Tuesday 16 July 2019, 13:52

Europe’s beach elite eyeing World Cup places

  • 20 teams vying for five Beach Soccer World Cup places

  • Moscow hosting the European qualifiers for the second time

  • The final qualifying competition for Paraguay 2019

The 16-team line-up for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Paraguay 2019 will be completed in Russia, which is hosting the UEFA qualifying competition.

The tournament will be the last qualifying event for this year’s world finals, which will take place in Asuncion from 21 November to 1 December.

What you need to know

  • Venue: Luzhniki Olympic Complex

  • Dates: 19-27 July

  • At stake: five places at Paraguay 2019

  • Tournament format: 20 teams, split into five groups of four, will contest a group phase, with the top three teams in each section and the best fourth-placed side advancing to a knockout round. The eight survivors from that round will be divided into two groups of four. The top side in each group will go through to the final, while the two runners-up will play off for third place. These four countries and the winners of the match for fifth place will advance to the World Cup.

The favourites

Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Russia and Italy are the pick of the pack and were the five top seeds in the draw.

Portugal: Featuring several members of the squad that won the world title in 2015, the Portuguese remain top of the rankings and have just won gold at the European Games in Belarus, where they beat Spain in the final.

Spain: Having missed out on Bahamas 2017, the Spanish underlined their excellent recent form ten days ago, when they won stage one of the Euro Beach Soccer League, with Llorenc, Eduard, Antonio and Dona all excelling.

Switzerland: Though the Swiss failed to shine as the Euro League got under way, they did win bronze in Minsk, where forwards Dejan Stankovic and Noel Ott, and goalkeeper Valentin Jaeggy all performed well, along with several other players who appeared in the Bahamas.

Russia: Another notable absentee from the last World Cup, the Russians showed their credentials by winning the qualifying competition for the Beach Soccer World Games in May. Leading the way for them were the much-feared Makarov and goalkeeper Maksim Chuzkov, a reliable presence between the posts.

Italy: The Italians took third place at that May event. With the experienced Gabriele Gori (an adidas Golden Boot winner at Bahamas 2017) still in their ranks, the reigning European champions are always in the mix. And there is no reason to believe things will be any different here, especially with the Italians having finished fourth at the last two World Cups.

The challengers

Of the 15 other countries, only France (four appearances), Ukraine (three) and Poland (two) know what it means to play in a Beach Soccer World Cup.

Meanwhile, Belarus, Germany, Hungary and Turkey are four sides capable of giving anyone a fight. The quartet have shown sustained improvement, though they have enjoyed contrasting fortunes against the game’s big guns and have yet to appear at the World Cup.

Did you know?

  • Present at eight of the nine Beach Soccer World Cups held to date, Portugal have the best appearance record of any UEFA side (their only absence came at Tahiti 2013).

  • Winners of the first FIFA world finals and third and fourth at the next two, France have failed to qualify for the last five.

  • The Netherlands, who reached Tahiti 2013, are not taking part in this year’s qualifiers.

  • Teams participating in the qualifiers who have yet to reach a Beach Soccer World Cup: Belarus, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Norway, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia.