History is made in a thrilling group stage

  • The group stage of Russia 2021 is now complete

  • We highlight its memorable moments

  • Portugal’s early exit was the biggest surprise

With spectacular goals, countless examples of technical brillance and a wonderful atmosphere, the group stage of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™ was everything that a tournament played on sand should be. Any event with a stadium announcer who even gets involved during matches, fireworks to welcome the teams on to the pitch, cheerleaders during breaks in play and live music in the stadium, both for the national anthems and occasionally thereafter, can only be described as something special. Twenty-four of the 32 matches at the Luzhniki Beach Soccer Arena in Moscow have now been played, with eight teams already heading home including, for the first time ever, the defending champions. FIFA.com reflects on the group stage of Russia 2021™.

Memorable Moments

Defending champions Portugal crash out Portugal and Uruguay contested one of the most dramatic games of the tournament so far on the last matchday of the group stage. With both teams aware that the winner would progress and the loser head home, the resulting game was of the highest quality, with neither side able to put the match beyond doubt. In the end it was the South Americans who prevailed 7-6 to send the defending champions home after the group stage for the first time in the history of the competition.

Mozambique make history The only World Cup debutants in Russia made it abundantly clear that they had not travelled to Europe to simply make up the numbers, following up their opening 8-4 defeat by Spain with their first-ever World Cup win. Figo scored all four goals in their 4-2 victory over United Arab Emirates to kindle the African side’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages. Although they were ultimately eliminated by an 8-7 loss to Tahiti, they can travel home with their heads held high.

First goal of the World Cup Tahiti’s Tamatoa Tetauira scored the first goal of the tournament in the 22nd minute of the opening match. UAE goalkeeper was caught off guard by the striker’s low, deflected shot and could not keep it from finding the target.

Stankovic climbs the all-time ranks With a brace against both Brazil and Belarus and four goals against El Salvador, Switzerland’s Dejan Stankovic is tied for first place in the race to be the adidas Golden Scorer. The 36-year-old, who celebrates his birthday today, is now the second highest-scoring player in the history of the competition with 45 goals. The all-time record goalscorer is Portuguese beach soccer legend Madjer, with an impressive 88 goals to his name.

No draws You can only win or lose a match in beach soccer. When the game between Belarus and El Salvador ended 5-5 after extra time, penalties were needed to find a winner. The resulting shoot-out was the first to apply the new rule that each team must select five penalty-takers instead of the previous three. The Belarussians ultimately prevailed 5-4 from the spot to claim a point.

A true goal-fest Tahiti and Spain served up a record-breaking 20 goals in a game that finished 12-8 to the Tiki Toa. Only Portugal’s 14-7 defeat of Uruguay at Dubai 2009 has produced more goals. As the oldest player on duty at this Beach Soccer World Cup at the age of 46, Tahiti player-coach Teva Zaveroni showed that he still has what it takes by scoring twice in this action-packed encounter. A goal and a win for mum For their 5-3 win over defending champions Portugal, Senegal’s players all wore black armbands in tribute to Raoul Mendy’s mother, who died the previous day. Despite his grief, the No9 delivered a top performance at the Luzhniki Beach Soccer Arena and seemed to cover every grain of sand. Working tirelessly up front, he created chance after chance and converted a couple himself to help fire the Lions of Teranga into the quarter-finals.

The quote

"There aren’t any weak teams at the World Cup, and we’re aware of that, so it doesn’t matter who we play. We can’t let the fans down because their support has been incredible. The support from the stands is driving us on. There’s a feeling that it’s only going to get better too." Dmitrii Shishin, RFU forward

Up next