No place like home for Brazilians
Anyone hoping that Europe's third-ranked team would be able to knock the mighty Brazilians off their perch had their illusions shattered here on Friday at Copacabana beach. Host nation of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2006 they may be, but Brazil were not about to afford their first guests a warm welcome - a fact not lost on Polish coach Jacek Ziober.
"The games against Japan and the USA are far more important to us than this one," admitted Ziober after the match. "We tried to counter their technical superiority with our own brand of physical soccer, but that didn't work. Never mind, we knew what we were up against anyway."
Things might have been different, if fate had been kinder to the Europeans early on. After just two minutes, Poland's Boguslaw Saganowski thudded an acrobatic scissor-kick against Mao's right-hand post after a quick throw-out from his keeper. Then, just a minute later, the central European star was again thwarted by the woodwork, this time rattling the bar. In between times, the hosts had already taken the lead from a Benjamin free-kick, but at least Poland were giving as good as they were getting.
In front of 10,000 fans who had packed into the stadium, the Auriverde stuck to their game-plan and built from the back whenever they had the ball. By the end of the first period, they were four goals to the good, with Betinho, Buru and Junior Negao having all got onto the score-sheet.
4-0 had become 6-1 by the time the third and final period got underway, which was the cue for Alexandre Soares' charges to take their foot off the pedal somewhat. Even then there was still time for more goals, and the 9-2 final scoreline highlighted the gulf between the two teams. Marek Zuk and 'Sagan' Saganowski notched Poland's consolation strikes and can at least boast that they managed to score against the all-conquering Brazilians, who look even more impressive than they did at last year's tournament, where they finished third.
"The final score doesn't really show how hard Poland made us fight," Soares commented afterwards. "We decided that goals are more important than putting on a show. We did score some nice ones today, but the main thing that I want to see from my players is direct football."
Referees: Christian Hauben (BEL), Marcelo Cantti (ARG), Carlos Frazao (POR)