An intriguing opening to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013 saw four hard-fought matches, the intensity of which belied the scoreline in some instances. Both Paraguay and Senegal were forced to come from behind to defeat Côte d'Ivoire and Ukraine respectively. Meanwhile, two tournament favourites – Russia and Brazil - were pushed all the way by Japan and Iran.
A day of firsts
Despite Côte d'Ivoire suffering defeat against Paraguay, it was the Africans who notched a Tahiti 2013 milestone by scoring the first goal of the tournament. Daniel Kouassitchi scored after 2 minutes and 43 seconds with, appropriately enough for this colourful tournament, a bicycle kick. The classy pivot proved his worth with a personal tally of three goals, only to be outdone by Senegal’s Babacar Fall who scored four times. For the record Gustavo Benitez of Paraguay successively converted the first penalty of the tournament in the same match.
Talented goalkeeper joins rare club
Ukraine’s Vitalii Sydorenko is clearly a man with many talents. He scored with arguably the goal of the day in the second minute of his team’s match against Senegal; a sumptuous unstoppable volley that rocketed the length of the court and into the top corner. A few minutes later, and utilising a completely different skill-set, he made the first penalty stop of the tournament with a sprawling save. Those heady moments aside it was a bad day at the office for Ukraine who were edged out of a tough contest by Senegal. It could prove a costly defeat with the group also containing Asian champions Iran as well as four-time FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup kings Brazil.
Dancing and cheering
Visitors to Polynesia soon realise that many things are different in this part of the world. The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup has long been synonymous with high-energy routines from glamorous female cheerleaders. At Tahiti 2013 the girls are sharing the spotlight with the local all-male dance troupe, who also bring a Polynesian feel to proceedings.
The superb 4,000 capacity To’ata stadium on the Papeete waterfront witnessed a slice of history today with the first ever matchday of a FIFA tournament in a Pacific Islands nation. The host country will take to the field tomorrow, while the opening match between Paraguay and Côte d'Ivoire earned a small footnote in the ever-growing history of Oceania football.
22 – Future opponents of Brazil are advised to score first if they harbour serious ambitions of winning the match. Following today’s victory over Iran, the South Americans have won all 22 matches after scoring the first goal.
“It's my fourth Beach Soccer World Cup and I have never seen such great organisation. The fans too are so warm-hearted” Senegal captain Ngalla Sylla
Next up (local time)
Argentina-El Salvador (17:30)
Tahiti-United Arab Emirates (19:00)
Netherlands- Solomon Islands (20:30)