Argentina stand firm to reach last eight
Argentina enjoyed a successful Saturday afternoon when they booked the first quarter-final spot at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2006. Sporting an all-blue change strip, the Albiceleste fought out perhaps the closest game of the tournament to date when they shaded a valiant Bahrain side by the odd goal in three courtesy of some sharp finishing.
Just as they did in their opening match against Nigeria, Petrasso's side fell behind early on before recovering their poise thanks to the deadly Lopez Hilaire brothers up front. Ezequiel opened the South Americans' account with a scissor-kick from a first-period corner before seeing sibling Federico steal the points with a shot on the turn in the final period. All this after Adnan Ebrahim had given Gustavo Zlocewick's charges a surprise lead with an unstoppable volley.
After a tough afternoon coach Petrasso expressed his gratitude for the points: "As you can see from the results, this is one of the toughest groups in the tournament, which is something I didn't expect," he said. "I'm happy with the way it went today, we improved tactically and most importantly achieved our first objective. I think the difference was that we were focused and some of the things we've been working on came off, like the first goal from the corner."
Prior to that sublime strike from the elder of the Lopez Hilaires, the Argentines had struggled to impose themselves on the hot sands of the Copacabana. Petrasso's side kept their cool, however, and went into the first interval on equal terms. The scoreline remained locked at 1-1 throughout a keenly contested middle period, although it was the unfancied Asians who carved out the better chances with Rashed Salem coming closest when he hit Marcelo Salgueiro's crossbar.
The chances flowed for both sides in the third and final period, but while keeper El Hesam Almannaei hit the Argentine woodwork for a second time, it was the younger of the two Hilaires who showed the Bahrainis how it was done when he produced a smart finish to snatch the points. "They made life difficult for us," acknowledged the match winner. "They're physically very strong and I couldn't get the ball. That's why I celebrated the goal so much. It was only the second chance I'd had and luckily I put it away."
Despite seeing his side run the Argentines close, Bahrain boss Gustavo Zlocewick was a disappointed man: "The team under-performed and we lacked the mobility we showed against Italy," he complained. "I keep telling them that at this level every mistake gives the other team a chance to score. That's what happened today. We had three clear chances and didn't put them away, whereas they did. We also lacked the experience to adapt our game plan to the match situation." Zlocewick will be hoping his side learn the lesson before Monday's vital clash with Nigeria.
Referees: Christian Hauben (BEL), Thomasz Grzelinski (POL), Jose Luis da Rosa (URU)