Ukraine have participated at two FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups to date. A 5-3 defeat to Portugal ended their hopes at the quarter-finals of Rio de Janeiro 2005, while they did not even get past the group phase at Ravenna/Italy 2011. Fate played its part at the latter of the two, with defeats to Brazil and Mexico only coming after penalty shoot-outs. However, their reputation as one of Europe’s top teams is well-founded. Not only did Ukraine triumph at the Euro Beach Soccer Cup Tarragona 2007, they also won the European qualifying tournament for Ravenna/Italy 2011, which was staged in Bibione, Italy.
At the European qualifying tournament for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013, Ukraine demonstrated once again that on a good day they are a match for anyone. In the first group stage of the competition, which was hosted in Moscow in July 2012, Ukraine won Group B without dropping a point and even defeated a strong Portugal team 2-1. In the second group stage, they lost 5-4 to eventual champions Spain after extra time, before beating the Netherlands 3-0 in the match for third place. Furthermore, captain Vitalii Sydorenko was voted goalkeeper of the tournament.
Ukraine’s performances in the Russian capital generated a great deal of respect among the opposition. While they may not have won anything on the world stage yet, their discipline, technical ability and tactical awareness mean it is surely just a matter of time. As dark horses in Tahiti, Ukraine will certainly be one of the teams to watch. Their chances will rest on the form of Sydorenko, who will be out to frustrate all comers at his third FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.