Mighty Brazil flex their muscles
When, with only two minutes on the clock, Benjamin produced a delightful piece of skill to leave Kazuo Ogawa floundering in the sand and slot the ball home, the huge crowd packed into the Copacabana Stadium knew exactly what was coming next. Sure enough, the peerless hosts delivered a five-star performance as they thumped Japan 10-2 in a replay of last year's third-place play-off, virtually assuring them a spot in the last eight of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2006.
Although their demanding fans are desperate to erase the disappointment of missing out on the 2005 final, Alex Soares' team have been magnificently oblivious to the weight of expectation heaped upon them. The men in yellow and green simply picked up where they left off on Friday and raced into a 5-1 lead by the end of the first period.
"We know we're performing well and that makes us very happy," explained three-goal hero Bruno afterwards. "We can't afford to look too far ahead though. Our next game is against the USA and we mustn't get carried away."
The early five-goal blitz gave Soares the luxury of shuffling his pack in the second period and, although Bruno and the indestructible Junior Negao received well-earned breaks, the Brazilian juggernaut rolled on regardless. Benjamin continued his individual masterclass and added a second goal, while Hirouki Torikai's side saw their attacking efforts thwarted by Pierre in the Brazil goal.
The final period produced no let-up from the hosts as they put on a dazzling display of nutmegs, scissor kicks and bicycle kicks that left their opponents bewildered. Bueno and Benjamin rounded off the scoring for the home side, while Tomota Uehara produced a calm finish to provide some relief for the beleaguered Asians.
An ecstatic Soares was in poetic mood after the final whistle: "The sun didn't come out today, but the team certainly shone brighter than ever," he beamed. "A little bit of sunshine would have made things even more beautiful. We did very well and are looking to keep it up against the USA regardless of whether we've qualified or not."
His opposite number reacted stoically to the crushing defeat: "We knew how good Brazil were, and we needed to be strong in defence. Unfortunately, they're so technically gifted that we had no answer to them," explained Torikai. "What's more, we weren't very effective on the counter. We need to win our next game to go through and we might just do it you know. Ultimately, our aim is to improve on last year's fourth place."
Referees: Jose Luis da Rosa (URU), Michele Conti (ITA), Vincenzo Cascone (ITA)