RFU dominant as gaps close
Little to choose between the participants at Russia 2021
Three teams with different styles make the podium
New rules, more dynamic play, and a record goal tally
The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™, which saw RFU crowned world champions for a third time and a record number of goals scored, will go down in history as one of the most closely contested of world finals in the discipline.
RFU’s latest trophy win takes them past Portugal as the second most successful side in the history of the competition, behind Brazil on five. And like their two fellow heavyweights, RFU have now won the competition on home sand.
The top three
Aside from displaying their physical and mental strength, RFU also showed that they are a team in every sense of the word. In responding to the obstacles thrown their way, their players found an answer on every single occasion.
The clearest example of that was the semi-final win over Switzerland, achieved without three key players and despite being outplayed for large parts of the game. A commanding win in the final set the seal on an outstanding tournament for the hosts.
There seems to be no limit to Japan’s improvement. Two years on from finishing fourth, they reached the final thanks to their tactical discipline, which stems from the new and almost exclusively defensive role adopted by Ozu Moreira and the many strengths of an attacking game spearheaded by Takuya Akaguma.
Switzerland played perhaps the best beach soccer of Russia 2021 but paid dearly for their lapses in the semi-final meeting with the hosts. Their fluid build-up play, to which Eliott Mounoud and Noel Ott were both vital, gave pivots Glenn Hodel and Dejan Stankovic (21 goals between them) the platform to excel.
No team did better in maximising their capabilities than Senegal, whose physical strengths allowed them to make the most of the new goalkeeping rule. Pressing hard in defence and direct in attack, they kept the fans entertained.
In a tournament in which none of the 16 teams looked out of place, Paraguay, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay all impressed, albeit with different styles. The Uruguayans knocked out defending champions Portugal to make the last eight for the second time running.
Portugal are going through a transitional phase, though they were also hampered by some untimely injuries and by opponents raising their game against them. Brazil suffered the same fate, though their status as one of the game’s foremost powers remains unquestioned.
Spain and Tahiti also showed up well, reflecting the strength in depth of global beach soccer.
1. RFU 2. Japan 3. Switzerland 4. Senegal 5. Brazil 6. Tahiti 7. Spain 8. Uruguay 9. Paraguay 10. Portugal 11. Mozambique 12. Oman 13. United Arab Emirates 14. Belarus 15. El Salvador 16. USA
adidas Golden Ball: Noel Ott (Switzerland) adidas Silver Ball: Artur Paporotnyi (RFU) adidas Bronze Ball: Raoul Mendy (Senegal)
adidas Golden Scorer: Glenn Hodel, 12 goals (Switzerland) adidas Silver Scorer: Dejan Stankovic, 10 goals (Switzerland) adidas Bronze Scorer: Takuya Akaguma, 10 goals (Japan)
adidas Golden Glove: Eliott Mounoud (Switzerland)
FIFA Fair Play Trophy: Brazil
53,149 - The total attendance for the 32 matches at the 11th Beach Soccer World Cup, an average of 1,661 spectators per game.
302 - The number of goals scored at Russia 2021, the highest number in the tournament’s history and an average of 9.43 goals per match. The previous tournament high was 286 at Rio de Janeiro 2006 and Paraguay 2019.
100 - RFU’s win rate in finals: played three, won three. In 2011 they beat Brazil in the showpiece match and Spain in the 2013 final.
47 - Dejan Stankovic’s ten goals at Russia 2021 earned him the adidas Silver Scorer award and took his tally of Beach Soccer World Cup goals to 47, making him the second-highest scorer in the tournament’s history, albeit still well behind Portugal’s Madjer on 88.
20 - Tahiti’s 12-8 defeat of Spain in the group phase produced the joint second-highest number of goals for a Beach Soccer World Cup match (Russia beat Brazil by the same scoreline in the 2011 final). The all-time record is 21, set when Portugal beat Uruguay 14-7 in the match for third place in 2009.
1 - Japan became the first Asian team to reach the final of the Beach Soccer World Cup, the previous best performance being IR Iran’s third place at Bahamas 2017. Senegal also became the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the competition. The Lions of Teranga recorded the previous best by an African side: fifth in 2007.
Click here for expert analysis of Russia 2021 from FIFA Technical Study Group (TSG) members Claude Barrabe, Matteo Marrucci and Pascal Zuberbuhler.