Sunday 22 August 2021, 16:09

Stankovic: Switzerland can beat anyone

  • Switzerland late replacements at Beach Soccer World Cup 2021

  • Two wins from two in Russia have taken them through to last eight

  • Stankovic second highest scorer in tournament history

Almost exactly two months ago, on 25 June, Switzerland’s dream of reaching the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™ was dashed as defeat to Ukraine in the quarter-finals of European qualifying ended their hopes of participating. Or so they thought. Yet after Ukraine withdrew, Switzerland took their place and have now secured their place in the quarter-finals with a match to spare in Moscow. After a sensational opening victory over Brazil on penalties, they followed it up with a 7-3 success against Belarus, despite being 3-1 down at one stage. “It goes to show that we can beat anyone,” an upbeat Dejan Stankovic told “We proved that against Brazil. Now we’ve definitely got winning the group in our sights.”

Following in Madjer’s footsteps

The 35-year-old opened the scoring against Belarus and also netted the goal that put Switzerland 4-3 up, taking his overall Beach Soccer World Cup tally to 41 and making him the competition’s joint second highest all-time scorer alongside Italy’s Gabriele Gori. Only Portugal’s beach soccer legend Madjer has more, with 88. “I don’t know if Madjer still sleeps easy at night, because I’m hot on his heels,” said the Swiss forward with a wink. “But joking aside, he’s a legend and a bit of a father figure. Obviously I’m very proud of my record, but my goals today were more important. We’ve only played two games but I hope there are more to come so that I can close the gap a bit.” His coach Angelo Schirinzi only has positive things to say about his No9. “He’s achieved incredible things and is still performing at the highest level. He’s a legend in Switzerland and has pushed beach soccer forward in the country. Now he’s made history – and not only in Switzerland but across the world.”

Historic milestone

Stankovic also struck twice against A Seleção, a match which marked another historic landmark: never before had a Swiss beach soccer team beaten Brazil. “I’ve been playing beach soccer for 18 years and the fact that we’ve now done it, and at a World Cup, is just indescribable,” he said. Switzerland are hoping to seal top spot in the group when they face CONCACAF champions El Salvador on Matchday 3 on Tuesday. “That would definitely be the perfect present,” said Stankovic, who celebrates his 36th birthday the next day. “I don’t want to spend it in an aeroplane on the way home.”

So, how far can Switzerland go at this tournament?

“At the last few editions we’ve almost set our objectives too high and then we’ve been knocked out in the quarter-finals,” said Stankovic, who has made over 300 international appearances and has twice played for clubs in host nation Russia. “Now it’s very different. We’re here, even though we shouldn’t actually be here. So there’s no pressure on us. We’ll just wait and see how far we go.”