Spain bounce back in style
With doubts surrounding the morale in the camp following defeat to neighbours France in their tournament opener, a sweetly-struck early goal against Iran, volleyed home by the right foot of Alfonso, put fears of a Spanish collapse swiftly to bed. Looking much more like their old selves, the European champions moved through the gears in style, going on to thump Iran 6-1 and strengthen their bid for second place in Group A of the 2006 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Barring an upset, Tuesday's game against Canada should see La Seleccion complete the job.
"I really enjoyed the team's performance this evening. We showed a great deal of quality and could even have added a few more goals," explained coach Joaquin Alonso. "From now on, things are only going to get tougher, and we must beat Canada at any cost. I'm hoping we can get off the mark quickly, because you never know what's going to happen against a team like that," he warned his charges.
Despite the rather one-sided scoreline, the Furia Roja did not have things all their own way. The Europeans enjoyed the better of the play in the first period but went in at the break level, thanks to Hamid Rezaeipoor's equaliser. Even after Rezaeipoor's leveller however, the feeling in the stadium on the sands of the Copacabana was that Spain's superior experience would eventually prove decisive.
In the event, that was exactly the case as an Amarelle-inspired Spain turned up the heat in the second period. As the superstar forward took it upon himself to stamp his own distinctive mark on proceedings, so the Iranians found it increasingly difficult to escape their own half. As the pressure mounted, overworked Iran keeper Ehsan Vajdi could do little to prevent Spain surging in front through Johnny and Nico as the gulf in class between the two sides began to show.
Amarelle continued to impress in the final period, although this time the No. 10 finally got on the scoreline, as had threatened to do all evening. By then Farshad Falahatzadeh's side were well and truly beaten, and the prolific front man made sure with two precise late strikes.
After the game, Amarelle said: "I'm satisfied as the team were able to defend with ferocity but also main a constant stream of attacks. Are we thinking about a possible meeting with Brazil (in the last eight)? Not at all. First we have the Canada game, which will decide whether we go home or go through."
After that there was only time for Nico to score the final goal of the game. By then Spain were already conserving their energy for their crunch final group match against Canada, while Iran were mentally preparing themselves for the trip home. Their coach Falahatzadeh summed things up afterwards, saying: "This tournament has been a learning experience for us. We had a lot of difficulty getting here, but I believe that the team can only get better from now and will return even stronger next year. As for the France game, we don't really stand a chance of winning, so I'll be happy if we just play well."
Referees: Alberto Moreira (BRA), Sofien Benchabane (FRA), Marcelo Cantti (ARG)