For the first time in the history of the sport, Russia is hosting a beach soccer tournament. And not just any tournament: the seventh edition of the Euro Beach Soccer Cup, which will be held from 2-4 December in the Luzhniki Sports Complex in Moscow.
This tournament will bring the 2005 beach soccer season to a close, a year which has seen the sport given a new impetus by the inauguration of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. This new annual competition was won by France who, along with Portugal, who reached the final of three tournaments (the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, the Mundialito and the European League), proved that there is life in the sport outside of Brazil.
With standards and competition all improving, beach soccer has a rosy future ahead of it, even more so due to the fact that as its popularity rises, the sport is opening up to countries which, until a few years ago, would never have considered playing. Following on from Ukraine's fine performance in reaching the quarter-finals of the first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, Russia is now hosting the Euro Beach Soccer Cup 2005.
Karpin, Mostovoi and Nikiforov all playing
In the Luzhniki Sports Complex in Moscow, which holds around 12,000, Europe's top teams will be fighting over the last trophy of the season. The competition will be held indoors and pit eight countries against each other: current holders France, 2005 European League winners Italy, Portugal (runners-up in this season's three major competitions), Ukraine, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and of course the hosts, Russia.
The Russians will be pulling out all the stops. With former Torpedo and Spartak Moscow player Nikolai Pisarev in charge, players such as Valeriy Karpin, Alexander Mostovoi and Yuriy Nikiforov will be hoping to continue their team's progress on their learning curve in this branch of the sport. The same can also be said of the incredibly young Belgian team.
The stakes are a lot higher for the big names of beach soccer. France will be looking to prove that their win in Rio was not merely a pleasant surprise, Italy, who will have to do without their captain Gianni Fruzzetti, will want to underline their status as the best team in Europe, whilst the likes of Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine will once again try to mix it with the big boys. Portugal will be hoping to make it fourth time lucky and finally win a tournament this year, particularly as they are defending champions. Last year's competition saw the Portuguese win on home sand, with talented attacker Madjer finishing as top scorer and voted best player. In all, an exciting tournament is in prospect in wintry Moscow.
The last competition of the season, a new location and a pumped-up crowd… all the ingredients are in place to make the Euro Beach Soccer Cup 2005 an action-packed event.
Full match programme
Friday 2 December
Match 1: Ukraine - Italy
Match 2: Portugal - Spain
Match 3: France - Belgium
Match 4: Russia - Switzerland
Saturday 3 December
Loser match 1 - Loser match 3
Loser match 2 - Loser match 4
Semi-final: Winner match 1 - Winner match 3
Semi-final: Winner match 2 - Winner match 4
Sunday 4 December
Match for 7th place
Match for 5th place
Match for 3rd place