Favourites cruise through to quarters
THE DAY REPLAYED - At the conclusion of the first round, the discipline's leading nations ensured they took first place in their respective groups. Portugal and France both produced awesome displays that will give their rivals plenty of food for thought. The same cannot be said for Brazil, however, who ground out a laboured victory over Spain. Meanwhile, in the day's tightest encounter, Ukraine narrowly lost out to Uruguay.
Portugal 9 USA 3: Portuguese firing on all cylinders
Prior to this game, it was hard to find anyone who gave the Americans much chance. And so it turned out. Boasting a clutch of the planet's very best beach soccer players, Zé Miguel's side showcased every facet of its immense technical ability throughout the 36 minutes. In the end, the score was one-sided enough, but it could well have been even more so if the Lusitanians had not sought to preserve their energy for the battles ahead.
After two defeats in as many games, the USA trudged out of this first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup with a dejected air, leaving their coach Roberto Ceciliano bemused: "Above all, this competition has rammed home the fact that if you want to be competitive, you simply have to reproduce in every match the things you're capable of doing in training. Otherwise, you pay a heavy price for the slightest error. I have no idea why, but my team just didn't come up with the goods tonight…"
Uruguay 5 Ukraine 4: Uruguay edge it in thriller
In a match that, even in the final minutes, could easily have gone either way, it was the Celeste who eventually prevailed over an extremely well organised Ukrainian side. The first few minutes of the encounter were undoubtedly decisive for the Uruguayans, as their opponents' slow start saw them go two goals down before realising they were in a match.
Victor Moroz's charges were then forced to spend the rest of the match playing catch-up, and while they reproduced glimpses of the form that has made them one of the best teams in the world today, they were always chasing the game. In the three minutes that remained after Uruguay's fifth and decisive goal, Ukraine were unable to find a response. Consequently, it was mission accomplished for the South American side, who will be pleased with their quarter-final opponents Japan, a side that looks considerably easier to contain than Ukraine's next opponents, Portugal.
France 8 Argentina 2: red hot Bleus
This scoreline will have worried France's next opponents Spain. For Eric Cantona's men, impressive in every department, easily saw off the edgy and disorganised Albicelestes. Never really troubled in defence, the French also displayed a wealth of attacking options, their only black mark on the night being the red card received by Noël Sciortino, who will now miss the quarter-final. That was not enough to rain on the bullish Cantona's parade, however: "I don't really care if we get Spain or Brazil, as we didn't come here to be stopped at the quarter-final stage. We were always going to have to face them at some point."
For the lacklustre Argentines, their task now appears more arduous than ever, as next Thursday, the sand of Rio de Janeiro will tremble under the weight of expectation that always accompanies the South American Clasico: Brazil versus Argentina.
Brazil 4 Spain 1: Romario at last, but short on Samba swagger
All of Rio de Janeiro, if not the entire country, had been awaiting this moment. Finally, Romario was making his debut for the Seleçao. But against Spain, the FIFA World Cup 94 winner looked short of his deadly best. In a Brazilian side short on inspiration, he could not provide the sparkle that the 10,000 spectators in the stadium expected from him. Although the Auriverde won the match, they were unable to truly dominate their opponents, and for long periods, Spain even looked capable of hurting their hosts. But be that as it may, Brazil will be content to have secured a semi-final against beatable opposition, leaving Joaquín Alonso's charges to grasp the poisoned chalice that is France.
Quarter-finals (to be played on Thursday)
France - Spain
Portugal - Ukraine
Uruguay - Japan
Brazil - Argentina