Russia

The past
Nikolai Pisarev and his men took European beach soccer by storm in 2007, muscling their way into the continental elite before performing creditably in Rio de Janeiro last November. Although the Russians exited the tournament at the group stage, they produced battling displays against eventual finalists Mexico and Brazil, taking both sides to penalties.

The present
No longer surprise packages, Russia had to work hard at the European qualifiers in Benidorm. After losing out on penalties to the Dutch in the group phase, Pisarev's side were given a stern examination by Switzerland in the quarter-finals, a narrow 3-2 win taking them into the last four, where they went down 2-1 to Portugal. None the less, they made sure of third place with a 4-2 defeat of Italy.

The future
With a fine blend of experienced campaigners and success-hungry youngsters, the Russians appear to have found the formula for sustained development, one that may yet fulfil their ambitions for silverware.

Facts
Former stars

Vladimir Pavlikov, Ildar Aliev (2007)

Key players
Andrey Bukhlitskiy (goalkeeper), Yury Gorchinskiy (defender), Ilya Leonov (defender), Egor Shaykov (forward)

Qualifying statistics
Placing a now-familiar accent on defensive organisation, the Russians kept it tight in Benidorm. The result? Five wins, two defeats, 28 goals for and only 13 against.

The numbers game
2:
The number of goals the eastern Europeans conceded against Brazil in their group match at Rio de Janeiro 2007 - quite an achievement when you consider that the Auriverdes had never scored less than four goals a game at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup prior to that encounter.