And then there were eight…
THE DAY REPLAYED - Following the final round of Group C and D fixtures, the quarter-final line-up at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011 is complete. Brazil and Russia were already safely through to the last eight, where they were joined by Mexico and Nigeria after a day packed with drama at Stadio del Mare.
The Ukraine versus Mexico clash in Group D was a do-or-die encounter, as only the winners could qualify for the quarter-finals. As was to be expected, the game itself was a cautious affair and ultimately went to penalties, where the Mexicans progressed at the eastern Europeans’ expense.
El Tri will now meet Russia, who maintained their perfect record in the group stage with a comfortable 7-3 victory over Venezuela. Dimitri Shishin contributed a hat-trick to the Russians’ success, as the Venezuelans packed for home without registering a point at the tournament.
Brazil also emerged from the first phase undefeated, although the undisputed masters of the beach game struggled for long spells against a tireless and committed Japan side. Benjamin and Andre ultimately sealed the South Americans’ 3-2 victory over the Asians, who finished last in their section but won friends and admirers for their unceasing passion.
A quarter-final against Brazil was the reward for the winners of the meeting between Tahiti and Nigeria. Following an evenly-matched opening period, Victor Tale struck twice to set the Africans on their way to victory. The Nigerians ultimately won 4-1 to claim the runners-up spot in Group C, but although newcomers Tahiti must now pack for home, they leave Ravenna with their heads held high.
Goal of the day
Andre, 26:12, Brazil-Japan
A moment of magic from Andre ultimately made the difference for Brazil in their closely-fought clash with Japan. The striker had his back to goal when he controlled Benjamin's lay-off, but he cleverly spun off his marker and volleyed home with a scissors kick, a truly spectacular goal to settle the outcome.
Sub turned hero
Mexico coach Ramon Raya made an inspired substitution ahead of his team’s penalty shoot-out against Ukraine, withdrawing first-choice keeper Miguel Estrada and sending on number two Hector Robles. The deputy shot-stopper instantly repaid the coach’s faith and took the mantle of match-winner, saving Igor Borsuk and Andriy Yevdokymov’s spot-kicks and sending the Mexicans through to the last eight.
Big moment for the little guy
Despite his team’s defeat, it was no ordinary day for Venezuela’s Marcos Monsalve. Despite his diminutive 5'6" frame, the striker scored against the Russians with his head, out-jumping keeper Andrey Bukhlitskiy (6'3") and defender Yury Krasheninnikov (6'0") and proving yet again that if you’re good enough, you’re big enough.
Nigeria have showed themselves to be a highly creative team, not just in fashioning spectacular goals, but in the way they celebrate them too. In the meeting with Tahiti, Victor Tale wowed the crowds with his famous flick-flack back flips, before he and his team-mates marked the third goal with a coordinated dance in front of the cheering fans.
See you in two years!
Tahiti, FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup newcomers and hosts for the 2013 tournament, were unable to survive the group stage in Ravenna, but won friends and admirers with their appealing public appearances, colourful fans and creditable performances. It has all whetted the appetite for the event in two years’ time, when everyone is looking forward to the reunion with the warm and friendly folk from Oceania.
11 - Brazil have scored 11 goals en route to the quarter-finals, their lowest-ever total in the group stages of a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
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