THE DAY REPLAYED – The last act of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013 will be played out on Sunday by Spain and Russia. The Spanish won through to the tournament showpiece by knocking out four-time world champions Brazil in extra time of their semi-final, while the defending champions brought Tahiti’s fantastic run to an end.
The Russians were made to work very hard by the never-say-die Tiki Toa, who gave as good as they got for fully 28 minutes before finally bowing to the individual strengths of the reigning world champions. Dimitrii Shishin starred once again, scoring a hat-trick to allow the Sbornaja to advance to their second consecutive final, a feat that only Brazil have achieved before.
A Canarinha’s hopes of meeting them there were dashed by La Roja, who ended a 22-match losing streak against the South Americans to check into their very first world final. Their winner came courtesy of team captain Nico, whose low shot bobbled high off the sand and over the head of bewildered Brazil keeper Mao.
“Pour que l'histoire continue”
“Let the story continue”: That was the message, written in black spray paint on the banner of the day at the To’ata Stadium, which registered another full house as Tahiti’s heroes took to the sand once more. Though the result was not what the home fans were hoping for, that did not stop them from giving it up for the Tiki Toa, who embarked on a lap of honour in gratitude for the vociferous support they have received from the stands.
Russian run goes on
Russia’s defeat of the hosts extended their winning run to 11 games, the second longest in the history of the tournament. The holders’ last reverse came in the quarter-finals at Dubai 2009, when they went down 4-2 to Switzerland. The Sbornaja still have a long, long way to go to match the Beach Soccer World Cup’s longest winning streak: Brazil’s 30-game run between 2005 and 2011, which the Russians themselves brought to an end in Ravenna.
Europe on top
Sunday’s final will be only the second all-European affair in the tournament’s history. The first came at Brazil 2005, the inaugural Beach Soccer World Cup, when France downed Portugal on penalties. Brazil appeared in every one of the next five finals, a sequence that Spain cut short today.
100 - Nico’s winner for Spain sent them into their first Beach Soccer World Cup final and also brought up a century of goals for La Roja in the competition. Only two other teams have scored more World Cup goals on sand: Portugal with 193 and Brazil with a massive 298.
“I don’t know what to say. Congratulations first of all to Russia for playing a solid game throughout. For our part we made a few mistakes and we need to learn from them. We should cherish this experience, though, and look to the future,” Tahiti wing Teva Zaveroni.
*All matches to be played at the To’ata Stadium in Papeete.