By the skin of their teeth
© Foto-net

With Brazil beating Portugal by the odd goal in nine and Italy squeezing past Spain on penalties, the semi-finals at Marseille 2008 certainly lived up to expectations. looks back on the exciting events of Saturday 26 July.

Portugal 4-5 Brazil
Goals - Madjer, Belchior, Torres, Alan for Portugal; Andre (3), Benjamin, Bruno for Brazil

Portugal will look back at this match for a long time to come and think, 'what if?' Ze Miguel's men played some excellent beach soccer but came up against a Brazilian team that knew how to take their chances. Despite being below their best, partly due to Buru being suspended, the Seleção made it into the final for the third time in four FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups. Having been pushed all the way in the first round by Spain, then by Russia in the last eight, Alexandre Soares' men were also stretched to the limit today by Portugal but once again drew on their incredible reserves of talent to see them through. Are they invincible? Final opponents Italy certainly hope to prove otherwise.

The player
Playmaker Andre notched three goals and was instrumental in sending his country through to the Marseille 2008 final. He had previously been more of a squad player and had only managed one goal in the tournament to date.

The stat
4'39 - The amount of time that Brazil spent in the lead during the entire match - obviously including the moment when the final whistle blew.

What they said
"What a match! Portugal are getting better every day and Belchior is turning into one of the best players in the world. We knew that it would be difficult, particularly without Buru, but we showed our strength today," Alexandre Soares, Brazil coach

Italy 4-4 Spain aet (Italy win 1-0 on penalties)
Goals - Massimiliano Esposito, Simone Feudi, Roberto Pasquali (2) for Italy; Amarelle (2), Javi Alvarez, Javier Torres for Spain

Team sports can often be cruel, as Spain stars Amarelle and Roberto Valeiro found out today. Amarelle scored twice in normal time, the latter giving his team a 4-3 lead with 90 seconds to go, before missing his crucial penalty in the shootout. Keeper Valeiro pulled off some incredible saves throughout the three periods of normal time, but Massimiliano Esposito had the last word, scoring the winner from the spot past Valeiro and sending Italy into the final. The way they are playing at the moment, the Squadra Azzurra look certain to give Brazil a big test in the Stade du Prado on Sunday.

The player
Italy captain Roberto Pasquali brought his team level at 3-3 and again at 4-4. He will no doubt be hoping to play another crucial role against Brazil.

The stat
3 - The number of FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup semi-finals that have been decided on penalties, including today's. Portugal squeezed past Brazil in 2005, while Uruguay ousted France in a shoot-out in 2006.

What they said
"Penalties are quite simply a lottery. We're very disappointed but we played well throughout the tournament. I want to thank my team-mates for the way they played. We're very sad, but we'll be back," Amarelle, Spain captain