After eight games in two days, the group stage of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2005 will close on Tuesday. Seven of the eight winners so far will be playing - the USA are the only losers to feature. They need to win to force a three way tie while all the other teams are already in the quarter-finals. Psychological advantage plus the desire to avoid certain teams is sure to still give the proceedings meaning. And we might just see Cantona and Romario make their first appearances.
Portugal v USA (4pm, local time)
Predicting scorelines on the basis of comparative results is always a very risky business. But if Portugal cruised past Japan, while the Asian side beat the USA, where does that leave the North Americans' chances on Tuesday? They still believe they can do it - their endlessly positive coach Roberto Ceciliano will see to that. If they don't improve however, "two of the very best beach soccer players in the world" - according to coach Zé Miguel - in Alan and Madjer are sure to be their undoing. Portugal could still actually go out if they lost by eight goals, but a more likely scenario sees them winning the game, the group and facing whoever loses in the match next up…
Uruguay v Ukraine (5.15pm)
And that prospect - facing Portugal - may well be a big incentive to win this game. Both these teams swept aside the heavily out-gunned South African youngsters, but Ukraine looked far the more impressive doing so. While they only scored one more goal (8-1 as opposed to 7-3), the precision of the eastern European's finishing, their all-round power and the feeling that every player knew exactly what was expected at all times, lent them the air of a team who believe they can go far in this competition. In contrast Uruguay, whose Beach Soccer tradition dwarfs the mere three years of their opponents, will need to step up a gear from their first showing.
France v Argentina (6.30pm)
Group D finishes with a mouth-watering clash which would be worth seeing even if it didn't have the rather large carrot of avoiding the winners of Group A in the quarter-finals. Unless Spain cause an upset this will be Brazil, so finishing top of their trio will be prominent in Eric Cantona and Carlos Eduardo Juarez's teamtalks. These two polished off Australia, but what little could be assessed against such inexperienced opponents suggests that France should be favourites here. Either way, one of these two will face the hosts - and what a prospect that is.
Brazil v Spain (7.45pm)
Talking of the Selecao, they are last up against the final team to qualify - Spain. Having beaten Thailand 9-2 on Sunday they will be expecting a tougher ride against Joaquín Alonso's skilful team. In Amarelle, voted the Best player at the 2003 World Championship, they have one of the top five players in the tournament and he will need to be on his best form here. The presence of Jorginho, Nenem, Junior Negao and Benjamin will ensure the huge home crowd will be able to see him tested against the best. And if that quartet were not enough to set the pulses racing, Romario trained with the team on Monday and is ready…