THE DAY REPLAYED - Spain and El Salvador scored significant wins to grab the headlines on the final day of the group phase at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013.
The Central Americans saw off Solomon Islands 7-6 in a gripping do-or-die match to take the last available quarter-final slot. Los Cuscatlecos were indebted to an inspired five-goal performance by Agustin Ruiz as they seized second place in Group B behind Argentina.
La Albiceleste, who had already booked their berth in the last eight, lost their unbeaten record after letting slip a four-goal lead over the Netherlands, with the Dutch eventually claiming their first win of the tournament in a penalty shoot-out.
Meanwhile, Spain showed their credentials in an impressive victory over the hosts. After storming into a 3-0 lead in the first period, the Spanish held the Tahitians at bay to top Group A with three wins out of three. Third place in the section went to USA, who checked out on a high by overcoming United Arab Emirates.
United Arab Emirates 4-6 USA
Tahiti 2-4 Spain
Solomon Islands 6-7 El Salvador
The Netherlands 5-5 Argentina (The Netherlands won 4-3 on penalties)
Flying the flag
There is always something to watch out for when Tahiti step out to play. On this occasion it was a large fan mosaic of the Tahitian flag, which was formed by supporters opposite the main grandstand while the national anthems were being played. Formalities over, the home players then presented their opponents with traditional necklaces made of oyster shells.
They save, they score
Dutch custodian Frank van der Geest’s goal against Argentina was the fifth scored by a keeper at Tahiti 2013 so far, an all-time tournament record, beating the four tallied by the men between the posts at Brazil 2007.
Memorable in more ways than one
Not only was the Oranje’s shootout win over Argentina their first of the tournament, it also saw one of the most impressive comebacks in the history of the competition. Côte d’Ivoire are the only other side ever to have recovered from a four-goal deficit on sand before, a feat they achieved in fighting back from 5-1 down to beat El Salvador 7-6 at Dubai 2009.
5 - El Salvador’s Agustin Ruiz is just the sixth player to score five or more goals in a Beach Soccer World Cup match, joining a select club that also features Madjer, Brazilian duo Benjamin and Andre, Côte d’Ivoire’s Ludovic Ehounou and Poland’s Bosulaw Saganowski.
“I think we did a great job in defence. A win like this is a real shot in the arm psychologically and I think we’re in the best possible shape for the quarter-finals,” Spain captain Nico reacts to his side’s defeat of Tahiti.
Next up: quarter-finals, Wednesday 25 September (local time)*
Spain-El Salvador (19:00)
*All matches to be played at the To’ata Stadium in Papeete.