- Brazil set to welcome CONMEBOL’s beach soccer elite
- The prize? Two tickets for the #BeachSoccerWC
- Paraguay, already qualified, will also take part in the tournament
Rio de Janeiro, an iconic city in the beach soccer world, will soon provide the stage for some of the best football the continent has to offer during the CONMEBOL qualifiers for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, which is scheduled to be held later this year in Paraguay.
Tournament in brief
- Host city: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Dates: 28 April-5 May
- At stake: Two berths at Paraguay 2019
- Format: The ten competing teams are divided into two groups of five. The top two sides advance to the semi-finals, and the two finalists qualify for the World Cup.
- Note: If Paraguay, who have already qualified as hosts, reach the final, their spot will be taken by the winners of the match for third place.
Unquestionably, Brazil are the team most fancied to claim the continental title. The reigning world champions have never missed a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, and they go into the qualifiers with ten of the 12 players who lifted the global trophy in the Bahamas two years ago.
Featuring among that impressive squad are evergreen goalkeeper Mao, defender Bruno Xavier and pivots Mauricinho and Rodrigo, who respectively picked up the adidas Silver Ball and adidas Silver Scorer awards at Bahamas 2017.
Their main rivals are likely to be Paraguay, who will use the tournament as a testing ground for 'their' World Cup. Runners-up in the last three qualifying competitions, and free of the pressure of having to fight for a World Cup place, Los Pynandi hope to go one step further this time, and perhaps see off the Brazilians – who have defeated them in the last two finals – in the process.
Led by goal machine Pedro Moran, the Paraguay squad selected by Brazilian coach Guga includes seven of the players who reached the quarter-finals at Bahamas 2017, where they came unstuck against eventual runners-up Tahiti.
After making their World Cup debut in the Bahamas, Ecuador continued their good run of form by finishing fourth at the most recent Copa America. Brazilian Jardel de Andrade, in charge of the team since August 2018, will bring five members of the 2017 squad to Rio de Janeiro, which should provide a level of experience that can often prove invaluable at such high-pressure contests.
Argentina are going through a rebuilding phase that began back in 2017, when they missed out on a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup for the first time. New coach Hernan Magrini will likely rely on his old heads, such as Dardo Cortes, Lucas Medero and Federico Lopez Hilaire. The Argentinians finished second at the 2019 South American Beach Games in March.
Uruguay last featured on the global stage in 2009, when such a long absence from the global stage did not appear to be on the cards. They had even finished as runners-up in 2006 and sealed third spot in 2007, but were unable to maintain that impressive momentum. La Celeste do seem to be finally back on the right track, however, having claimed third place at the 2018 Copa America.
Venezuela were unable to build on their shock qualification for the 2011 World Cup; in fact, they have not finished higher than ninth place in the last three qualifying tournaments.
Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Colombia have never qualified for a Beach Soccer World Cup. Of the four, the Colombians are experiencing the richest vein of form, finishing third at the recent South American Beach Games.
The Bolivians, following a Copa America in which they earned two memorable results, will be keen to show they are not in Brazil to make up the numbers.
Did you know?
- Brazil have won six of seven qualifying tournaments. In 2013, they finished third.
- Of their 39 games played, the Brazilians have only ever lost two: one against Paraguay on penalties (2013) and the other versus Argentina (2015).
- Argentina are the only team to have disrupted the Brazilian monopoly (in 2018).
- Of the ten competing sides, four have Brazilian coaches: Diego Costa (Brazil), the aforementioned Guga (Paraguay) and Jardel de Andrade (Ecuador), and Chicao (Peru).
- Two players to keep an eye on in Rio are Billivardo Velezmoro (Peru) and Daniel Cedeno (Ecuador), who topped the scoring charts at the 2018 Copa America with 15 goals apiece.