Red-hot favourites Brazil justified their billing with a crushing 6-1 defeat of hosts Argentina in the final of the South American Beach Soccer Championship, a victory that secured the continental trophy for the second year running. The two finalists will be joined by third-placed Uruguay at this year's FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, to be held in Marseille between 17 and 27 July.
"It's the first time we've haven't automatically qualified and it wasn't easy," said Canarinha star Buru after the final. "But even so, we produced our best football when we were under the most pressure and now we can focus on preparing for our first World Cup outside of Brazil."
Brazil and Argentina had already sealed their tickets for France on Saturday, this after winning their respective semi-final clashes with Venezuela and Uruguay. The Celeste subsequently bounced back to defeat the Vinotinto 5-1 in Sunday's play-off for third place.
The gap closes
The trio will therefore be representing the region once more at this summer's global showpiece, having done so at every edition of the annual tournament since its inauguration in 2005.
However, while Brazil remain head and shoulders above the rest, the gap between the other sides has decreased considerably. In fact, both Argentina and Uruguay came mightily close to group-stage exits at the hands of Chile and Paraguay respectively.
"We knew that we had to finish in the top three, and despite losing in the semi-finals we achieved our objective," said Charrúa captain Diego. "But you have to highlight the progression the other teams have made: the qualifiers for subsequent World Cups will get tougher every time," added the man voted the competition's best goalkeeper.
Other recipients of individual awards were the Brazilian Andre, voted the tournament's most valuable player, and Argentina's Ezequiel Lopez Hilaire, who finished top scorer with seven goals.