The cautious kings

Brazil gave birth to beach soccer and it has since monopolised the sport's biggest prize. This domination is not all that surprising; not, at least, when one considers the infrastructure in South America's vastest country.

There, the marathon of sand along its east coast is adorned by goalposts, located on marked-out pitches used by countless enthusiasts. Nets for foot-volley, a discipline described by Romario as "perfect practise for beach soccer", also afford locals the opportunity to hone their skills.

Brazil also boasts an established beach soccer club championship, one which is illuminated by the stars of Alexandre Soares' side, and the sport is keenly covered by national television. While to others beach soccer is a hobby, to Brazilians it is an addiction.

This addiction helped the Seleção win 11 of the 12 Beach Football World Championship titles and, thereafter, two of three FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups. However, the rest of the world is making ground on the sport's pre-eminent force. Fast.

"It's becoming harder and harder for us," admitted defender Duda. "Each year, in each competition, beach soccer is becoming more wide open. I think that this World Cup in Marseille will be one of many upsets, principally because of the Africans. As well as being fast and physical, they are very strong technically and could surprise the established nations. The Europeans are also very well-prepared this year. they've come on a long way."

We've come to Marseille with a significant absentee - our fans, who have always supported us a lot and helped us win
Duda admits home advantage has played its part in Brazil's success.

Another factor has rendered Brazil's rivals optimistic, according to Duda. "," he said. Buru concurred with his Brazil team-mate. "Playing on the Copacabana in front of our own supporters and playing here is a totally different proposition," the adidas Golden Ball and adidas Golden Shoe winner at Rio de Janeiro 2007 told FIFA.com.

"The drive of the supporters can make such a difference, and we won't have that this year. Besides, the rest of the world has been getting much better at beach soccer. The Europeans have improved a lot and they will be very strong here in France. It will not be easy for us at all."

Equilibrium may be in the process of disseminating over the sands of beach soccer, but Brazil are still the undoubted favourites to lift the trophy. Today, they will kick-off their campaign against Spain, another of the frontrunners for gold. "They are one of our principal rivals for this title," said Seleção coach Alexandre Soares.

"People talk a lot about Amarelle, who is a great player, but their overall team is very good with a lot of quality players. Spain are strong candidates for this title."

The Brazilians are aware that their ascendancy in beach soccer is unlikely to be infinite. Victory on Prado beach tonight would, nonetheless, affirm that their rivals have some work to do to haul in beach soccer's perpetual pacesetters.