Opening day brimming with drama
© Getty Images

THE DAY REPLAYED – The first day of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011 had everything that makes this form of the game so appealing, with drama, goals galore, tense matches and the spirit of fair play.

In the opening match, Argentina initially fell behind against Oman, but the South Americans turned the tables as the game went on and ultimately eased to victory. The second match in Group B was a much more one-sided affair, as Portugal underlined their status as one of the favourites for the trophy with a thumping victory over El Salvador. The team spearheaded by superstar Madjer wowed the crowds with an exhibition of silky skills, drawing tumultuous applause time and time again.

By contrast, the Group A matches were packed with tension and drama. African champions Senegal looked to be strolling against the subdued Swiss, but the Europeans roused themselves and battled back to tie the scores. A thrilling match ended in a penalty shoot-out, where the Senegalese showed the stronger nerves. The second game in the section was another roller-coaster of a match, as Iran repeatedly edged in front of Italy only for the hosts finally to take the lead in the last period. Iran equalised with seconds remaining, but the Italians eventually prevailed in a nail-biting shoot-out.

Results
Argentina 3-1 Oman
Switzerland 8-8 Senegal, 0-1 on penalties
Italy 6-6 Iran, 5-4 on penalties
El Salvador 2-11 Portugal

Goal of the day
Madjer, 4:57, El SalvadorPortugal
Stunning goals flew in at regular intervals on day one, although the most spectacular of them all was scored by Portuguese legend Madjer. Following a breathtaking piece of magic from Belchior, who lobbed the ball into his team-mate’s path with a back-heel, Portugal's super striker took flight before directing an unstoppable scissors kick past El Salvador keeper Jose Portillo.

Memorable moments
Just like home for Senegal
Well before the battle commenced between Senegal and Switzerland, the African champions’ large and boisterous travelling support made their presence felt at Stadio del Mare. Armed with flags and drums, they created the equivalent of a home atmosphere for their heroes down on the sand. The African party climaxed at the moment keeper Al Seyni Ndiyae beat away Dejan Stankovic’s shoot-out effort; moments later, the joyful custodian was dancing with his team-mates in front of their delirious supporters.

Fair play to the fore
The build-up to the meeting between hosts Italy and Iran included the launch of the 15th annual FIFA Fair Play Days, which encompass the official round of international fixtures from 2-6 September. The players of both teams joined forces and gathered behind a Fair Play banner, calling jointly for fairness and respect on and off the field.

Italian thriller with happy ending
Nerves of steel were required to watch the hosts take on Iran at the superbly appointed Stadio del Mare. The Italians, in a perpetual game of catch-up for much of the match, eventually nosed in front and seemed set to win. However, they were forced into the lottery of penalties before finally chalking up the victory, to the huge delight and relief of the home crowd, who transformed the arena into a seething cauldron of noise.

The stat
13 – In the meeting with El Salvador, Madjer scored his 13th FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup hat-trick. The Portugal star has now scored three goals or more in at least one match at all six final tournaments to date.

Next up
Friday, 2 September 2011
Nigeria-Russia
Japan-Mexico
Brazil-Ukraine
Tahiti-Venezuela

Have your say
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