Portugal use their heads to outfox proud Ukraine
Portugal edged past Ukraine 5-3 to reach the semi-finals of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2005. Although never in total control of the game, the extra technique and quality of Madjer and Alan was enough to see them though.
"I knew it would be hard because I rate Ukraine as one of the best teams here, acknowledged Portugal coach Zé Miguel after the game. "I think the difference here was one of game knowledge borne of greater experience. We were able to use our heads and I'm very proud of my players."
Portugal started the match with Bruno, Hernani, Alan, Madjer and Marinho, while Ukraine coach Victor Moroz chose Lysenko, Shyshkov, Pylypenko, Pavlenko and Kycher. A notable absentee from the east European line-up was their captain Yevgen Varenytsya who was suffering from damaged ribs. Instrumental in their crushing of South Africa in their first group game, the big No 9 was a key loss to the side.
Despite this blow, Ukraine got off to a fine start. Madjer brought Bozhenko down and the resulting free-kick was forced home from inside his own half. The goal brought a rapid response from Portugal - Alan firing in a fierce shot which Lysenko did well to smother. With 11 mins and 11 seconds gone, Portugal's No 11 Jonas turned past Ukraine's No 11 Moroz to level the score 1-1.
Zé Miguel's side won the game in a second period where they sat back and invited their opponents to come at them. Without Varenytsya Ukraine's attacks were over-reliant on the jackhammer left boot of Pylypenko. When they left gaps, Portugal took advantage. First Belchior rounded Pavlenko and then Lysenko to take the lead at 2-1. Then Belchior fed Madjer close in and he stabbed home for 3-1. Sandwiched in between the goals was a great chance for Ukraine - a clever move involving Pylypenko, Bozhenko and Pavlenko left the latter with a great chance to score but the agile Bruno smothered the chance.
Moroz knew his team had to score early in the third period and Pylypenko obliged with a volley lashed from the re-start. At 3-2 they were back in the game, but in the pivotal moment of the match Madjer replied straight from the kick-off - somehow squeezing the ball into the top corner above Pavlenko's leap. Madjer steals the headlines with his almost casual dissection of defences, but Marinho's play is vital to the Portuguese game. Disciplined and astute, the No 8 keeps the shape of the team and waits for mistakes for others to capitalise on. Belchior's free-kick made it 5-2 and too much for Ukraine but Moroz, at least, ended the game with a flourish - taking a Koryenyev pass, he shaped to shoot left-footed, cut inside and scored with his right for 5-3.
"This was one of the best teams we have ever played against ," said the former Dynamo Kiev player afterwards. "I'm happy with all our performances if not the last two results. A few isolated mistakes cost us very dearly - we will go home and work hard to eradicate these and hopefully come back stronger next year."
Referees: Antonio Buaiz (BRA), Ivo Santos (BRA), Joao Alberto (BRA).