Combining defensive rigour and clinical finishing, France made light work of Argentina (8-2) and sent a message of intent to their rivals at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Les Bleus could hardly have wished for a better performance ahead of what looks like being a very tricky quarter-final.
France's Eric Cantona was nonetheless left with a bitter taste in his mouth at the end of the game, having just seen one of his star strikers, Noël Sciortino, pick up a red card. "We all know that the Argentinians love to provoke their opponents and break up their rhythm, even when they are trailing badly. Noël made a big mistake in letting himself get carried away like that and I hope the disciplinary commission will be lenient," he said.
Argentina played a physical game, and Eric Cantona responded by withdrawing diminutive striker Jair Cardoso and replacing him with the imposing presence of Anthony Mendy. The tactical switch worked wonders as France enjoyed instant success in building a few moves and, collecting the ball from goalkeeper Aubry, it was Mendy himself who opened the scoring (1-0). A few minutes later, Aubry set up goal number two. This time it was Sciortino who delivered the final blow, sending a superb acrobatic kick beyond Salgueiro's reach (2-0).
Beach soccer tends to reward the most battle-hardened sides fairly quickly, and so it proved once again as Sansoni headed in Cardoso's flick for France's third (3-0). And the fireworks continued for Les Bleus early in the second period when Ottavy sank his first goal of the day (4-0). Incapable of threatening as an attacking force, the Albicelestes realised they would have to step up the pressure on France's excellent defence.
But even when they managed to beat Jean-Marie Aubry, a defender was always on hand to clear the danger. At the other end, meanwhile, Samoun lived up to his reputation by causing panic in front of the Argentinian goal. And he opened his own personal account with a penalty as the second period came to a close (5-0).
Argentina staged a mini-comeback after the interval, with Petrasso twice finding a way through France's rearguard, but not before Cardoso had added another strike to the European's tally (6-2). And Samoun soon snuffed out any Argentinian hopes of a revival with his second spot-kick (7-2). With that, the game reverted to the pattern of the first two periods, and the Argentinians began to lose their cool (five yellow cards, two blue). Ottavy rounded off the scoring right at the end (8-2), but unfortunately it was Sciortino who made the last significant contribution. His team-mates may regret his red card in the quarter-finals.
"We knew we would be up against it in this match, but I'm disappointed by the score-line," confessed Argentina's coach Carlos Eduardo Juárez soon afterwards.
Referees: Joao Almeida (POR), Pedro Infante (VEN), Ivo Santos (BRA).