Having once again put in a performance of the highest quality, France look capable of going very far in this FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Without ever being put under pressure, Les Bleus saw off a Spain side (7-4) that, tired or not, came to Rio de Janeiro as finalists in the World Championships last year.
"We knew they would be suffering tiredness more than us because for them this was their fifth match," said Eric Cantona after the game. "So it was up to us to start strongly. If we could do that, we knew their fatigue would feel twice as bad. This really wasn't an easy game, though."
Deprived of Noël Sciotino - sent off against Argentina - Cantona decided to slip on his famous No 7 shirt. And as his team lined up for the national anthems, it was Spanish captain Amarelle who looked the most nervous, struggling to keep himself still. The tension was palpable, and it became even more noticeable once the quarter-final finally got underway.
Preoccupied with not conceding a goal in the early stages, the two teams shied away from taking risks. And it took an own goal from Nico to change the complexion of the encounter (1-0). Almost immediately, Saumon threatened Robert's goal with an effort that bounced back off a post. For Cantona it was time to join the fray, and soon afterwards France doubled their lead when Edouard picked off Amarelle's sloppy pass before gifting Mendy with a chance he happily converted (2-0).
Seemingly safe, France began to rely on their excellent defence to see them home, but they had not accounted for David pulling Spain right back into contention (2-1). No doubt frustrated by the lapse at the back, Saumon then sent Mendy clear to restore the two-goal advantage (3-1). And before the second period was over, Cardoso and Edouard looked to have put the result beyond any doubt (5-1).
Straight after the break, however, Nico made up for his earlier mistake by hitting a sumptuous volley high into Aubry's net (5-2). Suddenly, Spain had given themselves an outside chance - but just as suddenly, their hopes were shattered. France's imposing defensive wall repulsed everything the Spanish could throw at them and, at the other end, Cantona hit the target to book a thoroughly-deserved berth in the semi-finals (6-2). Goals towards the end for David, Nico and Cardoso did little more than add figures to the score-line (7-4).
Joaquín Alonso was unable to hide his disappointment at the end of the match: "My team were tired because they gave so much in the games leading up to this one. But sport is like that and we just have to accept it. Especially since France were better than us."
Referees: José Luis Rosa (URU), Stefan Fassler (SWI), Marcelo Bispo (BRA).