Albicelestes through, Portugal almost there
THE DAY REPLAYED - With a a pair of extremely tight matches and two more that were fairly one-sided, there was something for everyone this Saturday on Copacabana beach on the third day of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2006.
When the dust finally settled on proceedings, one side had made it through to the quarter-finals while another had seen their chances of advancing go up in smoke.
Argentina were made to suffer before finally seeing off Bahrain to rubber-stamp their qualification, while Italy lost their way during a crazy finale against Nigeria and can kiss goodbye to Rio de Janeiro. As for Uruguay and Portugal, they have taken a huge step towards the second round and can secure their respective berths in two days time with wins in their final group stage games.
Uruguay 10 - 5 Solomon Islands: the Celeste get back on track
After defeat in their opening game at the hands of Portugal, the Uruguayans were expected to react positively against newcomers the Solomon Islands. And that is exactly what they did, refusing to allow their opponents the slightest chink of hope. Although the Bilikiki Boys managed five goals, they never looked capable of worrying the hugely determined South Americans, who will be through to the quarter-finals if they can repeat the success when they play Cameroon. Unless, that is, the Solomon Islands send everyone scampering for their calculators by pulling off a surprise win over Portugal.
Nigeria 4 - 3 Italy: Ciao, Italia
There is no doubt that the morale of the Italian players is at rock bottom right now. Stung badly in their opener by a Bahrain side playing a seductive brand of football, the Azzurri endured an even worse scenario on Saturday. Leading 3-1 with just minutes to go, Italy proceeded to fall apart in the face of the Super Eagles' storming finish, eventually losing 4-3. Massimo Agostini's men are therefore already eliminated, while Nigeria will try to condemn Bahrain to the same fate in their final group game in order to ensure their own place in the quarter-finals.
Cameroon 3 - 10 Portugal: Portugal playing for fun
The Indomitable Lions may have come to Rio de Janeiro mainly to enjoy themselves, but the boot was on the other foot on Saturday in their encounter with Portugal. Firmer favourites than ever for victory this year, Portugal served up a masterclass in technical prowess that not only dazzled the public, but also their opponents on the day. With their star play Madjer well and truly up for it, Ze Miguel's charges as good as guaranteed their qualification for the next stage of the event. Only via a highly unfeasible reversal of fortunes could the Iberians now be left on the sidelines and the African champions go through to the quarter-finals.
Bahrain 1 - 2 Argentina: Albiceleste make the quarters
Although this was definitely the closest contest since the tournament began, Argentina did what they had to do in narrowly defeating a solid Bahrain side. The heroes of the hour for the Argentines were brothers Ezequiel and Federico Lopez Hilaire. With six points now on the scoreboard, the South Americans are the first side to mathematically qualify for the quarter-finals and will be free to rotate their squad in their last match against Italy. Bahrain, meanwhile, must now prepare for a do-or-die encounter with surprise package Nigeria. Only the winner of this clash will get to fight another day on the sands of Rio.