THE DAY REPLAYED - Following the final round of matches in Groups A and B, we now know the identity of the first five quarter-finalists at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011. Portugal and Brazil, who were already through before a ball was kicked, are joined by hosts Italy, African champions Senegal, and the surprise package of the tournament so far, Central American representatives El Salvador.
Senegal faced Iran in the knowledge that victory would secure their place in the last eight. The West Africans duly set off at a ferocious pace and were rewarded with a 3-0 lead after the first period. Despite this, it was a tight affair towards the end, before Babacar Fall extinguished any lingering doubts with a last-minute clincher. The Senegalese now meet Portugal in the next round.
The team spearheaded by superstars Madjer and Belchior were already sure of their quarter-final berth, but there is no stopping the Lusitanians at the moment as the Portuguese brushed aside the challenge of Oman to maintain their perfect record. Their 24 goals scored is comfortably the best tally of the tournament so far.
The meetings between Italy and Switzerland, and El Salvador and Argentina, were both win-or-bust affairs. Not for the first time, it was a roller-coaster ride for the Italians, who cancelled out Switzerland's early lead and then nosed ahead, only to concede a last-minute equaliser. But Francesco Corosoniti sent the home faithful into raptures with the winning goal, as the Italians booked a meeting with El Salvador in the last eight.
For their part, the Central Americans progressed to the quarters with a hard-earned win over Argentina. In the wake of their maiden success at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, the victory against Oman a couple of days ago, El Salvador made history by reaching the knockout stages for the first time.
Goal of the day
Lucio, 11:33, Portugal – Oman
The crowds who witnessed the fifth day of the beach tournament in Ravenna could hardly complain of a lack of stunning goals. Arguably the most spectacular was yet again scored by a member of the potent Portuguese side. Latching onto a long throw from keeper Paulo Graca, Lucio hurled himself acrobatically into a scissors kick from an impossibly tight angle out near the corner flag. He was rewarded in full for his courage and skill, as the ball sailed into the net, reaping profuse applause from the spectators.
Tragic figure transformed into hero
If you’d like to know more about the fine line dividing joy from despair, just ask Senegal's Ndiaga Mbaye. The striker was inconsolable after a decisive missed penalty against Italy, but his brace against Iran, sealing the Africans' progress into the next round, put a smile as wide as a mile on Mbaye's face.
A goal, an assist, and a rest
Even in beach soccer, goalkeepers rarely add their name to the scoresheet, but in the meeting with Oman, Portugal shot-stopper Paulo Graca became only the fifth keeper to achieve the feat at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. To ice his personal cake, he laid on Lucio's cracker of a goal with a slide-rule throw – and later took a well-deserved breather on the subs’ bench, allowing his deputy Joao Carlos a few minutes of match practice.
The shirts off their backs
The Italian players were visibly consumed with rapture after edging into the quarter-finals on their home sand, so much so that a clutch of players raced to the celebrating fans, stripped off their shirts, and danced half-naked in front of the appreciative crowd. Anyone who enjoys the sight of finely-honed athletes strutting their muscular stuff in a beautiful beach setting will doubtless be hoping the Italians go all the way at the tournament.
2 - Switzerland are only the second team in the history of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup to fall at the group stage after finishing runners-up in the previous tournament. The only other such occurrence involved Mexico in 2008.
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
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