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16 Jul 2015
Sights set on the semi-finals
The first knockout stage has arrived but no one is content with the final eight as they all want more
There is a distinct European flavour to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015™ quarter-finals, with four countries from the continent involved. And with each of the last-eight ties fascinating in their own way, FIFA.com fills you in on what to expect from the action on Thursday 16 July.
Match of the day
Brazil-Russia, 14:00 local time
"Everyone thought we'd play each other in the final, but here we are. That said, we'll have to approach the match like a final if we want to beat them," said Brazil's Bruno Xavier, aptly summing up the duel for a place in the semis. After cruising in their opener, the Canarinha have been thoroughly tested since. However, inspirational performances from veterans like Mao and youngsters such as Rodrigo mean they have not been found wanting. Though the Russians go into the game fresh off a defeat by Tahiti, this is unlikely to cloud their belief. The teams last locked horns in none other than the final at Ravenna 2011, where the Europeans prevailed 12-8 to seal their first world title.
The other matches
With 30 meetings between them, Portugal and Switzerland have become familiar foes on sand. The Portuguese lead the head-to-head with 20 victories, including a current streak of five on the bounce. The most recent encounters came just a couple of weeks ago at the European Games in Baku and were decided by a one-goal margin, so another evenly matched affair is anticipated in Espinho. You have to go back to June 2013 for the last Swiss win in the fixture, a 6-2 rout in the preliminary stages of the Euro Beach Soccer League.
Italy have been arguably the most impressive team at the tournament so far, despite not leading any of the statistical charts. The Azzurri are equally capable of mounting attacking onslaughts and shutting up shop at the back, but the same could be said of their quarter-final opponents. Japan owe part of their consistency to Ozu Moreira, one of the few players with the engine to keep firing on all cylinders for the full 36 minutes.
Ending Russia's 14-match unbeaten run was the ultimate proof of Tahiti's credentials after an excellent patch of form. However, they will need all their firepower to overcome a tough Iran side whose success has been built on their defence. Team Melli will be out to nullify the threat from the Oceanians while capitalising on the chances to break that their attack-minded opponents will surely afford them.
Player to watch
Emmanuelle Zurlo (Italy)
He may not be as spectacular as Gabriele Gori, but Zurlo has proven himself to be an explosive and clinical pivot who is able to conjure up finishes in the tightest of spaces. The Catania schemer is very much enjoying his first World Cup at the age of 27 and has struck up a superb partnership with star man Gori: the pair have hit the net in each of Italy's three games and are the team's joint-top scorers on five goals apiece.
18 - The number of times Tahiti scored in their three group-stage matches, making them the most prolific side at the tournament. Interestingly, these goals have been spread out among ten of the 12 squad members – including one of the goalkeepers!
"Our target is to finish fourth at worst and we're working very hard to achieve it. We're hopeful of reaching the semi-finals and showing our potential." Iran pivot Mohammad Ahmadzadeh
Match schedule (all times are local)