The 2015 edition of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup will culminate with a finale befitting the pages of a Hollywood script, as hosts Portugal take on surprise finalists Tahiti. Prior to that showpiece match, Italy and Russia will lock horns in the play-off for third place.
FIFA.com previews the tournament’s last day of action, scheduled for Sunday 19 July.
Tahiti-Portugal, 18.30 local time
Portugal have improved markedly as the tournament has progressed, and ten years after reaching the final of the inaugural Beach Soccer World Cup, they now find themselves on the verge of winning the competition for the first time.
Sunday's match would appear to represent the last chance of glory for a golden generation that includes stalwarts such as Madjer, Alan and Belchior, although newcomers Andrade and Be have proved to be ideal additions to the squad.
Facing them will be a side that has made remarkable progress, reaching the final in what is only their third appearance at the tournament.
Exhibiting an effective and unique style of play, Tahiti have dealt with disciplinary issues admirably and impressed with the quality of their set pieces. Indeed, two of their goals against the Azzurri, who boasted the best defensive record prior to the semi-final clash, came from dead-ball strikes.
The only major worry the islanders appear to have is who to bring in to replace Naea Bennett, who scored twice against the Italians but will not be available on Sunday for religious reasons.
Players to watch
*Jonathan Torohia (Tahiti)
The Tahiti goalkeeper showed in his side’s semi-final that his inclusion in the three-man shortlist for the adidas Golden Glove award is more than justified. Solid and reliable throughout regulation time as well as the penalty shoot-out, the talented 30-year-old will again need to be at his very best to contain Portugal’s explosive attack.
*The 24-year old is not one of his country’s most high-profile players, but he has made significant contributions when called upon, scoring key goals against tough opponents such as Japan (in the group stage) and Russia (in the last four). Clearly, the Tahitians will need to keep the winger under wraps if they wish to avoid the same fate as the 2013 champions.
3 – The number of Portuguese players who will be making their second appearance in a Beach Soccer World Cup final. Madjer, Alan and Belchior all played in the 2005 decider.
“This is a dream final for us, and we’ll go into it with the intention of playing the usual collective style that we’re known for. Portugal are favourites, especially as they will have the backing of the home fans, although I know that many people in Espinho have taken our team into their hearts.” Tehina Roa, Tahiti coach
“I don’t regard Portugal as favourites, considering the great football Tahiti have been playing. I agree that they perform well as a unit, but when that unit is also made up of individual talents, then that’s another matter entirely. And Tahiti have some extraordinary players.” Mario Narciso, Portugal coach
Play-off for third place
Italy-Russia, 17.00 local time.
It is never easy to quickly raise a team’s spirits after a semi-final defeat, but that is the task awaiting the coaches of Italy and Russia if they wish their charges to claim third spot in Espinho.
High-pressure matches like these are nothing for the Russians, who lifted the trophy in 2011 and 2013, but this time they will have to make do without Dmitri Shishin and Yury Krasheninnikov, who were both red-carded against Portugal.
As for La Nazionale, the encounter will represent a novel experience, as on the only previous occasion they reached the last four – in 2008, in Marseille – they finished as tournament runners-up.