Les Bleus put Spain to the sword
Despite a slow start that allowed Spain to end the first period 2-0 up, defending champions France can look back with justifiable pride at a scintillating performance in their Group B opener. Controlling the game with consummate ease, Les Bleus seem to have rediscovered the form that spurred them on to claim the world crown last year and now look favourites to finish first in their section.
"The last time we played against the Spanish, it was more a case of them making us suffer," recalled a jubilant French coach Eric Cantona after the win. "Beach soccer is a very tactical game and as soon as my players corrected a few details that were causing us problems early on, they really dominated proceedings."
As always when these two teams contest what has become one of the discipline's true clasicos, the opening minutes were fast, furious and very, very tight. Each full-blooded tackle spoke of the commitment of both sets of players, and there were no open spaces to exploit. However, with men like Amarelle involved, anything can happen. So it proved when the Spanish captain and lynchpin fired in a free kick, before netting a second with a splendid acrobatic volley to send La Seleccion into a comfortable two-goal lead at the culmination of the first period.
A year and a half after France's 7-4 quarter-final victory at Rio de Janeiro 2005, the tables seemed to have turned. After all, Cantona's men may still hold the world title, but they can no longer claim supremacy in Europe. That honour currently belongs to the Spaniards, whose excellent season on the old continent logically ended with them inheriting the European crown.
The former Manchester United star was able to lift his troops, though, and they snuffed out the Spanish threat in the second period through better organisation and more inventive team play. It was no surprise, then, when Stephane Francois, Marc Libbra and Didier Samoun all found the back of the net to give their reinvigorated team a 3-2 advantage heading into the final 12 minutes.
They then managed to increase it five seconds into the final period, with captain Jean-Marc Edouard adding the final touch. Nor was there to be any let-up for the browbeaten Spanish as their opponents piled on the agony, and even a defiant late rally was not enough to wipe the scowl from Joaquin Alonso's face at the final buzzer.
"We lost control over everything from the end of the first period, and yet we were playing well up until then," noted the Spanish coach. "It's really infuriating to lose this match against the team we know better than any other in the world. We've used our only 'get-out-of-jail card', and so we'll have to bounce back strongly."
Referees : Jose Luis Da Rosa (URU), Alberto Moreira (BRA), Antonio Buaiz (BRA)