FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2006

FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2006

2 November - 12 November

FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2006

Ukraine and Poland set the pace

Confounding all those who expected perennial powerhouses Portugal, France and even Italy to race out of the Euro Beach Soccer League blocks, it is the less-fancied Eastern European sides who lead the way after two rounds.

If the Superfinal were held today, 2005 world champions France would face the embarrassing prospect of missing out on the event held in their own backyard of Marseille. Worse still, their chances of qualifying for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2006 would be gone, so with two events left to play Eric Cantona's team must turn their fortunes around quickly.

France's woes were hardly the only surprising element of the opening two rounds, however. Indeed, following Italy's victory at home (San Benedetto del Tronto) on 26 July, this weekend saw up-and-coming Poland stun practically everyone by lifting the trophy in the French town of Tignes.  

"This result shows we've been able to set the bar very high, and right now we're at the same level as the best teams in Europe," declared Polish coach Jacek Ziobar after his side's exploits. "Poland deserve their place in Group A of Europe's elite section and we'll keep setting ourselves higher and higher targets."

Ziobar has every right to feel optimistic too, as it was the manner in which the Poles triumphed in the final that impressed as much as the result itself. Trailing Spain 5-1 at the end of the first period, Ziobar's charges dug deep to draw themselves level, before going on to win the penalty shoot-out 2-1. Throwing away such a healthy lead will no doubt haunt their opponents, but the Spanish will surely have been thrilled by Amarelle's stunning return to form. With nine goals in the French sand, the star performer finished top scorer and was a worthy choice for player of the tournament.

Ukraine currently enjoy top spot in Group A though, having finished runners-up to Italy in San Benedetto del Tronto (0-2) before taking third place in Tignes. They lead Poland by two points, with Spain and Italy a further point back. Behind them, Portugal and Greece lie fifth and sixth respectively, for now occupying the last remaining berths for the Marseille Superfinal. Meanwhile, France and Switzerland are bringing up the rear with eight points apiece, and both need to find their feet as soon as possible. 

There are just two rounds left to be contested in the Euro Beach Soccer League 2006: 4-6 August in Mallorca (Spain) and 17-19 August in Portimão (Portugal).

Standings after two rounds
1 -. Ukraine, 16 points
2 -. Poland, 14 pts
3 -. Spain, 13 pts
4 -. Italy, 13 pts
5 -. Portugal, 11 pts
6 -. Greece, 9 pts
7 -. France, 8 pts
8 -. Switzerland, 8 pts

The top six teams qualify for the Superfinal, which takes place in Marseille between 23 and 27 August.

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