THE DAY REPLAYED - After yesterday's intense sunshine and
searing heat, the players had to contend with cloudy conditions and
raging winds during the final round of group games at the FIFA
Beach Soccer World Cup 2006 on Tuesday.
The shock of the tournament so far came in Group B, where European champions Spain slumped to defeat against Canada. Amarelle and Co. must now make the long trip home, whereas the Canucks can look forward to locking horns with hosts Brazil on Thursday. Elsewhere, Japan narrowly avoided disaster against Poland to set up a meeting with France in the next round - a repeat of their semi-final clash last year.
France 6-3 Iran: French seriousness pays dividends
Despite having already qualified as section winners, Les Bleus went into their final Group B fixture in determined mood. Ultimately, it was that attitude that spared them against a very physical Iran team. "That was undoubtedly our toughest match since the start of the World Cup," admitted Didier Saumon afterwards. "Like everyone, their players have pride and didn't want to go home without having given everything. It's good that we weren't troubled unduly." Eric Cantona's charges can now rest before their quarter-final showdown with Japan.
Brazil 10-6 USA: A chink in the favourites'
At the end of the first period, the score-line in this game already matched that of the France - Iran tie at the final buzzer, which says a lot about the attacking potential of this Auriverde line-up. Once again, the hosts eased to victory to book their place in the next round, but not without a few worrying moments in defence. The Americans showed everyone that the Selecao rearguard can be got at, and Canada are certain to try and follow their example.
Spain 0-4 Canada: European champions knocked out
Among the hot favourites for the title when they touched down in Rio, Spain have astonishingly fallen at the first hurdle. After falling well short of their best in all three games, Joaquin Alonso's men miss out on the quarter-final berth that seemed to be theirs for the taking just a few days ago. Nobody should under-estimate Canada's performance, though, and with five points to their name following today's stunning win, the Canucks go down in history as the first North American team to reach the last eight at a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. That said, their next task is certain to be a whole lot more demanding, as they pit their wits against the hosts on Thursday.
Poland 8-5 Japan: Late-goal joy for Japan
These two outfits closed out the day's play with a match of the highest drama. A win by more than three clear goals would have sent Poland through to the next round, whereas any other result favoured the Japanese. Unsurprisingly, the score-line hovered around that decisive mark for the most of the encounter, until Takeshi Kawaharazuka struck the crucial blow 30 seconds from the end. By bringing his team within three goals again (5-8), the heroic captain guaranteed qualification on the basis of goals scored in matches between Japan, Poland and the USA. That rule led to confusion on the Japanese bench after the final buzzer, but only until their progress was confirmed and the celebrations began.