France off to the perfect start
With a comfortable victory over Australia, Les Bleus confirmed their status as one of the favourites in this inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2005. They now face Argentina on Tuesday when they will be playing to seal their place in the quarter-finals as well as attempting to take top spot in Group D.
"It was the sort of game where you have to be especially careful," said France's Eric Cantona afterwards. "On paper it looks easy, and that's why you need to stay focussed. I'm very happy with how my players performed today. This competition is very long and we'll have to think about conserving our energy."
It was clear from the first period that the gulf between an Australian team contesting their first-ever beach soccer match and the highly-ambitious French was as large as many expected. The French were never stretched and, even without the rested Eric Cantona, they created the first chance in the second minute. Jair Cardoso fired a shot against the bar, and as the ball cannoned back out, Didier Saumon connected with a header that the sand kept from crossing the line.
Cardoso strikes twice
France did not have to wait long to open the scoring though, and it was Cardoso who made the breakthrough with a stunning right-footed volley a minute later (1-0). Jean-Michel Aubry had to keep out an Australian penalty at the other end, but France soon put themselves in the clear thanks to a splendid long-range effort from Thierry Ottavy at the end of the first period (2-0).
The parade of substitutions began in earnest after the break, and Karavatakis took advantage of confusion in the French defence to score a historic first-ever official beach soccer goal for Australia (3-1). Before that, Noël Sciortino had given his side an even healthier lead. With the win safe, the French began steering themselves towards a relatively straightforward win by taking their foot off the pedal slightly, and perhaps even avoiding a few of the more muscular challenges on offer.
Edouard and Cardoso rounded off the scoring (5-1) and there were scenes of real warmth and friendship between the two sets of players at the final whistle. The Australians will no doubt remember their beach soccer debut for a very long time.
"We learnt a lot today," admitted Adrian Santrac after the game. "Especially in defence, where we saw how we need to go about things. This match will be of great use to us in the future."