Uruguay, USA and Argentina through without a hitch
After a highly entertaining qualifying tournament, the representatives of the American continent at the first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup are now known: Uruguay, the United States and Argentina will join host nation Brazil at the finals.
It was on an unusually overcast Copacabana beach that eight teams from the Americas fought it out for the three places up for grabs at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, to be held next May in Rio de Janeiro. And rather than producing any surprises, the competition confirmed the stature of certain established teams.
The United States, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay all cruised through to the semi-finals, with the Auriverde pulling off the biggest coup of the first round when they crushed Mexico on the final match day by a hugely impressive 23-3 (6 goals from Nenem, 5 from Jr. Negão, 4 from Juninho, 3 from Bruno…).
Led by their hotshot stars Martín (8 goals) and Seba (7 goals), the Uruguayans also took the opportunity to display their impressive attacking armada (22 goals in five matches). Already finalists on two successive occasions (96 and 97) at the Beach Soccer World Championship, the Uruguayans will be determined to reach similar heights in Rio from 8-15 May.
Romario confined to the touchline
The qualifiers were also eagerly awaited by many fans hoping to witness Brazilian star Romario trying his hand at Beach Soccer. Unfortunately, they were disappointed, as only a few minutes into the Auriverde's first game, the 1994 World Champion was injured and forced to watch the victorious performance of his teammates from the dugout. But their sense of loss will only be temporary, as the Brazilian federation hinted that the former Barcelona star would be back for the finals in May.
The other two qualifiers, the United States and Argentina, only experienced defeat in their respective games against the Brazilian and Uruguayan giants. Then, in the third-place play-off, the Albicelestes succumbed to the Americans. This followed the formbook closely, as all four sides had been expected to emerge from this qualifying zone.
The undisputed kings of America, Brazil are now ready to rub shoulders with other giants of the discipline such as France and Portugal. Their opportunity to do so is fast approaching, as the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2005 kicks off on 8 May in Rio de Janeiro.
The full results
Canada 4 Mexico 1
Brazil 11 USA 2
Brazil 6 Canada 1
Mexico 2 USA 7
USA 5 Canada 3
Brazil 23 Mexico 3
Qualifiers: Brazil, USA
Argentina 3 Venezuela 0
Uruguay 7 Peru 2
Peru 3 Argentina 4
Venezuela 2 Uruguay 4
Peru 8 Venezuela 3
Uruguay 4 Argentina 1
Qualifiers: Uruguay, Argentina
Brazil 2 Argentina 0
Uruguay 5 USA 1
Third place play-off
USA 4 Argentina 2
Brazil 5 Uruguay 2
1st - Brazil
2nd - Uruguay
3rd - USA
4th - Argentina
5th - Peru 3 points (goal difference: -1)
6th - Canada 3 pts (-4)
7th - Venezuela 0 pt (-10)
8th - Mexico 0 pt (-28)
11 goals: Nenem (BRA)
8 goals: Jorginho (BRA), Jr. Negão (BRA), Martín (ARG)
7 goals: Juninho (BRA) and Seba (URU)
129 goals were scored in 16 matches, an average of 8.06 per game
Best goalkeeper: Salgueiro (ARG)
Most exciting player: Jr. Negão (BRA)