THE DAY REPLAYED - After the second day of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2005, the make-up of the quarter-final clashes is already much clearer. The winners of the Brazil-Spain, Ukraine-Uruguay and France-Argentina clashes will take first place in Groups A, C and D, while the United States will have to beat Portugal to keep their slim hopes alive.
Spain 4 Thailand 1: hard work for la Furia
For a long period, it was hard to see how Spain would extricate themselves from the trap laid for them by Thailand. Efficient in the extreme, the grip of the men coached by the Brazilian Marcelo Silveira Mendes only slackened in the final minutes of the third period, when a quickfire brace from Spain's David buried the brave Thais.
"We made two schoolboy errors and they cost us two goals," their disappointed coach declared. "We also had a decent shout for a penalty turned down, but that's football and we have to accept it. Taking on the likes of Brazil and Spain has been a wonderful experience for my players. If our preparations had been better, perhaps we could have gone further. If we can get it right next year, I'm confident we can make the final four." A destination Spain are eyeing this year, having clinched their place in the quarter-finals.
USA 2 Japan 3: an 'extra man' for Japan
The best match of this first stage of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup by a long chalk, this game saw an impressive Japanese all but guarantee their qualification for the quarter-finals. Now needing to defeat Portugal to progress, the USA will almost certainly wave goodbye to Rio's sun-kissed shores tomorrow.
But this was a ding-dong encounter that swung first one way, then the other, and it was not until the last few minutes that these two tactically adept sides could be separated. When Japan eventually emerged victorious courtesy of a Nakamura goal, it was much to the delight of a Brazilian crowd that has taken the Oriental outfit to its heart. "It was really like having an extra man out there tonight, admitted Japan's Brazilian coach Ramos Rui after the game."
Argentine 3 Australia 1: the Aussies learning fast
That the Albicelestes are already through to the quarters after only one match can be primarily put down to their professionalism. For against an Australian outfit that only took up beach soccer three weeks ago, the great experience of their Argentinian opponents shone through.
Nevertheless, the Aussie coach, Adrian Santrac, found plenty of cause for satisfaction: "If the competition had lasted longer, I'm sure we would have started to become more competitive. I'm very proud of what my players have achieved. We still need to set up a development programme for beach soccer in our country, but FIFA's support for the discipline will definitely help."
For their part, Argentina will need to step it up a gear or two from tomorrow if they are going to live with the best.
Ukraine 8 South Africa 1: the Bafana Bafana shipping goals
While no one expected the youngest side at this FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup to move mountains, it was hoped that the hand of fate would not be too hard on them. But clearly still tired from their efforts against Uruguay the previous day, the South Africans endured nothing short of a nightmare.
Against a Ukrainian team that asks or gives no quarter, the young bafana bafana looked hopelessly out of their depth, although Darren Dicks did at least grab a consolation goal. Avoiding the pitfall of treating it like a practice match, Ukraine confirmed their place among the best teams in the world, and their cracking form will no doubt have been duly noted by the other top sides.