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Bernd BaruttaHead of Beach Soccer at the DFBBeach soccer was at its captivating best in Warnemünde
25 Jun 2015
Groups get tighter and day 2 offered more excitement
Portugal guarantees spot in next round while absolutely nothing else will be set until after the final Group Stage day
Switzerland sweats out win to keep semi hopes alive
The 7-4 win for Switzerland over Azerbaijan was gut-wrenching for the hosts and thrilling, if not scary, for the favourites. The Swiss built an early lead and a big one, but the Azeri found a new gear and hit their offensive stride, like we had not seen in the tournament thus far, but the comeback bid fell short when La Nati came up clutch and scored late to put things just out of reach. The win was the first for Switzerland and they will have a do-or-die match against Ukraine, with the winner qualifying for the semifinals. Portugal has already qualified in Group A. Azerbaijan will be unable to move to the next round but not from lack of want, skill, or heart as they were in both matches, but they can prove to their fans and show the crowd their mettle in their Group Stage finale against Portugal on Friday.
The Swiss hardly have trouble scoring but the Azeri have a very stout defense, and something had to give. Switzerland and Azerbaijan had both lost close and tough opening matches and this was their chance to rebound. La Nati began nicely by taking advantage of nearly every opportunity that the Azerbaijani afforded them or they earned, while The Land of Fire could not get a bounce to go their way. The Swiss took a 3-0 lead after two goals from Jaeggy and one from Hodel. Zeynal, one of the host teams’ best scores even struck the post on a free kick that would have scored if it were 6 inches in the other direction. The frame ended with Switzerland up 3-0 and holding all the cards. Hope and momentum are curious things, they only take a little to ignite and they can change the whole complex of a game. The hosts found those two things and started the long road back to a big comeback when they scored their first goal and in fact goals and they cut the lead to two goals, at 3-5 before the period ended.
Azerbaijan kept their hopes alive and in the final frame they were still looking the part of World Killers, specifically when they scored the periods’ first goal and drew almost level, by a score of 5-4. The Swiss do not quit and in beach soccer that became even more evident as they capitalized on their chances and ballooned their lead back up to three goals, at 7-4, late in the game. That difference would prove to be enough as the horn sounded and Switzerland still drew the applause of the hosts after their gutsy 7-4 performance.
Goals: 0-1: Jaeggy, min. 9 (1); 0-2: Hodel, min. 4 (1); 0-3: Jaeggy, min. 3 (1); 0-4: Spacca, min. 11 (2); 1-4: Aliyev, min. 9 (2); 1-5: Ott, min. 4 (2); 2-5: Mammadov, min. 4 (2); 3-5: Allahguliyev, min. 4 (2); 4-5: Allahguliyev, min. 8 (3); 4-6: Lutz, min. 3 (3); 4-7; Ott, min. 0 (3).
Italy charges through Russia and eyes semis
The 6-4 win for Italy over Russia was a sound display of controlling the clock, speed, and ball for the team that was not expected to upend the two time defending World Champions. Italy got on the board first but Russia, as always, replied and took a two-goal lead before the Italians put things out of reach in the final period, taking a three goal-lead. The Russians tried to mount another comeback but they did not have enough in the tank and Italy earned their first win and three points. The win was a relief for the Italians as they lost in penalties to Spain on the opening day but now they still have hopes for the Semi-finals. Russia did win in their opening match but they still must earn points on Friday against group leaders Spain.
Many teams are scared of the Russian beach soccer team, but the Italians decided to try a different strategy in the opening minutes, and it paid off. The Azzurri began playing the Russians face-to-face, and it paid off. Italy scored first, but not more than a minute later, the Russians nailed home a goal from Shkarin, which leveled things at 1-1. Russia was noticeably trying to seize control with their true-to-form ball handling but Italy was all over the pitch and the opening frame ended tied at 1. In the middle frame the Big Red Beach Machine finally took their first lead, albeit in the final minute of the frame, as they held Italy down just as much as they were holding them down. The goal from Krash put the score at 2-1 in favour of the Russians and that is exactly how the period would end.
The closing frame was a bit of a shock for everyone, in a good way, as both teams exploded for goals. Three total goals were scored in the first two periods but the match ended with 10 goals. Russia built on their slim lead and took the 3-1 advantage, but something changed for Italy and after that they went on a scoring rampage, leaving the Russians in their dust. Italy took a 6-3 lead late into the match before Makarov tried to spur his Russian side on, however the push was not enough and the final tally was 6-4 for Italy.
Goals: 0-1: Zurlo, min. 6 (1); 1-1: Shkarin, min. 6 (1); 2-1: Krash, min. 1 (2); 3-1: Shaykov, min. 11 (3); 3-2: Corosiniti, min. 11 (3); 3-3: Gori, min. 7 (3); 3-4: Gori, min. 6 (3); 3-5: Frainetti, min. 6 (3); 3-6: Palmacci, min. 3 (3); 4-6: Makarov, min. 2 (3).
Portugal completes another improbable comeback for OT win
The 5-4 OT win for Portugal over Ukraine was the kind of matches that players dream of being a part of and fans dream of seeing, and coaches dream of coaching in. Ukraine started the match by ceding an early goal, but no one can blame them as it was to the prolific goal scorer Belchior. That goal inspired Ukraine and they rattled off four straight goals, to take a big lead, but as is becoming a trend, Portugal responded. Portugal scored the final four goals, including the only one in extra time to give them their second straight come from behind win. It is the second straight win for Portugal and they now sit atop Group A going into their clash on Friday against Azerbaijan. Ukraine still has three points and will look to secure more on Friday when they take on Switzerland.
Ukraine might be one of the least talked about elite teams in beach soccer as they are quietly and soundly running through their competition and while not every match has been against Portugal, they have been doing a wonderful job on offense and defense. The Blue and Yellow are a very tough squad and they began this match by using their aggressive nature and physical play to take care of business. The Portuguese struck first but the resiliency was almost immediate as they replied with four straight strikes to take a commanding 4-1 lead. Portugal has come back from bigger deficits and they used a goal in the closing seconds of the middle frame, from Coimbra, to put the disadvantage back at two goals, but the daunting task still remained; comeback against Ukraine in the final 12 minutes while down 4-2.
Portugal still demands respect because they are definitely one of the world’s best teams and the final frame was a great example as to why. Portugal stormed back and tied the game at 4-4 with just over three minutes left. The drama was far from over though, as the match went into penalties as both teams shored up their defense to make sure they did not make the mistake to cost them the game. The crowd was going just as wild as the teams as the game went into overtime. In the first minute in the shortened extra frame, Be Martins scored the go-ahead goal. Belchior then almost added another Portuguese insurance goal, but that only slightly missed and when the final whistle sounded, Portugal had earned the 5-4 overtime win.
Goals: 1-0: Belchior, min. 10 (1); 1-1: Borsuk, min. 10 (2); 1-2: Pachev, min. 9 (2); 1-3: Korniichuk, min. 4 (2); 1-4: Pachev, min. 2 (2); 2-4: Coimbra, min. 0 (2); 3-4: Belchior, min. 4 (3); 4-4: Santos, min. 3 (3); 5-4: Be Martins, min. 1 (et).
Spain sluggish but finds a way to win
The 5-2 win for Spain over Hungary started as a nightmare for Spanish, and a dream for Hungary, but the Hungarians and Spain know all too well that beach soccer is a game that must be played for the full 36 minutes. Hungary was down early to Russia on Wednesday but they fought back, only to realize how determined and tough the top sides in beach soccer are. Spain fell behind early and could not get any rhythm on offense until the final period when they exploded for goals and they shut down Hungary after their second goal. The win gives Spain four total points, after their one earned in penalties on Monday, and puts them at the top of Group B going into their clash with Russia on Friday. Hungary fought hard in their first two matches but will need to work even harder to defeat Italy in their final Group Stage match on Friday.
Spain needed penalties to overcome the Italian side in the European Games debut, and even after extra time, the score still sat at 1-1, so in their match against Hungary, who nearly upset Russia, they wanted to take control early. The Spanish were in control from the outset but it did not yield any goals and the period looked to be going into the first break tied at 0, but with less than a second left, Abel of Hungary, scored to put the underdogs up 1-0 with 24 minutes remaining. La Furia Roja were pressing and pressing but the Hungarian defense was smoldering and limiting the Spanish attacks. Hungary doubled their advantage early in the period and were happy to ride out Spain’s offensive attacks. This tactic proved costly and created the first Spanish goal, from Ardil, leaving the score at 2-1 for Hungary going into the last frame.
Hungary began the period feeling good about their chances but they had not scored since early in the second period and Spain looked ready to take over. The Roja did just that and struck back with four third period goals to tie the game, take the lead, and control the game. The three goal advantage gave Spain the comfort and ability to play their game, solid defense and timely counters. While the Spanish did not threaten more than they needed to, they still held a firm grip on matters and when the referees had signaled the end of the match, Spain had completed the magnificent comeback, winning by a score of 5-2.
Goals: 0-1: Abel, min. 0 (1); 0-2: Simonyi, min. 11 (2); 1-2: Ardil, min. 8 (2); 2-2: Llorenç, min. 11 (3); 3-2: Juanma, min. 10 (3); 4-2: Cintas, min. 7 (3); 5-2: Mayor, min. 2 (3).
EUROPEAN GAMES BAKU 2015
16:00 – Spain 5-2 Hungary (Group B)
17:30 – Portugal 5-4 (aet) Ukraine (Group A)
19:00 – Russia 4-6 Italy (Group B)
20:30 – Azerbaijan 4-7 Switzerland (Group A)
16:00 – Italy vs Hungary (Group B)
17:30 – Switzerland vs Ukraine (Group A)
19:00 – Russia vs Spain (Group B)
20:30 – Azerbaijan vs Portugal (Group A)