New boys Mexico flex muscles
© Foto-net

THE DAY REPLAYED. Brazil and France flexed their muscles when it mattered most and will face off in the last four of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2007. Uruguay did what they do best and now take on tournament revelations Mexico in the other semi-final.

Whites knuckles from start to finish
The day began with Mexico extending their surprise run in Rio with a 5-4 win over Spain. The Iberians had their noses in front for most of the game, but El Tri kept their composure and turned the match on its head in the final 12 minutes, indebted in the main to Miguel Estrada's unruffled keeping and Ricardo Villalobos' opportunism in front of goal. Although they are heading home earlier than expected, the youthful Spanish have every reason to be optimistic about the future.

The battle royale between Brazil and Portugal did not disappoint, the two big guns serving up a sizzling 17-goal thriller that kept the packed house on the edge of their seats right through to the closing minutes. The hosts needed a brilliant Buru hat trick, braces from Andre, Sidney and Daniel and a feline showing from Mao to stave off a Madjer-inspired Portugal side and edge home 10-7. After an indifferent group phase, Jose Mateus' team will be feeling a little better about themselves as they return home.

Act three of the day saw France, who at one stage of the tournament were just a penalty kick away from going out, eclipse surprise packages Senegal 6-3. Teamwork was the key to French success, with Stephane Francois scoring two killer goals and Jean-Marie Aubry defiant between the sticks. Severely hampered by the absence of striker-in-chief Pape Koukpaki, the Senegalese finally bowed out after a marvellous tournament and will surely be back in the future.

It was left to Uruguay and Nigeria to bring the afternoon's action to a close, the South Americans drawing on their wealth of know-how to edge home 3-1 in a tight affair. The Celeste stayed loyal to their principles by defending compactly, keeping errors to a minimum and pouncing on their opponent's mistakes. And when the Nigerians did get a sight of goal they found Diego in spellbinding form. The African challenge may have fizzled out, but like Senegal the Beach Eagles look well capable of becoming tournament regulars.

Player of the day
Despite ending up on the losing side, Portuguese wizard Madjer received all the plaudits for his five goals, each of them more spectacular than the last.

The numbers game
17.
The number of goals amassed by Brazil and Portugal in the highest-scoring contest in the history of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

What they said
The result is a surprise to me because reaching the semis seemed like a dream before we came to Rio - Ramon Raya, Mexico coach.

Coming up
Brazil's tie with France is the pick of Saturday's two semi-finals, with the winners going on to meet either Mexico or Uruguay in Sunday's grand final.