Brazil and France leading the way
By the time the sand had settled on the first tournament of this year's Pro Beach Soccer Tour, Brazil and home side France had shown themselves to be gearing up in style for the first ever FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Held in Amnéville between 22 and 23 January, the Master Cup Pro title eventually went to the Auriverde after they overcame Eric Cantona's men in a thrilling final, and they surely already have one eye on the main event, which they host in May.
Supporters had been looking forward to an explosive start to the Beach Soccer season, and they were not to be disappointed. Aside from a below-par performance from the Portuguese, the Master Cup Pro competition offered the public a fantastic spectacle, and proved the perfect kick-off for the Pro Beach Soccer Tour 2005, a worldwide showcase to promote the discipline.
Right from the start, a packed crowd at the Galaxie arena in Amnéville were treated to a showdown between world champions in which Brazil, who have won nine of the ten World Championships, eased to a 10-2 victory over 2001 winners Portugal. Marshalled by star players Jorginho (one goal) and Juninho (two goals), the Brazilians were far too strong for the soulless and seemingly uninspired Portuguese side. Lacking in fitness, Portugal's key performers Belchior, Alan, Hernani and Madjer were all huge disappointments, with star striker Madjer perhaps the biggest letdown of all after he failed to even get on the score-sheet.
There were positive surprises in the day's other game as Switzerland showed the remarkable progress they have made by giving France a real scare. Although they ultimately lost 7-6, it took a last-gasp goal from Jair Cardoso for Les Bleus to book a place in the final.
The Swiss then bounced back the very next day and edged out Portugal 7-6 in a highly-entertaining game that guaranteed the Portuguese the wooden spoon. Hat-trick hero Schirinzi was unstoppable for Switzerland, and it was his extra-time golden goal that sealed victory over a side considered to be one of the top three nations in Beach Soccer.
Brazil and France are the top two sides in the world, and there was much anticipation ahead of their final. During the course of a spectacular rollercoaster game, it seemed as if both sides were vying to become early favourites for the global crown, but it was the Auriverde who eventually ran out 13-10 winners at the final whistle. All in all, the Amnéville crowds were treated to an eye-catching tournament that bodes extremely well for this year's inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
Saturday 22 January
Brazil 10-2 Portugal
Brazil: Nenem (2), Buru (2), Jr Negao (2), Benjamin, Jorginho, Juninho (2)
Portugal: Belchior, Ricardo Loja
France 7-6 Switzerland
France: Samoun (2), Jair Cardoso (4), Sciortino
Switzerland: Mo, Meier, Schirinzi (2), Kaspar, Leu
Sunday 23 January
Switzerland 7-6 Portugal
Switzerland: Mo, Meier, Schirinzi (3)
Portugal: Hernani, Alan (2), Marinho, Belchior (2)
France 10-13 Brazil
France: Ottavy, Samoun, Santol, Rodríguez, Castro (5), Sciortino
Brazil: Betinho, Juninho (3), Jr Negao (2), Benjamin (2), Jorginho (3), Buru (2)
Best Player: Sciortino (FRA)
Best Goalkeeper: Robertinho (BRA)
Top Scorers: Schirinzi (SUI), Juninho (BRA), Castro (FRA) with 5 goals