TSG specialists run the rule over Russia 2021 finalists

  • FIFA’s experts point to the physical attributes of the hosts and Japan’s discipline

  • Both sides have excellent goalkeepers too

  • Pascal Zuberbuhler looks at how the men between the posts go about their work

After respectively seeing off Switzerland and Senegal in the semi-finals, RFU and Japan meet in Sunday’s final of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™. It promises to be an exciting encounter between two of the sport’s top sides. 

Ahead of the competition’s final act, FIFA’s technical experts gave their opinions on the two finalists and on the attributes that have allowed them to go the distance. 

Claude Barrabe (FIFA technical expert)

"We’ve got two good teams in the final: the hosts and the surprise package, Japan. It promises to be an attacking game that will be full of intensity. The semi-finals were very closely fought and Japan, in particular, surprised everyone with their defensive solidity. They gave nothing away at the back.

They use a traditional 1-2-2 formation and their game is based on their defensive organisation, encapsulated by the captain Ozu. He’s their leader at the back and the man they look to when playing the ball out. Their system’s not set in stone, though, and they sometimes play a 1-3-1. Japan are very good at adapting to the opposition formation. Up front, they can play positional attacks and combine with the keeper too, all of it orchestrated by excellent ball players. With Japan, it’s the team that’s the star.

RFU play a similar 1-2-2 formation, but they’re more reliant on their individuals, starting with their keepers, Maksim Chuzhkov and Stanislav Kosharnyi. Kosharnyi is especially good with his feet and is the perfect platform for their attacking moves. They’ll also have three very good players back for the final: Artur Paporotnyi, Alexey Makarov and Fedor Zemskov, who were all suspended for the semi. Physically, they’re a very strong team and they’re not shy when it comes to competing for the ball. They’ll also have the support of the fans and their experience will prove very useful too. They’ve won two World Cups already while Japan are in their first final."

ESPINHO, PORTUGAL - JULY 10: Head coach Claude Barrabe of Madagascar reacts during the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015 Group D match between Tahiti and Madagascar at Espinho Stadium on July 10, 2015 in Espinho, Portugal. (Photo by Alex Grimm - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Matteo Marrucci (FIFA technical expert)

"This is the second meeting between the two sides at this tournament, with RFU winning their group game 7-1. I don’t think we should be reading too much into that game, though. It was the group phase, Japan were already through, and RFU had their backs to the wall.

I expect both teams to play their usual game and stick to 1-2-2, though Japan can sometimes switch to 1-3-1. Both sides have excellent keepers. RFU alternate between Maksim Chuzhkov and Stanislav Kosharnyi, while Japan just have Yusuke Kawai, who tends to use his hands to play the ball out, unlike the RFU keepers.

Japan play a very disciplined and structured game. Kawai plays long balls to the two pivots, Shusei Yamauchi and Takuya Akaguma, and they also have some very interesting options on the flanks, with some very fast wings. At the back, Ozu keeps it tight and simple, rarely venturing forward.

Physically, RFU are an impressive side. They play a fast game. And they’ll have those three key players back, which will only make things tougher for Japan. It promises to be quite a match."

RAVENNA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 05: Matteo Marrucci of Italy celebrates after victory in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Group A match between Italy and Switzerland at Stadium del Mare on September 5, 2011 in Ravenna, Italy.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Pascal Zuberbuhler (FIFA goalkeeping specialist)

"Goalkeeper is a strong position for both teams, though they both have a different approach to it.

Japan just play the one keeper: Yusuke Kawai. He’s a superb player who reads the game extremely well and is very scientific in his movements. He’s very busy in his area and tries to keep to it. He’s more at ease with his hands than his feet, but he’s pinpoint with his throws. Kawai imposes himself on the game. He has no fear. He’s committed and thinks nothing of blocking point-blank shots. I’ve seen keepers who are more at ease in an attacking sense, but that could be a tactical option, with Ozu staying back and taking on the job of distributing the ball.

RFU handle their keepers in a special way. They use two of them: Maksim Chuzhkov and Stanislav Kosharnyi, who keep switching, no matter how well they’re playing. If they’re both on top form, then Kosharnyi probably edges it. He’s better with his feet, which means he also takes more risks. He’s not afraid to come out of his area. Against Switzerland we even saw him push forward and go for goal.

 The long-distance match between them is going to be very interesting."

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - DECEMBER 17: In this handout image provided by FIFA, Pascal Zuberbuehler is seen presenting The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper award as Manuel Neuer and Jan Oblak are seen looking on from a video link during the The Best FIFA Football Awards on December 17, 2020 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Valeriano Di Domenico/FIFA via Getty Images)