Eight teams, four games, thousands of watching fans and just one clear goal: a place in the semi-finals of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. The seventh day of the biggest event in beach soccer is full of promise.
Thursday's quarter-final line-up has something for everyone: repeats of classic encounters from years gone by, continental derbies, and clashes between traditional superpowers and tournament surprise packages. Read on as FIFA.com brings you everything you need to know about another decisive day in Rio.
France - Japan ( 09:40 local time)
The first game of the day sees France and Japan square up in a clash that has a certain Déjà vu about it. The two sides met in the semi-final of the 2005 tournament here in Rio, with Eric Cantona and Co. coming out on top on their way to the title. Will history repeat itself tomorrow? According to Les Bleus' charismatic coach, his side are not yet the finished article - even after topping Group B with maximum points: "We need to improve a few things if we want to make it through to the next round. That's something I never tire of repeating to my players to ensure they keep their feet on the ground." In the opposition camp, Japan go into the match still in shock after their dramatic, last-gasp qualification from Group A. "I wasn't pleased with our display against Poland, so I made a point of speaking personally with the players about the importance of this next game," explained coach Hiroyuki Torikai. "We need to show just how good Japanese football can be in order to at least match our fourth-place finish from 2005. That's our goal."
Brazil - Canada ( 11:00 , local time)
Prior to the final round of group matches, the smart money was on a clash between the in-form host nation and Spain, the reigning European champions. As it turned out, tournament new-boys Canada rode roughshod over La Seleccion in the final game in Group B to earn a clash with Alexandre Soares's showstopping Selecao. Despite their success, Canuck coach Rosario Ongaro is not getting carried away: "We're just a group of mates who get together to play football on the beach." Asked what it would take to beat Brazil, the coach replied with a smile, "perhaps ten years of hard work and investment". Soares, meanwhile, was clearly disturbed by his team's defensive failings during the group win over the United States, when the Auriverde conceded no fewer than six goals: "We weren't good enough defensively, especially when it came to tracking back. We cannot allow that to happen again in the quarter-finals. From now on there's no margin for error."
Portugal - Bahrain ( 12:20 , local time)
A fascinating clash of styles awaits those lucky enough to witness this mouth-watering encounter between Portugal, heavily backed to come away from Rio with the coveted trophy, and Bahrain, this year's dark horses. The Lusitanians, who boast the tournament's top-scorer thus far in Madjer, cruised to the top of Group C with their neat, silky style of play but face a difficult test in the Asian champions. "They may be a bit lacking in experience, but they are very well-organised tactically and will be very tough opponents," warned the Portuguese striker. The man masterminding Bahrain's campaign is Gustavo Zlocewick, who coached Portugal back in 2003. "I doubt they would have wanted to play against us. They know that I know them inside-out and that I know how we can take the game to them," warned the outspoken Brazilian coach. "My players might think that they've already achieved their main objective, but I intend to take them even further."
Argentina - Uruguay ( 13:40 , local time)
The last game of the day throws together South American neighbours Uruguay and Argentina for a coveted place in the final four. Geographically separated by the River Plate, the two countries enjoy an excellent relationship, although any feelings of brotherhood will surely be put to one side out on the sands of the Copacabana. The Albiceleste have a 100-percent record so far, and will be determined to rub salt into Charrua wounds after also dumping them out of the semi-finals of the South American qualifying tournament. "We know each other really well and share things like tactical discipline and solid defence. It's going to be an interesting duel and one that will hopefully see us achieve our objective of a place in the last four," said Argentina coach Francisco Petrasso. Over in the Celeste corner, Venancio Ramos preferred instead to focus on the spirit of comradeship between the two nations: "If it were down to me, both sides would go through to the next round, but unfortunately only one team can stay in the race. Let's hope that team is Uruguay."