The groups for both the men’s and women’s categories were released on Tuesday
Europe’s nations now know who they will be facing in their opening matches of the Euro Beach Soccer League. Many will be returning after a year out following the Covid-19 pandemic, and will be keener than ever to make history in one of the sport’s oldest and most prestigious competitions.
The Division B teams will play in Moldova (27 July – 1 August) to contend for their places at the Promotion Final, and a chance at joining Europe’s elite. The teams and competition format will be released closer to the event.
A total of 12 Division A teams will battle in three groups, which are organised as follows:
The defending champions and hosts of the first EBSL stage, Portugal, will meet Ukraine and Germany as they did last year. Portugal have not been defeated in an EBSL game since September 2018, when they lost 4-3 to Spain in the group stage of the Superfinal in Alghero.
However, seven of the 12 teams were unable to compete in the 2020 edition due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, and will therefore be eager to make up for lost time.
The previous side to claim the EBSL crown was Italy in 2018, and after meeting Portugal in the final of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, they may be the biggest threat to Narciso’s men, as they are ranked third (behind only Portugal and Brazil) in the Official World Ranking.
But in fourth and fifth are Russia and Spain, both of whom have five EBSL crowns and will be itching to relive their former European glory. Russia haven’t won since 2017, and Spain, despite reaching the final twice, have not won since 2006.
In the first ever edition of the Women’s Euro Beach Soccer League, the seven competing teams, including an exciting debut appearance in a European championship for Ukraine, will be split into two groups, one of four and one of three:
– Czech Republic
Ukraine may be competing in their first ever European championship, but the squad is composed of many of the Mryia 2006 players who lifted the 2020 Euro Winners Cup on their debut appearance.
This could mean that they are real contenders to try and dethrone Russia, who won the European championship (formerly Women’s Euro Beach Soccer Cup) in 2019. Russia also claimed the title the year before in 2018, while the only two previous winners of the continental crown are England (2017) and Spain (2016).
England have moved above group rivals Russia in the Official World Rankings and will be eyeing a return to the top, while Spain, who took gold medals at the ANOC World Beach Games in Qatar in 2019, are currently ranked as the best team in the world.
Picking a clear winner here is almost impossible, so get ready for some high-intensity beach soccer!