Russia continued their surge to the final of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011 on Saturday, steamrolling past a brave El Salvador side to set up a tantalising meeting with Brazil’s posse of stars. Picking up where they left off in the 2011 Euro Beach Soccer League Superfinal in Moscow in August, Mikhail Likhachev’s charges are now intent on adding the world crown to their European title.
Though happy to be in the final for the first time in their history, the relentless Russians have nothing but victory on their mind, as defender Alexey Makarov, who thrashed home his side’s fourth goal in the defeat of the Central Americans, told FIFA.com.
“We’re each capable of scoring at any time because we are a very cohesive team and we’re all playing at the same level,” Makarov said. “We know each other inside out and that means we can all help each other to score. We got a big win tonight against a fantastic El Salvador team, who, it should be remembered, went out and beat Italy in their own backyard.
“After winning the European title we did everything we had to do to get our strength and mental toughness back to what it was,” said the No4. “We carried on training really hard and we tried out different approaches and tactics over and over again. The aim was to get in perfect physical shape and fortunately we managed it.”
Prior to his side reaching Sunday’s final, Brazil coach Alexandre Soares said no team had impressed him more in Ravenna than Russia. Soares’ views are well founded. The eastern Europeans have shown not a single chink in their armour, having controlled every single one of their five games to date, to the delight of Likhachev.
“We have a fantastic team with players who have prepared superbly well both physically and mentally,” commented Makarov. “I’m sure the game against Brazil, who are still the best team in the world, will be a very interesting one, and a fascinating one for the spectators.”
Asked if there is a sense of euphoria in the Russian camp at reaching their maiden FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup final, Makarov was cautious in his response: “Obviously we’re very happy at having made history, but what counts now is keeping a cool head and not losing our concentration, because we want to win.”
The Europeans have what it takes to stun what is a star-studded Brazil side. Though the first-time finalists might lack a Madjer or an Andre, each and every member of the team has been performing so well it is hard to see where they might have a weak point.
“Our secret is hard work and getting the mental approach right,” said Makarov, with complete conviction in his eyes. “You’ll see what else we’ve got tomorrow, and now that we’ve come this far we’ve got no intention of easing off or wasting this chance. I’m sure we’ll play a great game.”
Judging by their displays in Italy so far, that is one thing you can almost certainly be sure of.