There was no way Brazil were going to let this one slip. After unexpectedly crashing out of last year's competition at the semi-final stage, the hosts laid their ghosts to rest by crowning a flawless 2006 campaign with a 4-1 win over Uruguay on Sunday to claim the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
The day turned out to be one big Brazilian party from start to finish. Singer Daniela Mercury got the fans in the mood before the big kick-off, and even the prospect of facing old rivals Uruguay, the team that so dramatically denied the Auriverdes at the 1950 FIFA World Cup™, failed to dampen the sense of expectation among the fans.
Evidently intent on spoiling another Brazilian party, however, the Charruas made life difficult for the favourites in the early stages. Just as they had done in the previous knockout rounds, Venancio Ramos' tactically disciplined charges closed ranks defensively to deny Brazil's much vaunted attack. Even when the irrepressible Benjamin somehow managed to find a route through, he came up against an inspired Diego in the Uruguay goal. Nevertheless, this was destined to be the hosts' day and it was Buru who set them on the road to victory with a firmly struck free kick before the first break.
Contrary to expectations, the men in blue silenced the Copacabana after the restart when Ricar held the ball up expertly in front of goal before turning and hitting a low right-footed strike into the back of the net. Perhaps sensing an opportunity to repeat that historic win of 56 years ago, the underdogs grew in confidence. They reckoned without the quality of the talismanic Benjamin, however. Less consistent than on other occasions, the number 10 still managed to prise open the Uruguayan rearguard with a well-taken free kick and restore his side's advantage.
The final move of the second period proved to be decisive. Faced with a golden opportunity to level the scores with a close-range free kick, Pampero somehow managed to skew his effort wide of Mao's goal.
It was a vital miss and the Uruguayans knew it. Deflated by Pampero's profligacy, the Charruas dropped their tireless work rate, giving Duda and Sidney the chance to complete the scoring, the latter with yet another dead-ball strike. Despite their late capitulation, coach Ramos was far from despondent with his team's efforts. "We may have finished runners-up, but we've done ourselves proud," he said. "The squad worked very hard during what was a cold winter and was determined to succeed. We hadn't played since March when we came here and the fact we reached the final is a tremendous achievement for all of us," he added, the smiles on his players' faces emphasising his thoughts.
It was a day when everyone went home happy, particularly the deserving champions. "This win is for a lot of people - the fans, our coach and all the players, who gave it their all out there," commented the jubilant skipper Junior Negao afterwards. "Above all, though, it's for the whole country of Brazil."
Referees: Christian Hauben (BEL), Joao Almeida (POR), Sofien Benchabane (FRA)