Backs to the wall for Uruguay and Italy
As the third day of play kicks off at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2006, the fans on Copacabana Beach will get to witness the first games with major consequences. First up, Uruguay go into their match with the Solomon Islands in need of a victory to keep their dreams alive, before Italy and Nigeria lock horns in a battle neither can afford to lose. If, on the other hand, the Solomons, Portugal, Bahrain or Argentina pick up wins, they will secure their passage to the quarter-finals.
Group C: Uruguay - Solomon Islands ( 09:40 , local time)
Few could have anticipated there would be so much riding on this match when the fixtures were announced, and certainly not that it would be the Uruguayans on the back foot. But since then the Solomon Islands have wooed the local crowds, easily overcoming Cameroon (5-2) to find themselves on the brink of qualification. "You should expect the unexpected from us, we can go very far," warned coach Eddie Omokirio after that tie, brimming with confidence. Venancio Ramos's men will be desperate to bring the Bilikiki's boss back down to earth following their 5-4 loss to Portugal, but should they suffer a fresh defeat, combined with a Portuguese win over the Indomitable Lions, then they will be saying their goodbyes to Rio.
Group D: Nigeria - Italy ( 11:00 )
With both these teams having suffered setbacks in their opening games, this encounter could hardly be more crucial. For the Super Eagles, that will mean proving once again that despite their inexperience they can rival the best, as they displayed in their courageous but ultimately disappointing 5-4 reverse to Argentina. In contrast, the Azzurri must rediscover lost form after letting down their fans and coach Massimo Agostini with a lacklustre 4-2 loss to Bahrain. "We had too many chances to come away with only two goals," lamented the man in charge. "My players need to get back their confidence going forward, although it's not like we have any choice: we absolutely have to win!"
Group C: Cameroon - Portugal ( 12:20 )
Unless they turn things around dramatically, Cameroon can expect more suffering in their second outing. Almost inexistent as an attacking force and strangely nervous in their 5-2 defeat to the Solomon Islands, Joseph-Antoine Bell's charges appear to be in a class below the world and European vice-champions from Portugal. "If they couldn't understand they had nothing to lose against the Solomons, then I'm afraid they might be even more timid against the Portuguese," confessed the former international goalkeeper. "I hope they can let themselves go and enjoy it, because that's all I ask of them now."
Group D: Bahrain - Argentina ( 13:40 )
The stakes are clear in the day's final match, with both teams targeting a berth in the next round. Following successes over Italy (4-2) and Nigeria (5-4) respectively, Bahrain and Argentina know three more points would see them through, but that is not stopping the Albiceleste coach from setting his players an even higher goal. "We can get even better and I hope we show that as soon as possible," he warned. "Above all, I thought we looked too anxious in defence." True, but if the Bahraini contingent can likewise raise their game, there is no reason why they too cannot take the tournament by storm.