The waiting finally came to an end on Saturday. Before an expectant army of Auriverde fans, Alexandre Soares' side laid the ghosts of their FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2005 semi-final elimination by gaining sweet revenge against Portugal in a highly entertaining last-four clash. The reward for the victors is a place in tomorrow's Final against South American rivals Uruguay.
Victory did not come easily for the tournament favourites, however, against a Portugal side inspired by an in-form Madjer. The world's leading beach soccer player and top scorer in last year's competition was in a class of his own, particularly in the first period, silencing the massed green and yellow ranks in the stands with a quick-fire hat-trick after opening the scoring only 31 seconds in.
Just as they did in the quarter-finals against Canada, the hosts made an uncharacteristically sluggish start and looked unusually vulnerable in defence. Ze Miguel's team took full toll of Brazil's shortcomings to surge into a deserved 4-2 lead at the end of the first period. "We got off to a great start," commented the Portugal coach afterwards. "We controlled possession, put our chances away and were the better side. Sadly for us, we just couldn't keep it going."
Whatever his counterpart Soares said at the interval certainly did the trick, and it was a more aggressive Brazil who emerged for the second period. With Benjamin coming into the game more, Bruno throwing his weight around in typical style and Sidney providing an ever-willing outlet up front, the Brazilians started to exert pressure on Bruno in the Portugal goal. And there was little the valiant keeper could do to stem the tide as the home favourites clawed back the deficit to go into the second interval a goal to the good at 5-4.
At the end of the game, front man Sidney explained the secret behind Brazil's comeback. "We knew we had to calm down because the game was slipping away from us," he said. "We put our hearts into it, and we showed we're a team and that we can get out of tight situations. Luckily, we managed to pull it off. I think we proved how strong we are, and that we can win the title," he added bullishly.
After powering into the lead, the Brazilians were understandably reluctant to give their opponents a second chance. As the final period wore on, so did Portugal's chances recede. An isolated figure up front, Madjer's influence on the game gradually began to wane as the pirouetting Benjamin took control of proceedings. Then, to the delight of the increasingly vocal home fans, Bruno and Sidney rounded off the scoring to underline Brazilian supremacy.
An intriguing final with Uruguay now awaits, a clash that is bound to stir up memories of the Celeste's shock FIFA World Cup Final victory in 1950. Defender Buru, for one, is confident there will be no repeat: "There'll be no big surprise tomorrow I can tell you," he vowed. "We don't want a repeat and we'll be out to play the game of our lives. There's only one thing on our minds and that's the title."
Referees: Christian Hauben (BEL), Vincenzo Cascone (ITA), Thomasz Grzelinski (POL)