Portugal, Spain, Italy and Switzerland make it to the semi-finals
The group stages in beach soccer came to a close at the 3rd European Games Kraków Malopolska on 29th June, with four teams qualifying for the semi-finals…
A triple for Chicky seals Spain triumph
Spain win 7-1 against Azerbaijan.
After beating hosts, Poland the day before, Spain faced Azerbaijan who were yet to get their first win of the tournament. The Spaniards knew a win was vital, as it would take them up to six points, but Azerbaijan were eager to impress as a victory for them would potentially see them through.
Azerbaijan made a bright start to the encounter, as Huseynov found himself in great position at the back post, but the ball flashed across goal giving him little time to react to the situation. Spain broke the deadlock however, as Mejias fired in for his nation. Azerbaijan found themselves well and truly back in the game with two and a half minutes left in the period, as Elshad lobbed the Spain goalkeeper from distance, as their supporters at the Tarnów Beach Arena were delighted, before the first period came to its conclusion.
In the second period, Spain took complete control of the match, firing in four times without a response from their opposition, with Chicky giving Spain the lead once again just six seconds in. This was followed by a rocket of a strike from Arias into the bottom-left corner, an accurate finish from Kuman into the bottom-right corner, and Chicky scored his brace and Spain’s fifth of the match with a penalty to the right-hand side, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Rigaud found the sixth for Spain, as Chicky completed his hat-trick with a wonderful bicycle kick to round off a great win for the Spaniards, but symbolised the end of the road for Azerbaijan.
Perfect group stage for Portugal
Portugal triumph 6-2 over Poland.
To conclude Group A, Poland who had three points prior to the match, faced an undefeated and in-form Portugal side in Tarnów.
It was an unbelievable start for the host nation, as Baran smashed his shot from kick-off into the top corner, as the Tarnów Beach Arena erupted. The joy was fairly short lived for the home fans, as a piece of magical footwork from Bê Martins saw him shift into space and release a driven strike into the bottom left corner to bring the scores level. Portugal then took the lead for the first time through Léo Martins, but Poland found the net again as Jesionowski hit his free-kick into the bottom-left corner. However, Portugal were the team who found themselves ahead after the first 12 minutes came to a close, as Algarvio’s corner found the head of Pinhal at the back post, to lead 3-2.
Under two minutes into the second period, Léo Martins scored his second as he slotted his penalty into the bottom corner. Pintado found Portugal’s fifth moments later, as his bicycle kick flew into the top-left corner.
One final goal came in the last period, and it was Pintado to net his second of the match with a side footed finish from close range, assisted by Brilhante.
Due to this result, Portugal ended their group stage journey in first place, as Spain took second place in Group A.
Voitok wonder strikes help Ukraine secure victory
Ukraine defeat Moldova 6-5.
With both sides having two European Games matches under their belts, Ukraine and Moldova headed into their final group stage match. Ukraine knew a win would put themselves level on points with Group B leaders, Switzerland, to give themselves a big chance of semi-final qualification and Moldova knew a win could also keep them in contention for progression.
Ukraine went ahead in the opening minutes as Zborovskyi found himself in space on the right, and confidently lifted the ball over Garanovaschi. However, Graur responded for Moldova under three minutes later, as Cojocari’s quick throw-in found his team-mate to powerfully head in at the near post. Despite their equaliser, Moldova weren’t level for long, as Maksym Voitok flicked the ball up for himself with his back to goal and smashed his bicycle kick into the net. Voitok then scored his brace with a second acrobatic finish of the match, converting Voitenko’s corner and putting Ukraine 3-1 up.
In the second period, Ukraine increased their lead in the opening minutes as goalkeeper, Nerush hit a rapid shot from distance and Voitenko’s glancing header did the job to turn the ball in. Graur scored his second of the match after this, following up on an Istrati free-kick and slotting home, striking the crossbar before it found the net. With under four minutes left of the period, Ukraine found another two goals as Glutskyi and Medvid’s both blasted in free-kicks.
With Moldova trailing by four goals going into the last period, they needed a huge team effort if they were to make it back into the fixture, and Turta began the comeback as Schitenko cut the ball back for Turta to finish with composure. Following this, Podlesnov scored another two for his nation, but in the end the Moldovans came up one goal short.
Giordani scores three, as Italy take top spot
Italy victorious 5-3 over Switzerland.
The second Group B fixture of the day saw Switzerland take on Italy at the Tarnów Beach Arena. Italy found themselves on three points after two matches played and knew that a victory against the group leaders could see them into the next round, and by winning by two goals or more would secure top spot. However, Switzerland looked to make it nine points from nine against the Italians, to finish in the qualification places.
The Italians scored the only goal of the first period with less than a minute on the clock, and what a sublime finish it was. Fazzini found himself on the left side of the pitch and unleashed a thunderbolt of a strike with his left foot, to rifle the ball into the top-right corner.
Genovali then doubled the lead early in the second phase of play, surging forward with the ball after winning possession in his team’s defensive area, and picked out the bottom corner. Giordani then scored his country’s third, dispossessing the opposition goalkeeper and sliding home. Ott pulled one back for the group leaders with a fantastic bicycle kick into the top-right corner, but Giordani found his brace late on in the period, with an acrobatic effort, giving Italy a 4-1 lead with 12 minutes ahead.
This Switzerland side are always a threat, and in the third period plotted their comeback. They found the back of the net twice inside two minutes, as Spacca dispatched and Stankovic scored his 10th of the tournament with an expertly taken overhead kick. Despite the minor setback, Italy found their fifth through Giordani for his hat-trick as Italy won by two goals, meaning top spot was secured in Group B.
The result also saw Switzerland go through in second place, as Ukraine were eliminated despite achieving six points.
Spain 7-1 Azerbaijan
Poland 2-6 Portugal
Ukraine 6-5 Moldova
Switzerland 3-5 Italy