Six teams still in the hunt
Going into the fifth day of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2006, things could hardly be tighter. A total of six teams are still in with a chance of grabbing one of the three remaining places in the next round, and the competition is set to be fierce.
No such problems for Argentina however, the Albicelestes having booked their quarter-final berth with a match-day to spare. Italy meanwhile have only pride at stake, after failing to pick up any points in their first two games.
Despite all the uncertainty, one thing is for sure: at the end of the day's play more than one side will be packing their bags and preparing for the long trip home. Read on as FIFA.com brings you a taster of what is to come on the golden sands of the Copacabana.
Group D: Bahrain - Nigeria ( 09:40 )
First on the menu is an enticing clash between Asia and Africa as Bahrain and Nigeria bid for the all-important three points in Monday's early-morning game. Having disposed of Italy in their first group encounter, Gustavo Zlocewick's Asian champs were narrowly edged out by Argentina in the second, and defeat would put an end to their stay in Rio de Janeiro. "Nigeria will go into the game full of confidence after the win over Italy, so we're going to need to be very careful and not make any mistakes," explained the Brazilian-born coach. Over in the opposing camp, the Super Eagles are keen to build on their last-gasp victory over the Italians. "We don't want to let down all those millions of Africans who have been following our progress on television; we're going to do this for them," revealed coach Kelechi Emeteole, whose side also need to win to stay in the competition.
Group C: Cameroon - Uruguay ( 11:00 )
Next up comes an equally tantalising showdown as Venancio Ramos's Uruguay look to fulfil their pre-tournament objective of a place in the second round as they take on the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. The African outfit may be lagging behind in the qualification race after defeat against Portugal on Saturday, but Ramos knows his Celestes are in for a very difficult time. "They are a very tough side, who are in fantastic physical condition," he warned. "But we've got faith in our own ability, as we demonstrated by coming back so strongly against the Solomon Islands," claimed Ramos. "God willing, we'll get through to the next phase." For Cameroon and their outgoing coach Joseph Bell, their only chance of progressing lies in winning the game by a hefty margin, while at the same time hoping that Portugal cruise to a comfortable win over the Solomon Islands. Despite the difficulty of the challenge ahead, Bell is hoping to end his tenure on a positive note: "Our goal was to enjoy our time here and we've done just that. We opened up a bit more in the second match, and I hope we can improve still further in the final group game. This team's got a great future, although I won't be a part of it."
Group D: Italy - Argentina ( 12:20 )
The third dish of the day comes courtesy of Italy and Argentina, two sides who have enjoyed quite contrasting starts to their Brazilian adventure. The Albicelestes have racked up two wins from their opening two Group D ties, and will be looking for a hat-trick against Massimo Agostini's Italians, out of the running since Saturday. "It doesn't matter that we're already through to the next stage, I always want to win. I'm not even contemplating resting players or taking any chances," underlined Argentine coach Francisco Petrasso. "I demand victory every time we take to the sand, that's just the way I am," he warned his players. Gifted forward Federico Lopez Hilaire agrees with his coach, predicting "a good spectacle and a game that will be less hard-fought and contain more football than our previous matches". Over in the Azzurri camp, the level of disappointment is palpable. Having arrived with high hopes of challenging for the prestigious trophy, the Italians have fallen at the first hurdle. "It's a shame because we're representing Italian football. It's not going to be easy to motivate ourselves (for the game)," observed a clearly dejected Agostini.
Group C: Solomon Islands - Portugal ( 13:40 )
With a place in the quarter-finals all but secure after two wins in two games, Portugal look well capable of extending their 100 per cent record against an unpredictable Solomon Islands line-up. The Lusitanians, runners-up in 2005, boast one of the world's finest beach soccer players in Madjer and are capable of outstanding displays such as Saturday's stunning demolition of Cameroon.
"Our main goal is to go all the way (in this competition), so it comes as no surprise to me that we've won a few games," said Ze Miguel, coach of the European outfit. Up against them will be the Oceania champions, who are still reeling from their heavy defeat at the hands of Uruguay. Coach Eddie Omokirio will be desperate for a match-winning display from star man James Naka as he hopes to pull off a shock success: "We made a lot of mistakes against the Uruguayans, something we can't afford to repeat against Portugal. Qualifying is still in our hands." Three points against the experienced Portuguese, accompanied by a victory for Cameroon over Uruguay, would see the Bilikiki Boys reach the quarter-finals on their first-ever appearance at the finals of a FIFA competition.