Where else than in Rio de Janeiro could this Beach Soccer World Cup be played?
I can’t think of a better stage for this competition.
Argentina is taking part of this and not only that: we are the first team qualified for the quarter-finals stage.
Heading Group D after defeating Nigeria (5-4) and Bahrain (2-1) we have to face Italy (already eliminated) on Monday in our last group game.
We’re not favourites to win the tournament but the boys will give it a try and our rival will be the 2nd-placed team from Group C (most likely Uruguay a team that defeated us in the semi-finals of the South American WC Qualifying tournament).
Anybody following the Beach Soccer World Cup?
This is a team profile from FIFA.com (www.fifa.com)
Argentina’s history in international beach soccer dates back to the sport’s formative period in mid-1993, when, alongside the USA, Brazil and Italy, they travelled to Miami Beach for the first tournament of the professional era. Foremost among the players to run out for that ground-breaking side were Sergio Goycochea and Julio Olarticoechea, two members of the Argentina squad that had finished runners-up at the 1990 FIFA World Cup™ in Italy.
Argentina also took part in the first unofficial Beach Soccer World Championship, in 1995, but failed to finish among the honours. Their best performance in the tournament would come six years later in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil, where they caused a sensation by beating the hosts. A dramatic semi-final reverse against France (5-4) left the Albiceleste to battle it out for third place with archrivals Brazil. With the odds stacked against them, the team coached by former professional Carlos Gerardo Russo secured a place on the podium with a 4-2 win over the Auriverde, in the process handing their neighbours their last regulation-time defeat in this competition.
In 2005, Argentina qualified for the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, held in Rio de Janeiro, but were eliminated by the hosts in the quarter-finals. One year on and they are preparing to return to the same city and cement the progress made under coach Hector Francisco Petrasso, who steered them to third place in the South American qualifying tournament earlier this year.
Nowadays, Argentine beach soccer has the firm backing of the country’s football association, who have built a special pitch at their Buenos Aires headquarters to enable the national team to have training sessions and get-togethers when required.
The Albiceleste booked their place in Rio de Janeiro courtesy of a third-place finish in the South American qualifying tournament held last March in the Brazilian city of Macae. The team’s passage was not all plain sailing, however, with qualification only secured in their final game against Venezuela. Prior to that, Petrasso’s side had looked impressive at the group stage, where a defeat to eventual champions Brazil was their only blemish in five outings.
In the semi-final, Uruguay’s extra-time winner denied Argentina a place in the decider, but the team bounced back to secure a berth in Rio with a cautious 2-0 win over the Vinotinto. All told, Argentina posted five wins and two defeats, with 26 goals for and 19 against.
At just 36, Francisco Petrasso is one of the youngest national team coaches in the discipline, though he comes into this tournament with the advantage of having participated in last year’s edition in Rio de Janeiro as a player. Now, as coach, Petrasso knows he has to make full use of his knowledge and experience if he is to boost the development of Argentine beach soccer with a big performance at the showpiece event in November. “I know this squad very well, having spent years with it as a player. I’m even friends with some of the team, which makes for easier communication. They understand my new role and know that I’m trying to do what is best for the team,” he said.
Player to watch
Leadership, talent and experience are just three of the qualities brought to the side by Ezequiel Hilaire, the eldest of three brothers in Argentina’s beach soccer squad. The recently qualified attorney, a one-time member of the “Rest of the World” team, has become the standard bearer for his side, who often fail to reach the heights in his absence.
As well as the influential Ezequiel, mention should also be made of the solid and reassuring goalkeeper Marcelo Salgueiro, and the goalscoring instincts of Santiago Hilaire, the team’s top marksman in the South American qualifiers.
What they said…
“This group is giving their all to be among the top four sides in the world. That’s our goal, and I’m sure these guys deserve it. They are working extremely hard, have been playing together for a long time now and are a very tight-knit group.” (Francisco Petrasso, Argentina coach)
And the squad list for Argentina:
1. Marcelo SALGUEIRO (GK)
2. Santiago HILAIRE (MF)
3. Gustavo CASADO (MF)
4. Luciano FRANCESCHINI (DF)
5. Rodrigo LOPEZ (DF)
6. Leandro PARADISI (DF)
7. Federico HILAIRE (FW)
8. Federico ANDRADE (DF)
9. Facundo MINICI (FW)
10. Ezequiel HILAIRE (FW)
11. Lucas BACA (FW)
12. Cesar MENDOZA (GK)
Coach: PETRASSO Hector (ARG)
Just one more thing to add: