As luxurious settings go, the Gran Hotel Villaitana in Benidorm,
on Spain's Costa Blanca, surely compares with the best, and it
proved the perfect location for Sunday's draw for the FIFA
Beach Soccer World Cup Marseille 2008. With the action due to
unfold between 17 and 27 July, the job of dividing the teams up
into four groups fell to Brazilian singer Daniela Mercury.
In Group A, France will need to be wary of Senegal, Iran and, above all, Uruguay, a team Les Bleus have a habit of struggling against. In fact, the South Americans have overcome the French in the last two editions of the world finals.
"It's a fairly balanced group, even if we don't know Iran too well," France coach Henri Emile told FIFA.com afterwards. "We'll have to be careful and demonstrate our quality right from the first match against Senegal, a team making constant progress. Uruguay play with a style that always creates difficulties for us, so it will be up to us to prepare ourselves properly."
The situation looks simpler for the European sides in Group B, meanwhile, with Portugal and Italy drawn alongside El Salvador and the Solomon Islands.
Group C looks on paper to be the most open, as it would be a tough call to select a favourite from United Arab Emirates, Cameroon, Russia and Argentina. Lastly, in Group D, two-time world champions Brazil have been given a stiff test in the form of Spain, winners of the European qualifiers, CONCACAF champions Mexico and Asian runners-up Japan.
The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2008 takes place on Prado beach in Marseille. You can find the full calendar of matches (in pdf format) in the column on the right.