature a number of evenly matched duels, with four teams that won their regional qualifying involved, as well as a Russia side which won August’s Euro Beach Soccer League Superfinal. On one extreme you have reigning champions Brazil, winners of the last four world titles, and their testing opener against a dangerous Ukraine outfit, while on the other is the intriguing encounter between two debutants: Venezuela and Tahiti.

Game of the day
Brazil-Ukraine, Group D – 18.00 (local time)
It must have certainly been unsettling for the Ukrainians to find their first game in Group D was against the serial world champions Brazil. Yet though A Seleção are always overwhelming favourites in beach soccer, they themselves could barely have been handed a tougher task than the top team in European Zone qualifying.

Other matches
Group D looks set to be a fiercely contested section, with CONCACAF qualifying champions Mexico and Asian qualifying top dogs Japan making it a full house of regional champs. El Tri’s opening clash is against the Japanese on Friday, with the Asian outfit only one of four teams – the others being Brazil, Portugal and Argentina – that have appeared in all six editions of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

That day begins with the meeting of two teams known for their sheer physical power: African qualifying runners-up Nigeria and European heavyweights Russia – many observers’ dark horses for the title after their Euro Beach Soccer League Superfinal success in Moscow.

The final game of the day is arguably its most curious, featuring emerging nations Tahiti and Venezuela. It was just two years ago that both countries were celebrating their first ever trip to a FIFA finals by qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009, and this year they have again travelled along parallel pathways to their first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups. Adding to the twists of fate is the fact they will meet each other in their opening Group C match.

Player to watch
Dmitry Shishin (RUS)
There will of course be a vast number of goalgetters on display, but few go into this tournament in as rich a vein of form as the Russian sharpshooter. At the aforementioned Euro Beach Soccer League Superfinal, Shishin helped himself to seven goals in three games against Romania, Spain and Switzerland to fire his side to the trophy.

The stat
7 –
Of the 12 members of Brazil’s squad here in Italy, no fewer than seven, plus coach Alexandre Soares, were involved in all four of the country’s FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup triumphs to date. Mao, Betinho, Buru, Sidney, Andre, Bruno Malias and Benjamin would all dearly love to claim a fifth crown to add to their feats in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The quote
“It’s odd that in our very first game we’ll be coming up against another team, Tahiti, who are making their debut in the competition too. For us it’s full of mystery, a total uncertainty. But I do know that, as the coach of a team that’s qualified for the first time, that this is a World Cup and all 16 teams know how hard it is to get here,” Roberto Cavallo, Venezuela coach.

What’s next? (all times are local)
15.30 – Nigeria-Russia
17.00 – Japan-Mexico
18.30 – Brazil-Ukraine
20.00 – Tahiti-Venezuela