Mark Pendergast, beach soccer commentator, names his super teams who will impress at the World Cup
This will be a World Cup of superheroes; now, I don’t just mean those on the sand that will be grabbing headlines for gravity-defying overhead kicks or even the superhuman efforts off the sand that have gone into creating a tournament during these most testing of times. I mean, we can compare the teams in Moscow to actual superheroes!
I think of Brazil as superman, all-powerful, all-conquering until they meet their kryptonite. In this case, the kryptonite isn’t green but red. Twice before, Brazil have looked like a team destined to sweep all before them on their way to glory, but then they meet their arch-nemesis, Russia.
It’s the moment they are stopped in their tracks; last time it was at the quarter-final stage. The Russians ran out of kryptonite after their knockout victory, as Portugal went onto take the crown, with the conquers of Brazil falling at the semi-final stage.
The brings us to Portugal; they are the equivalent of Wolverine in the film Logan. In this film, we find a different Wolverine, not as intimidating as his glory days with the X Men; he is older, prone to injuries, and not considered dangerous by his opponents.
Portugal have injury worries, particularly the loss of 2019 world player of the year Jordan Santos. Like Wolverine, they could be at their most dangerous when people least expect it. Underestimate the reigning champions at your peril. It will be a huge first round of matches as these three favourites meet in the same group with only two spots available for the knock out stages.
The two teams I think could surprise people are Belarus and Switzerland. Think of them as Ant-Man, small but powerful beyond their size. Belarus have qualified for their second FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in a row. A nation built upon Brazilian beach soccer principles under the guidance of Gilberto and Marco Octavio has perfected its style under Spanish coach Alvarado. They are as skilful as they are resilient and to twice qualify from arguably the strongest confederation in beach soccer means no one should underestimate them.
Switzerland is in a tournament when they least expected it, and reminiscent of Denmark in the 1992 European Championship, this will work in their favour. They will be playing with a smile on their faces and with no pressure or expectation. Their trump card is Schirinzi, a coach who is Swiss to the core but has learnt his trade across the globe in places as far-flung as Tahiti and Russia. His experience will be vital to squeezing the maximum from this squad.
Regardless of which of my superhero analogies plays out in Moscow, we do have a real-life superhero on the sand for Brazil. Look out for Hulk, Top Scorer of the CONMEBOL Qualifier, to smash in a few goals and work as the force behind the supermen of South America.
Article by Mark Pendergast