The best goal-scorer of the tournament was the Russian team’s forward, Dmitri Shishin, chalked up 11 goals. Pictured: Half-back Egor Eremeev. Source: Alamy / Legion Media
The Beach Soccer World Championship has been held for more than 20 years. The first tournament took place back in 1995. However, for a long time, the competition could not boast of having the status of a tournament recognized by the International Federation of Soccer Association (FIFA).
This all changed in 2005, when FIFA took beach soccer under its wing and held the first World Cup (as it was decided to rename the tournament). However, the name change had little impact on the balance of power among the participants at first: The Brazilian players were without a rival, as usual.
In 2009, it was decided to hold tournaments every two years, rather than every year. The previous championship was held in 2011, and it became a victory for the Russian team that beat Brazil in the final game.
The most recent championship was held in Tahiti. In addition, as noted by the captain of the Russian team, Ilya Leonov, the team set off for the tournament being confident that they were capable of defending the title obtained in Italy two years ago.
"We probably gained confidence after we won in the Euroleague this year. Then we realized that we were the best team on the continent and did not have many opponents who would be able to compete with us on an equal footing in the world championship," said Leonov.
The captain was not mistaken in his predictions, even though he personally found the tournament very difficult. In the very first match against the Japanese team, Leonov was injured and could not expect to go out into the field—but he still played. Even after he had a few injections, Leonov still played both in the semifinal against Iran’s team (6:5) and in the final, where the Russians were up against the Spanish national team.
Later, the Russian players admitted that the key match was probably the game against the Iranian team. "Just because, after it, we felt a substantial relief psychologically. Getting into the semifinals means that you are in the top four, you are really fighting for the medals and the program is at least almost done," said Leonov.
Freed from the psychological pressure, Mikhail Likhachev’s players truly played a game worthy of champions. In fact, the Spaniards were able to hold out against the Russians for only one period. In the second period, the Russian team scored three times. The Spaniards were only able to respond with one precise shot, which happened to be the last. Russia’s national team scored twice more in the third period.
“In the final game against Spain, we succeeded at everything, which is what had to happen both in the attack and in the defense,” said the Russian team’s goalkeeper, Andrew Bukhlitsky, in an interview with Gazeta.ru. “We assigned the right coach for the game, so we got the result. We were able to set good pace for the Spaniards, and they could not keep up.”
Bukhlitsky is confident that the Russian team could beat any opponent—including the Brazilians, who sensationally dropped out of the game for the title of best in the world in the semifinal stage. "If we had had to play with the Brazilians, they would have been out of luck. This is not bravado. We have proven more than once that Brazil's national team is the same team as any other one. The Spaniards have also demonstrated this by beating them during the tournament. "
Nikolai Pisarev, a former soccer player of the Moscow Spartak soccer club who led the team in beach soccer in 2005–2010, was confident in the Russians team’s victory. “This is a great victory for the whole of Russian soccer. It is much harder to defend the World Cup title than to win it for the first time—especially since the tournament was held in Tahiti, in specific climatic conditions,” Pisarev told Izvestia.
“It wasn’t simple for us to reach the finals, the hardest quarterfinals with Iran [6:5], a strong-willed victory over Tahiti [5:3]. But when the team reached the final, I was sure that we would beat Spain’s team. The rivals spent a lot of energy on the semifinal match with Brazil. It was clear that they had no time to recover both physically and psychologically,” said the former Spartak.
The best goal-scorer of the tournament was the Russian team’s forward, Dmitri Shishin, who chalked up 11 goals. After the final match of the tournament, the hero could not restrain his emotions.
"I am very happy that we won,” the sports portal Chempionat.com quoted Shishin as saying. “We proved to everyone that we didn’t just win the last World Cup for nothing. We told the whole world that we were the best on the planet. The emotions are so strong that it is difficult to speak. I want to constantly repeat: ‘We are happy, happy!’”
According to Pisarev, Shishin is currently the best player in the world. "Throughout the tournament, Dmitry’s play was outstanding: He scored crucial goals in every game,” said Pisarev. “Now, he is the best soccer player in the world.”
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