Portugal, Poland, Ukraine and Switzerland victorious on the opening day
Four matches took place on the Polish sands in Tarnów, as group stage action got started in the men’s competition…
Portugal win the Iberian derby in Group A
Portugal faced Spain to begin proceedings in Group A.
Bê Martins had a magnificent opening period, as he scored the first goal of the match to send Portugal 1-0 up with just over a minute gone, and minutes later he netted his second of the afternoon, as his brother and SC Braga team-mate, Leo Martins knocked the ball firmly into a dangerous area for Bê Martins to confidently hit the back of the net.
Leo Martins got his goal at the start of the second period, slamming in an acrobatic attempt into the bottom corner. Spain found one of their own through Arias, but it was soon cancelled out, as Domingo turned the ball into his own net. The Spaniards then managed to score another three times in succession, as Chicky brought one back straight after his nation conceded, Kuman turned the ball in with an assist from Oliver, and David’s brilliant overhead shot was smashed in for the equaliser, leaving Andrade rooted to the spot. However, Portugal scored two more goals before the period came to its conclusion, as Bê Martins completed his hat-trick and Jordan converted his free-kick.
In the last period, Spain goalkeeper, Dona saw his emphatic effort fly into the top-right corner to firmly bring his nation back into the match. However, Jordan dealt the final blow, as he scored another free-kick to put the game to bed.
Poland off to a flying start in Group A
To open their European Games 2023 beach soccer journey, Azerbaijan played host nation, Poland in Group A.
Azerbaijan silenced the home crowd early in the first period as Elshad’s long-range striked stunned the crowd. Despite the setback, Poland were level minutes later as Gac’s darting run to the back post paid off, as he converted from close range, as the Tarnow Beach Arena erupted. With the momentum and crowd on their side, Poland found two more goals in the period as Jesionowski and Witkowski ensured their nation went into the first interval with a two-goal advantage.
The fourth Poland goal was an absolute beauty, as Bistula juggled the ball forward and slammed his volley into the top-left corner, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance. Witkowski then found his brace and Poland’s fifth after striking his free-kick into the bottom corner, leaving the score at 5-1 after 24 minutes of play.
Huseynov attempted to spark a comeback for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2024 European Qualifier hosts in the final period, scoring three minutes into the period, but Poland had other ideas as Baran and Ziober both hit the target to end the match 7-2 to the European Games 2023 hosts.
Ukraine put six past Italy to open Group B
In the opening Group B encounter, Italy took on Ukraine.
It took just under three minutes for the deadlock to be broken in the opening period, as the Ukrainians struck first with Shcherytsia poking home over Italy goalkeeper, Casapieri, following a hard-hit pass from Ukraine goalkeeper, Poslavskyi. The lead was doubled just over two minutes later, as Zavorotnyi converted from close-range after a lofted pass put him in a fantastic position to score. Sciacca pulled one back for Italy very quickly, heading in from a corner, but Ukraine increased their advantage, as a well-worked counter-attack meant that Zborovskyi could finish into an empty net, with eight seconds to go in the period.
Italy came out the blocks at a rapid pace in the second period, as Sassari’s leaping strike found the net to put the Italians just one goal behind their opponents. A few minutes later, Italy goalscorer, Sciacca had an incredible chance to bring his team level as he swiveled past the Ukraine defence, winning a penalty in the process. However, Sciacca’s attempt from the spot was denied by the legs of Poslavskyi, keeping the score at 3-2. Sciacca found himself in another wonderful position to equal the scoreline, but his side-footed effort hit the left post.
Ukraine got the final period period underway in Tarnow, as the Italians were desperate to find a very important equaliser. It didn’t take long for that goal to come, as Zurlo fired in with a ferocious right-footed shot, and under a minute later it was advantage Italy for the first time in the fixture, as Bertacca netted his nation’s fourth with a long-range strike crashing in off of the crossbar. The Ukrainians wouldn’t back down, as they turned the match on its head once again with Borsuk levelling from the spot and Pashko rounding the keeper to slot home from a tight angle, to make the score 5-4. Maksym Voitok delivered the sixth for Ukraine, as Giordanni netted for the Italians a minute from time, but it wasn’t enough to take the match to extra-time.
Seven superb Stankovic strikes, sees Switzerland shine
The second Group B match of the day saw Moldova take on Switzerland.
Stankovic fired in two goals inside the opening three minutes, with the second coming from a penalty, as Moldova pulled one back courtesy of Graur. It was Stankovic who found the mark again, not once, but twice to complete a spectacular individual first period performance, with Rüttimann finding Switzerland’s fifth with five seconds left in the period to take a four-goal advantage into the second period.
It was more of the same from Stankovic in the second phase of play, as he scored a free-kick with just over half of the second period played, but Moldova scored their second of the match, as Podlesnov hit the target straight after they conceded and Borovschi found the third. The man of the moment, Stankovic, then incredibly completed his second hat-trick of the match with a venomous finish.
Early into the third period, Moldova goalkeeper, Ruslan Istrati found the net from distance, but Euro Winners Cup winner, Ott cancelled out his strike with one of his own. With just under two minutes remaining in the match, Stankovic found a remarkable seventh, with an audacious chip which was well executed.
A spectacular display from Stankovic and a great result for Switzerland on the opening day.
Portugal 7-5 Spain
Azerbaijan 2-7 Poland
Italy 5-6 Ukraine
Moldova 4-9 Switzerland