– Fifth day of matches at Russia 2021
– Group A: RFU withstand pressure to top section
– Group B: Tahiti and Spain advance to quarters
The penultimate matchday of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™ group stage served up exciting action and goals galore, as three more teams took their places in the quarter-final line-up.
The highlight of the day was arguably the qualification of RFU, who, needing a win to remain in the competition, delivered in style with a 7-1 rout of Japan. That result earned the hosts top spot in Group A, ahead of the Japanese on goal difference.
Prior to that, Paraguay had comfortably beaten USA 9-4, a triumph that temporarily propelled them up into second place. However, the outcome of the Japan-RFU game meant that the South Americans ultimately bowed out of the tournament.
In Group B, Tahiti waited until the very last second of their clash with Mozambique to celebrate their qualification for the last eight after a closely contested 8-7 victory. The African side left the pitch and the tournament to warm applause from a knowledgeable crowd, who appreciated the effort they had put in during the competition.
In the same section, Spain subsequently held their nerve, despite going 2-0 down early on, to book a spot in the knockout stage courtesy of a 5-3 win over the United Arab Emirates, who were yet again unable to advance past the group phase.
USA 4–9 Paraguay
Japan 1–7 RFU
Tahiti 8–7 Mozambique
Spain 5–3 UAE
With key players missing for their decisive encounter with Mozambique, Heirauarii Salem became an unlikely hero for Tahiti. The 23-year-old wing, who failed to score in three matches at Paraguay 2019 and was yet to find the net at Russia 2021, struck no fewer than four times against the Africans, and thereby became only the second Tahitian to do so at a World Cup. His current team-mate, Raimana Li Fung Kuee, who accomplished the impressive feat against Russia at Portugal 2015, was the first.
Not only did Spain make a grand return to the Beach Soccer World Cup after a six-year absence, but they made it through to the last eight for the first time since Tahiti 2013, where they finished as runners-up. In fact, La Roja have qualified for the knockout stage in six of their eight World Cup appearances, with Brazil 2006 and Portugal 2015 the only blots on their record.
While Paraguay’s success over USA was ultimately not enough to keep them in the tournament, their free-scoring forward Pedro Moran once again proved his worth to the team. The 31-year-old pivot, who claimed the adidas Golder Scorer award in 2015, notched his third hat-trick at a Beach Soccer World Cup, and with 25 goals to his name, he is now one of the top 15 scorers in the history of the competition.
Very much aware that their team required a win in order to advance to the next stage, the raucous Russian crowd cheered non-stop throughout the crucial match versus Japan. The hosts’ opener after just nine seconds only served to further fire up the fans, who enthusiastically chanted “Our boys!” and the names of each of the scorers. Unsurprisingly, the local heroes left the arena to a standing ovation.
“It was a bit of a relief. We knew it was going to be just like a cup final – anything less than a quarter-final spot would have been something of a disaster for us, truth be told. Now we have three more finals to look forward to. We have everything we need to get as far as we can.”
Spain pivot Eduard, speaking to FIFA.com
Text and Photos: FIFA