This was not the result many beach soccer experts had predicted. Japan had been expected to dominate the Dubai event (21-26 May) after their excellent fourth-place finish in Brazil last year. But although the Japanese side led by coach and goalkeeper Eiichi Kato managed to reach the final, they ultimately came across an opponent too strong for them.
It would be wrong for the Japanese to let their heads drop. Not only did they prove their pedigree on the global stage in 2005, they won their qualifying group in Dubai with two straight victories and a staggering goal difference of +21. More importantly perhaps, their main objective of qualifying for this year's showpiece event was achieved with a golden-goal winner against China PR in the semi-finals (3-2 a.e.t.), leaving the outcome of the final almost academic.
That said, their co-finalists Bahrain were in scintillating form all through the tournament. Imperious from the outset, the side masterminded by Gustavo Henrique Zloccowick thoroughly deserved to leave Dubai undefeated.
"I'm amazed by what this squad was able to accomplish after just 20 days of preparation," explained the Brazilian trainer afterwards. "It wasn't so much the fact we qualified as how we did it that impressed me. It's simply awesome to see what this represents for the country."
Copacabana beach will also welcome a third Asian team between 2 and 12 November, as Iran picked up the last remaining berth on offer. Defeated just once, by Japan, the Iranians sealed their passage by overcoming China PR in the match for third place, but they must address a few issues to have any hopes of success beneath the Brazilian sun. Indeed, having conceded 20 goals in four games, the work must start now on their generous defence.
Abdulla Ismaeel Omar (Bahrain)
Hamed Ghorbanpour Davisaraye (Iran)