European tussle for final berth
With one last spot at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup still up for grabs, Austria, Spain, Italy and Switzerland will be battling for a place among the elite when they face each other on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on 6 and 7 May.
Eleven of the twelve teams participating in the first-ever FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Rio later this month are already known, but one final place has been attributed to Europe, and the four countries selected to compete for it are warming up for the action.
Based on past performances and the sheer talent of some of their players, Spain look to be clear favourites to make it through. They will be arriving in town with Nico and Amarelle in their ranks - two stars many consider to be among the ten best players on the planet - and could well prove to be a cut above the rest when the qualifying begins in earnest.
Anything is possible, however, and it would be foolish to ignore the hunger and desire of their semi-final opponents, Switzerland. The Swiss are a side on the rise and, after taking third place at the Amnéville tournament at the start of the year, they have been training hard and look stronger than ever. With players in their squad like Angelo Schirinzi and Stephan Meier - the man with the lion's mane haircut - they make no bones about believing a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup place is within their reach, and will draw upon deep reserves of mental strength to trouble the Spanish.
Spain and Italy favourites
In the second semi-final, the Squadra Azzurra appear to have the edge over their opponents, Austria. Third at the World Championship in 1996, Italy have been one of the forces to be reckoned with in beach soccer ever since. And, as is often the case with Italian sides, each player fulfils a crucial job for the team without any one star name shining through. They are a superbly well-oiled unit, however, and serious contenders for qualification.
Up against them will be an Austrian side which will need to apply all the lessons it has learnt in recent years to stand any chance of going through. One of the emerging nations in world beach soccer, Austria continue to amaze people by proving you do not necessarily need to have beaches to be successful at the highest level. They also finished a surprising seventh at the last 'Mundialito' and will be outsiders who should be taken very seriously.
You can follow all the action in the European qualifiers for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup exclusively here on FIFA.com.
Friday 6 May
18.00: Italy - Austria
19.00: Spain - Switzerland
Saturday 7 May
18.00: Match for 3rd place