They number 192 altogether, representing 16 different countries and, if you want to watch them at work, you will have to get down to Rio de Janeiro.

With the exception of Nigeria - held up until the last moment by visa problems - all the qualified teams for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2006 have arrived in Brazil, making it the ideal time for to preview the main forces present.

Click here for the full list of players taking part in Rio de Janeiro 2006

Let us start, however, with those who have been unable to make it. No doubt the biggest name among these is the Brazilian Jorginho, the principal casualty of the rejuvenation plan applied to the Seleçao side by new coach, Alexandre Soares. Nevertheless, courtesy of the inclusion of Bruno, Benjamin and also Junior Negao, the oldest player at the tournament at 41, Brazil will not be short on strike power. 

The young take up the torch
The fresh breeze of youth has also blown as far as Spain, as Joaquin Alonso's charges include nine players - or three-quarters of the squad - born in 1980 or after. The European champions will therefore be allying fresh legs with the experience of players such as Amarelle, Nico and Roberto.

However, despite this slightly surprising change among the ranks of the Furia roja, they will not boast the youngest side at the tournament. This label goes instead to newcomers Nigeria, who have an average age of 20.75 and also possess the event's youngest performer in the shape of fledgling Super Eagle Ifeanyi Onigbo, the 16-year-old having been born on 22 November 1989.

Third-top scorer at last year's FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, the Frenchman Anthony Mendy is another notable absentee. Having signed for a traditional football club after Rio de Janeiro 2005, the lanky striker is now unable to repeat his past exploits on sand.

However, although the world champions have arrived with a modified squad, they remain just as competitive. Former professionals Marc Libbra and Sebastien Perez, both of whom had spells with Olympic Marseille, will be among the star attractions at this tournament.

What is undeniable is that the biggest names in beach soccer are now preparing to face each other on Copacabana beach from 2 to 12 November. They include Portugal's raft of stars - Alan, Madjer, Hernani and Belchior - brothers Federico, Santigao and Ezequiel Hilaire of Argentina and also the Japanese sharpshooter Takeshi Kawaharazuka.

And that is not to mention all the lesser-known lights united by a common aim: to shine brightly on the beach at Rio by proudly defending their country's honour.