Peerless Brazil march on
Brazil continued their regal progress at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, turning in a supremely confident display against surprise packages Canada to surge into the semi-finals.
Decked out in a blue change strip for the occasion, Alexandre Soares' men dominated from the off against their defensive-minded opponents, who barely troubled Pierre in the Brazilian net. The Canadians' rearguard action was all to no avail, however, as the tournament favourites racked up an emphatic 12-1 win.
Not surprisingly, coach Soares was all smiles after the final buzzer sounded. "It was a real team effort from the boys today," he purred. "Perhaps it wasn't the greatest of spectacles but we stuck to our task, which was to go for goal at all times. What pleased me most was the fact we fought for each other. Now, we need to keep that spirit going in order to win the next two games."
Going into the tie Canada coach Rosario Ongaro was all too aware of the gulf between the two sides. "To beat Brazil we need ten years of investment and hard work," was his frank assessment. And the difference in class quickly became apparent as the tournament favourites made their customary fast start. The honour of opening the scoring fell to the evergreen Junior Negao, who at the ripe old age of 41 showed why he is such a key asset in Soares' side.
Struggling to contain the home side's attacking verve, the Canucks attempted to shore up their creaking defence by leaving the gifted Sipho Sibiya to plough a lone furrow up front. The tactic paid off for the unadventurous outsiders in the first period, and all the hosts had to show for their territorial domination was that solitary Junior strike. It was all change after the restart, though, as the Brazilian front line began to find its rhythm, with Benjamin, Junior, Bueno (2) and Bruno (2) giving the Auriverdes an insurmountable 7-0 lead going into the final period.
Full of praise for the mobility, technique and tactical acumen of the South Americans, coach Ongaro sportingly admitted his side had been outgunned: "Brazil are the best team in the world, and we just have to accept our weaknesses and limitations. Nonetheless, I'm very proud we managed to get this far."
With a semi-final place in the bag and the fans celebrating in the stands, the third period saw Benjamin, Betinho and Co. ease off under the burning Copacabana sun. Sibiya's consolation goal did little to dampen the party atmosphere, and the final 12-1 scoreline gave the joyous crowd more than enough reason to take their celebrations into the streets of Rio.
"The fans really identify with the team," explained Soares, "and they get behind them right from the start. You can really feel the support out on the pitch, and I've no doubt these guys will be just as big heroes as those great players who came before them."
Referees: Pedro Infantes (VEN), Thomasz Grzelinski (POL), Zondo Thabani (RSA)