USA prosper in physical encounter
It may not go down as the most entertaining encounter at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2006, but the USA and Poland nonetheless served up a lesson in physical commitment. More importantly, though, all four teams in Group A are in with a shout of reaching the quarter-finals after the North Americans saw off the challenge of the Eastern Europeans.
"We're supposed to be a lot better than the Americans, but today we weren't able to show it," sighed Jacek Ziober after the final buzzer. "I didn't recognise my team out there. They walked out believing the three points were already in the bag. I'm more than disappointed."
With the game evenly balanced in the opening exchanges, it was always going to take a moment of genius or a mistake to break the deadlock, and it turned out to be the latter as Poland star Sagan was penalised for handball in the area. Mario Chimienti stepped up to blast the resultant spot-kick down the middle and give the USA the lead, but Sagan soon made up for his error by netting a quick equaliser.
The second period began as tightly as the first, yet clinical finishing from Brendon Taguinod and Benyam Astorga allowed the USA to head into the final stretch two goals to the good. Their defence was doing a sterling job as well, marking vigorously and cutting off any supply lines to the Polish forwards, who were forced to try their luck from distance.
Little by little, the North Americans began to concentrate on protecting their lead - quite a gamble, considering their opponents finished third in Europe this year while building a reputation as strong finishers in the last period. Whether that reputation ever reached the ears of Roberto Ceciliano and his players or not, they persisted with their approach even after Marek Zuk had reduced the deficit.
The Polish comeback never transpired, though, and the game began to stifle under a sea of heavy challenges. It was in that context that Chimienti cracked in his second to put the result beyond any doubt.
"We've finally rediscovered the kind of play that made us North American champions," explained the US coach afterwards. "We don't have any individual stars, it's our system that makes all the difference. We'll be using the same tactic to try and do our best against Brazil."
Referees: Carlos Frazao (POR), Pedro Infantes (VEN), Faisal Sallam (UAE)